A four-year government survey across 47 tiger-bearing parks in the country has found that the estimated population of big cats is now 2,226, a 30 per cent increase from 2010.
“The number has gone up by 30 per cent. Seventy per cent of the world’s tigers are in India,” Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said after releasing the report.
In 2006, the big cats were 1,411 in number and a new methodology was adopted to count tigers.
Four years later, in 2010, the population increased to 1,706.Karnataka has the most number of tigers with 406, followed by Uttarakhand, which has 340, and Madhya Pradesh, which has 308.
Tamil Nadu has 229 tigers, Maharashtra has 190, Assam 167, Kerala 136 and Uttar Pradesh 117.
These, however, are not actual figures, but a median value of the number of tigers across 47 reserves.
According to this estimate, the number of tigers in the country cannot be less than 1,945 or more than 2,591.
For the purpose of the survey, 9,735 camera traps were set up inside most of the tiger reserves and fecal DNA analysis was conducted. In forests like Indravati and Udanti-Sitandi in Chhattisgarh and Palamu in Jharkhand, where camera traps could not be set up, researchers relied solely on scat analysis to estimate the tiger population.
“We have 1,540 photos of actual tigers while the rest was estimated with a high degree of confidence. The camera trap is still functioning at two sites (Satpura and Similipal) and we will release an updated version of the report in March. The numbers will stay in the same range,” said Y V Jhala, one of the principal investigators from the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. Karnataka is not only housing the maximum number of big cats in India but the Mudumalai-Bandipur-Nagarhole-Wayanad complex also holds the world’s largest tiger population with an estimated 570 big cats.
“The rising numbers came as a big surprise. This happened because of making the core areas inviolate and relocating villages. The count declined only in Jharkhand and Odisha,” Jhala said. Because of India’s growing tiger population, Cambodia and Laos had evinced interest to take big cats from India, Rajesh Gopal, member secretary of National Tiger Conservation Authority, said.
Javadekar said the government cleared Bor in Maharashtra as a new tiger reserve, whereas a process had begun to do the same for the Guru Ghasidas forest in Chhattisgarh and Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka so that the total number of protected forests for tigers touched 50.