State's tiger population growth may be below national average

State's tiger population growth may be below national average

State's tiger population growth may be below national average

Growth in Karnataka's tiger population is unlikely to match the national growth rate of nearly 6% as the big cat population in Bandipur-Nagarhole has reached the saturation level, wildlife scientists have cautioned.

The alert comes at a time when the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has launched the fourth round of tiger census, the results of which are expected in 2019.

As many as 50 tiger reserves would be covered in the new census that would extensively use digital tools for enumeration besides DNA analysis of tiger scat found in forests such as Indravati in Chhattishgarh, where forest officials can't enter due to naxalites. According to the last All India Tiger Estimation carried out in 2014, India has 2,226 big cats a jump of nearly 30% from the 2010 figure of 1,706.

With 406 striped animals, Karnataka has the maximum number of tigers in the country followed by Uttarakhand (340) and Madhya Pradesh (308). "The highest growth of nearly 20% is being seen in Pench and Kanha, whereas the average national growth is 6%. The growth in Nagarhole-Bandipur could be almost zero or at a minimum level as the park is already saturated with tigers," Y V Jhala, a senior scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and one of the co-ordinators for the tiger census told DH.

At a conference here on Tuesday, Jhala and NTCA officials maintained that nearly 14,000 camera traps would be utilised this time as against 9,735 such instruments used last time. Exhaustive data is expected from the north east forest, which together with Myanmar is the world's largest tiger landscape.

Notwithstanding the growth, poaching continues to be a major worry. An NTCA analysis of 408 tiger deaths between 2012 and 2017 illustrated that more than 22% of those deaths are due to poaching. The poachers also receive help from left wing extremists sometimes. "Sometime ago, Maoists burnt down every forest establishment in the 2,750 sq km area of Simlipal in Odisha because of which we couldn't enter the jungle for one year. It gave free hand to the poachers," said Siddhanta Das, Director General of Forest in the Ministry of Environment and Forest.

While Indravati still remains out of bounds, the forest officials would be able to enter Palamu in Jharkhand for the counting. With the report of one tiger roaming in south Gujarat possibly a stray from Melghat in north Maharashtra the coastal state too would be included in the Rs 10 crore exercise.

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