13 Feb 2008, 0056 hrs IST , Nitin Sethi , TNNSMS NEWS to 58888 for latest updates
NEW DELHI: The new count by National Tiger Conservation Authority, using a change of methodology after Sariska blew the lid over India’s shocking failure to conserve the tiger, has clearly established that tiger numbers had been grossly misreported in the past.
The result of the bogus census had thrown up a figure of 3,508 tigers. Now it is clear that more than 2,000 of these were “paper tigers”, existing only in the record books.
Despite the hype over the tiger, the magnificent cat has been actually left to his own devices. The previous data was fudged even as tigers dwindled over the past 30 years.
But there are silver linings to this dark cloud. For one, India’s unquestionable success story is the Corbett Tiger Reserve.
It has recorded the highest tiger density compared to other habitats. In a mere 1,524 square kilometres, it holds 164 tigers (statistical estimates say it could be as high as 178).
That’s 19.6 tigers for every 100 sq km. The dense tiger population in Corbett has become a good base to sustain the entire tiger pool in the Shivaliks and Gangetic flood plains of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
In three other regions, the long-term future of the endangered cat looks good, the study conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India notes.
The Northeast, including Kaziranga and other habitats in the Brahmaputra valley, is one. The central Indian belt around Kanha Tiger Reserve and parts of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh is the second.
The third belt is the one encompassing Bandipur, Nagarhole, Madumulai and Wayanad tiger reserves, the last safe haven for the southern tiger population.
“If we keep these zones safe, create inviolate core regions surrounded by a stable buffer, the tiger can survive.
These cores can act as the source of stability for the entire population of surviving tigers. The new financial package cleared by the cabinet will push for such a regime,” said Rajesh Gopal, member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
But there isn’t much else by way of good news. A huge effort will be required to ensure the safe havens are protected from poaching, habitat loss and encroachment in the buffer zones.
Naxal activity in select tiger reserves, the report indicates, has taken its toll. Nagarjuna Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh and Indravati reserves in Chhattisgarh, and Palamau in Jharkhand have become red zones for the tiger. The absence of official machinery here makes tigers vulnerable to poaching gangs operating with local accomplices.
Statewise, Madhya Pradesh is home to 300 tigers and Karnataka, 290. But Uttarakhand definitely seems to be doing much better despite its limited tiger inhabitable space.
In Rajasthan, the land where tiger tales abound, Ranthambore might be a tourist destination but it is in poor health. With a mere 356 sq km in one of India’s biggest states, there are 32 big cats in its only tiger reserve. The tiger of Rajasthan is on the run.
The story of the declining tiger is evident in the Eastern Ghats. While 15,000 sq km still remain potential tiger habitat, a mere 55 big cats roam 7,772 sq km of range.
The report points out that naxalism, subsistence poaching and fragmentation of forests have all worked to decimate tigers in the area that could hold much higher numbers even today.
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