Experts say that for the first time the country has gone for a new methodology to arrive at a realistic count of the big cats. This will help frame future conservation strategies.
The government is expected to release the findings soon.
‘The government has taken a sensible decision to announce a realistic figure of tigers,’ Ashok Kumar, vice chairman of the Wildlife Trust of India, told IANS.
‘For the first time, a correct methodology has been used to count the tigers. Whatever the numbers, it will be a benchmark to plan for future conservation,’ he said.
The latest ‘capture-recapture’ sampling method has involved the use of cameras to photograph the tigers. The animals were then identified by their unique stripes.
The estimates are quantified in the final statistical analysis.
‘The earlier pugmark method was flawed since pugmarks of a tiger could vary from surface to surface and also the position of the animal.
‘On top of that, the figures could be manipulated, otherwise a Sariska like situation would not have happened,’ said Milind Pariwakam, the WTI Programme Officer, referring to the famed Rajasthan sanctuary where poachers have killed all tigers.
Pariwakam feels the earlier figures of tigers in India cannot be trusted.
Estimates until now of the tiger population have varied from 2,600 to 3,500. Experts agree that this is an unrealistic figure and that the total can only be around 1,300-1,500.
However, all is not so bad as it seems. For instance, the Jim Corbett National Park has around 110 tigers in an area of 500 sq km – the highest density in the world.
Currently, there are 28 tiger reserves in the country. The central government has announced eight more reserves, to be notified by the state governments.
A report released by the ministry of environment and forests has revealed for the first time several startling facts on the status of tigers in the country.
For instance, Madhya Pradesh was thought have around 800 tigers in its reserves. The report revealed there were just over 200. The story is no different in the other states.
The government has promised to open eight proposed tiger reserves: at Kaziranga (Assam), Anshi-Dandeli (Karnataka), Mudumalai (Tamil Nadu), Satkosia (Orissa), Sitanadi-Udanti (Chhattisgarh), Sanjay (Madhya Pradesh), Achanakmar (Chhattisgarh) and Annamalai-Perambikulam (Tamil Nadu-Kerala).
‘The estimate shows a decline of tiger population outside tiger reserves and protected areas. The tiger in protected areas does not show a significant change,’ Joydeep Bose, a technical officer of the Global Tiger Forum.
Since the start of the Project Tiger in 1973, tiger conservation has been constrained by several factors.
These included paucity of frontline staff, delayed availability of funds to field units and lack of a well-conceived staff development plan as well as pro-active measures to redress man-animal conflicts.
‘We have to take immediate steps to protect the existing tigers as it takes less than Rs.5,000 for a poacher to poach a tiger,’ warned Kumar.
For The Tiger
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