Tiger count in State off the mark, say officials
Actual figures will be known after camera-trapping survey is over
KOCHI: The reduction in number of tigers in Kerala, as reported by the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India and the Wildlife Institute of India, has created a sense of disbelief among wildlife officials in the State.
In its status of tigers, co-predators and prey report, the authority estimated the number of tigers in the State as 46. It was estimated earlier that there were about 75 tigers in the State.
The earlier tiger counts were made based on pugmarks unlike the latest one where more scientific methods were claimed to have been used.
The forest cover of Kerala is 15,631 sq km, comprising 40 per cent of the geographic area of the State. Currently, tigers occupy an area of 6,168 sq km of these forests with a population of 46, the report said. Kerala has three major populations of tigers constituted by the Kalakad- Mundunthura Tiger Reserve (KMTR)- Periyar Population, Parambikulum- Indira Gandhi Population and the Nagarhole-Madumalai-Wayanad Population.
In the Kerala region of the KMTR-Periyar segment, the tiger population is estimated as between 20 and 27 and in the Kerala region of the Parambikulam segment, it is between seven and eight. In the Kerala segment of the Nagarhole-Madumalai-Wayanad segment, it is estimated between 11 and 15.
The authority observed that the “tiger populations in Kerala are viable if managed as a contiguous population across Tamil Nadu and Karnataka”.
“By itself, the State cannot support a demographically and genetically viable population. Thus, inter-State cooperation for conservation planning is mandatory,” the report suggested.
V.S. Varghese, Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), felt that the real number of tigers in Kerala would be much more than that mentioned in the report. In the Thekkady area of Periyar Tiger Reserve, the population would be around 40 and 20 each in Parambikulam and Wayanad.
“We feel that the number of tigers as mentioned in the report seemed to be much less. The actual figures of the State will be available once the camera-trapping survey is over,” he said.
“In the camera-trapping done at near the boat-landing centre in Thekkady, we got pictures of 12 tigers. We expect more numbers in the Vallakadavu area ,” he said.
The managers of Periyar Tiger Reserve felt that the count was unrealistic. The tiger population in the area would be between 27 and 36, they said.
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