Tigers, Raise Your Hands!

Last big cat census shockingly left out 4 of India’s big forests including sunderban. We may actually have over 1,411 tigers left

TIGER lovers in the country have reason to take heart in the news that there could be a lot more of the beautiful felines in India than the census figures would have you believe.

MiD DAY spoke to forest conservators in three states and found that the oft-quoted 1,411 figure (see box) of the number of tigers remaining in the country does not include major tiger reserves like the Sunderbans in West Bengal and the Indravati National Park in Chhattisgarh.

They said the figure is likely to be higher by at least 300, or over 20 per cent more than the cited figure.

West Bengal

A K Raha, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, West Bengal, said “The preliminary ground survey was done by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, in 2006, but they could not complete it as it was not possible for them to include all the tiger reserves in the country.

The 1,411 figure is incomplete as more than 200 tigers in Sunderban, about 15 in Buxa Tiger Reserve and more than 40 from the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary and Neora Valley National Park are not reflected in this figure.”

“Even when the Wildlife Institute submitted the report to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, it clearly mentioned that the data submitted excluded the Sunderbans and reserves in north-eastern states.

A cellular company, however, quoted the 1,411 figure in an advertisement, which is unethical. We wrote to them about this and they removed the figure.

I will not say it is a false figure but it is, of course, incomplete and should not be quoted in a manner which makes it seem like it reflects the total number of tigers in India,” Raha added.

Chhattisgarh

Ram Prakash, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Chhattisgarh said, “I don’t know how the figure of 1,411 was arrived at. I know for a fact that the only tiger reserve of Chhattisgarh, the Indravati, was not included in surveys conducted in 2005 and 2010. Law and order problems have prevented surveyors from entering the area. I cannot give you the exact figure, but Indravati has a large number of tigers.”

Arunachal Pradesh

M K Palit, Conservator of Forests, Arunachal Pradesh (AP), said, “I believe the 1,411 figure is too small compared to the number of tigers in the state. The state has a very large forest area, of which only a small portion was covered during the survey. There are at least 50 tigers in Arunachal Pradesh.”

Activists say

Some animal rights’ activists, however, feel the 1,411 figure is inflated. Anuradha Sawhney, co-opted member, Animal Welfare Board of India, said, “I feel the figure might be lower than this because poaching cases have increased in recent years. The ill-equipped forest guards are no match for the shrewd poachers.”

Tiger Count: 1,411

On February 12, 2008, the National Tiger Conservation Authority stated that the tiger population in India was 1,411. It said that the figure included the tiger count from 16 tiger states but excluded Jharkhand, West Bengal (partially covered) and Chhattisgarh.

This fine print was, however, missed by many who took this figure to reflect the total number of tigers in the country.

While Naxalite activity was cited as the reason for not surveying the Palamau Tiger Reserve in Jharkhand and the Indravati Tiger Reserve in Chhattisgarh, the report said a separate exercise was on to estimate the tiger population in the Sunderbans owing to its ‘unique conditions’.

Indravati
The Indravati National Park is the only tiger reserve in Chhattisgarh and is one of the finest tiger reserves in the country. The park is located in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, which is known for its Naxal activity, and derives its name from the Indravati River, which flows from the east to west and forms the northern boundary of the reserve. With a total area of approximately 2799.08 sq km, Indravati attained the status of a National Park in 1981 and a Tiger Reserve in 1983 under Project Tiger.

Sunderbans
The world’s largest delta and mangrove swamp, the Sunderbans are the merging point of the Ganga, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna. The sanctuary, which extends into Bangladesh, is home to spotted deer, wild pigs, monkeys, herons, kingfishers, white-bellied eagles and nearly 270 Royal Bengal tigers. The Sunderbans are also considered the world’s largest estuarine sanctuary.

Project tiger
Project Tiger is a wildlife conservation movement initiated in 1972. The project aims at tiger conservation in specially-constituted tiger reserves and strives to maintain viable populations of Bengal tigers in their natural environment. In 2008, there were more than 40 Project Tiger reserves covering an area of over 37,761 sq km.

Did you know?
Project Tiger helped increase the tiger population from 1,200 in the 1970s to 3,500 in the 1990s.

Mortalities

56 Tiger deaths in 2010
(natural deaths: 29, poaching and seizures: 27)

85 Tiger Deaths in 2009
(natural deaths: 52, poaching and seizures: 32)

245
Sunderbans, West Bengal

32
Palamu, Jharkhand

31
Buxa, West Bengal

29
Indravati

Official tiger figures as reported by states in 2001-02

The Other Side

Rajesh Gopal, member secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority of India, which released the 1,411 figure in 2008, said, “I will not say the 1,411 figure is incomplete, but yes the Sunderbans, the Indravati Tiger Reserve and a few other reserves were not included in the last census.

This was because covering the Sunderban area on foot is just not possible and the Indravati Tiger Reserve is plagued by Naxal activity.

We are working on this and a complete figure is expected by March, 2011. Only then will we know for sure whether the number of tigers has gone up or down.”

bigcatrescue.org

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