India‚Äôs efforts at tiger conservation received a major boost with the latest census report showing a heartening increase in numbers. The Status of Tigers in India-2018 report by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, released on Monday showed that the adult tiger population in India currently stands at 2,967. This represents a 33% increase over the 2014 figures which stood at 2,226.
The NTCA in collaboration with the State Forest Departments, Conservation NGOs and coordinated by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), has been conducting a national assessment for the "Status of Tigers, Co-predators, Prey and their Habitat" every four years since 2006.
Here are 10 things to know:
- The tiger population of India is the largest for any country, accounting for more than 80% of the global population of 3,159 adult free-ranging tigers. Project Tiger aimed at tiger conservation was initiated in 1973 with nine tiger reserves covering about 18,278 sq. km and has now grown to 50 tiger reserves covering about 72,749 sq. km.
- India‚Äôs national tiger assessment is the largest biodiversity survey being carried out anywhere in the world. The fourth cycle of of the assessment was undertaken in 2018 and 2019 using latest available scientific and technological tools.
- Since tigers occur across varied habitats and a large geographical expanse of India, the tiger bearing habitats were divided into five major landscapes: Shivalik-Gangetic plains; Central India and Eastern Ghats; Western Ghats; North Eastern Hills and Brahmaputra Flood Plains; and the Sundarbans.
- Tiger population witnessed an increase across all five regions from 2014 as follows: Shivalik-Gangetic - 485 to 646; Central India and Eastern Ghats - 688 to 1,033; Western Ghats - 776 to 981; North Eastern Hills and Brahmaputra Flood Plains - 201 to 219; and Sundarbans - 76 to 88.
- A total of 3,81,400 sq. km of forests were surveyed for tiger signs and prey estimation in 20 tiger occupied states of India. This involved 522,996 km of foot surveys; 317,958 habitat plots sampled for vegetation and prey dung; 26,838 camera trap locations in 141 sites; and 121,337 sq. km covered by camera traps.
- A mammoth 34,858,623 wildlife photographs were taken of which 76,651 were of tigers and 51,777 were of leopards and the entire exercise involved a total man-days effort of 593,882 days. A total of 2,461 individual tigers (>1 year of age) were photo-captured.
- New areas that were colonised by tigers in 2018 constituted 25,709 (28%) sq. km. Tiger occupancy has increased in the state of Madhya Pradesh, which ranks highest in tiger population along with Karnataka.
- Tiger status in the states of Chhattisgarh and Odisha is poor and continues to decline. The tiger reserves of Nameri and Pakke have registered declines, while tigers have not been recorded in Buxa, Palamau, and Dampa.
- It is vital to ensure the functionality of habitat corridor connectivity between source populations in India as well as with Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar for the long-term viability of tiger populations within India and the region, the report notes.
- The populations of conservation priority based on genetic distinctiveness, diversity and vulnerability were identified as those of North East Hills, Southern Western Ghats, and tigers of Odisha and Valmiki. Of these, Southern Western Ghats and Valmiki populations have shown improvement, while those of North East Hills and Odisha remain critically vulnerable and need immediate attention.