Status of tigers in India
Tiger in India
Government of India released a most comprehensive, scientific and accurate report on the status of tigers in
India this month. This report titled "Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India"
was prepared by the Dehra Dun-based Wildlife Institute of India and the National Tiger Conservation
Authority. It took two years of extensive data collection. It has been commended by a majority of tiger scientists for arriving at a
number through a comprehensive documentation of big cats, their habitat and population trends.
Arrived at by using different methodologies and techniques, the
latest count indicates how tiger numbers had been grossly misinterpreted in the past to suit the interests of those supposed to be looking after the welfare of the national animal.
The 151-page report has been co-authored by Qamar Qureshi and Y.V Jhala of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and Rajesh Gopal from
the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) along with a research team that included 67 members. Open to scrutiny at all
stages of data collection, this is the most scientific report that puts in place a
transparent system that can be traced back to the beat level, says Qureshi. Besides the report is not just about tigers,
leopards and wild dogs but it also looks at the number and quality of prey like
sambhar, cheetal and blue bulls. Tigers do respond well to quality and number of prey," he explains.
The report spells it all, state-wise, area-wise, dividing tiger habitat into regions like Shivalik-Gangetic flood plains, Central Indian landscape and Eastern
Ghats, Western Ghats complex, North-eastern Hills and
Brahmaputra Flood plains and the Sunderbans. Due to the Naxalite problem, Jharkhand and the Indravati reserve in
Chhattisgarh have not been covered, while the census in the Sundarbans is not yet complete. But the report does point out that
Naxalism, subsistence poaching and fragmentation of forests have worked against big cats in areas that had the capability of holding larger numbers.
Royal Bengal Tiger
The WII report is unambiguous that the tiger, the most exciting wildlife species on earth — is in danger in India and fighting a tough battle to survive.
From 40,000 in 1900 to an all-time low of 1,411 in 2007, this is an emergency. Scientists say that in a scenario unlike any before, there could be, maybe
1657 big cats, which would still be lower than the 1800 tigers estimated in the first census in 1960.
The current figures are definitely a climb down from 2002 when tiger population was 3,642.
It shows that India has lost more than 2000 tigers to three basic reasons: incessant and ruthless poaching, loss of habitat and pressure of people.
The report also exposes that the figure of 3,642 in 2002 was fudged to cover up the failure of the government to protect the tiger.
The report says that there are 178 tigers in Uttarakhand, 109 in UP, 10 in Bihar, 95 in Andhra
Pradesh, 26 in Chhatisgarh, 300 in Madhya Pradesh, 103 in Maharashtra, 45 in Orissa, 32 in Rajasthan, 290 in Karnataka, 46 in Kerala and 76 in Tamil
Nadu. In the north-eastern states, population estimates are based on possible density of tiger-occupied landscape in the area.
They have not been assessed by double sampling. According to these estimates, there are 70 tigers in Assam, 14 in Arunachal
Pradesh, six in Mizoram and 10 in northern West Bengal.
Safe Places for Tigers
According to the report, the only safe places where healthy population of big cats still exists are Corbett in
Uttarakhand, Kaziranga in Assam and other habitats in Brahmaputra, besides
Bandipur, Nagarhole, Madurai and Wyanand tiger reserves in the South, Kanha, Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh and some parts of the North-
East where tigers had a chance to breed and grow. This signifies that surveillance and good quality habitat and prey does work well for the magnificent predator.
Success stories like Corbett Tiger Reserve that recorded the highest tiger density as compared to other
habitats show that if safe zones are created with inviolate core areas surrounded by a buffer, the tiger can survive. Corbett has 164 tigers in 1524 sq-km. Despite
limited space, it appears to be doing well in comparison to some larger reserves.