India sets record in tiger conservation survey - GulfToday

India sets record in tiger conservation survey

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.


India has fulfilled its resolve to double the tiger numbers four years before the 2022 target set at St Petersburg in 2010.

The latest Tiger Census, the largest ever done in the world that confirmed that the current tiger population in India has increased to 2967, has entered the Guinness Book of World Records as being the biggest tiger survey ever. The Indian tiger survey – released last year –revealed that India now accounts for about 70% of the world’s tiger population.

Terming it a great moment for the country, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had lauded efforts that led to India fulfilling its resolve to double the tiger numbers four years before the 2022 target set at St Petersburg in 2010.

The citation at the Guinness World Records website reads: “The survey, conducted in 2018-19, was the most comprehensive to date in terms of both resource and data amassed. Camera traps (outdoor photographic devices fitted with motion sensors that start recording when an animal passes by) were placed in 26,838 locations across 141 different sites and surveyed an effective area of 121,337 sq. km (46,848 square miles).”

“In total, the camera traps captured 34,858,623 photographs of wildlife (76,651 of which were tigers and 51,777 were leopards; the remainder were other native fauna). From these photographs, 2,461 individual tigers (excluding cubs) were identified using stripe-pattern-recognition software,” it reads.

The current tiger population of 2967 is a significant growth from 2014, which accounted for 2226. The report highlights, at present, about 2.21% of the country’s geographical area hosts 50 tiger reserves in 18 states. In 1973, there were just nine tiger reserves in the country.

The most number of tigers were recorded from the states of Madhya Pradesh (526), followed by Karnataka (524), and Uttarakhand (442), which collectively house about 1492 tigers. Uttarakhand’s Corbett Tiger Reserve houses the highest number of 231 tigers, followed by Nagarhole and Bandipore reserves in Karnataka which has 127 and 126 tigers, respectively. Three tiger reserves of India – Mizoram’s Dampa, West Bengal’s Buxa and Jharkhand’s Palamau – are now left with no big cats.

As the Weather Channel reports, this is the Fourth All India Tiger Estimation report and is said to be unique in many ways. As per the official statement from the government, the survey analysed the following things: Abundance index of co-predators and other species instead of restricting the survey to only the occupancy; sex ratio of tigers in all camera trap sites has been carried out for the first time; anthropogenic pressures on tiger population; and tiger abundance within pockets in tiger reserves (which was been demonstrated for the first time). In addition, the report also evaluates the status of habitat corridors connecting major tiger populations and highlights vulnerable areas that require conservation attention for each landscape.

The successful tiger count was possible because of the arduous and extensive foot surveys. This covered nearly 522,996 km of land and sampled 317,958 habitat plots for vegetation and prey dung. Overall, the total forest area which was studied during this extensive survey was recorded to 381,200 sq. km. The final collection and review of data equated to approximately 620,795 labour-days.

Work for the next census has already begun. The process of camera installation in the Sunderbans, one of the largest mangrove forests in the world, has been completed in the first phase, and the movement of big cats has been monitored for a month. Tiger estimation in the mangrove forest had traditionally been done by the pugmark method, the forest official said, adding that the last counting exercise was primarily based on camera trapping technique. The pugmark method was field-friendly, but due to some drawbacks, the Project Tiger authorities developed a new methodology for monitoring of tigers, co-predators, prey and habitat. The camera trapping technique is more reliable than the traditional method of counting pugmarks. The census in the Sunderbans has been planned under a development project to safeguard the biodiversity of the mangrove forest. Preparations are also on to conduct the first-ever official big cat census in certain areas by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Forest department officials are installing CCTV cameras at various spotting locations across the country as well to observe the movement of the wild animals and also to make use of it during the next census. Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve and the Anamalai Tiger Reserve officials have started the phase four tiger monitoring for 2021 to assess the population and other important aspects of tigers at the reserves.

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