The Weekend Leader - Tiger's roar

Tiger census report is fine, but let’s also read the fine print

Upamanyu Raju   |   New Delhi


Vol 2 | Issue 12

From 1411 to 1706; that’s the estimated increase in tiger population in the country in a span of 4 years - from 2006 to 2010. The 2010 Tiger census report contains many things to cheer about, and has identified new areas with tiger population such as Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary and Shivpuri National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

Many tiger reserves have reported increase in tiger population. In Tamil Nadu, the tiger population has increased by over 100 percent in the last four years. From 76 tigers in 2006, the number of tigers in the State is estimated at 163 now. In Brahmaputra flood plains, North-east hills, the number has gone up to 148, an increase of 48. In Shivalik-Gangetic plains, the number of tigers have increased by 56 and touched 353. The statistics give reason for joy, though in certain pockets the numbers have fallen.

Tiger Census 2011
The message to take home is: This is no time to sit back and say, ‘the tigers are now safe'. We have a long way to go before we can say that.  

While the mood among animal lovers is upbeat, and forest officials are already talking about how their ‘conservation efforts’ have paid off, reading the ‘fine print’ of the report is essential to prevent any complacency setting in among tiger lovers, whose relentless pressure raised nationwide alarm over the dwindling tiger population and gave the impetus to the tiger conservation movement.

The message to take home is: THIS IS NO TIME TO SIT BACK AND SAY, ‘THE TIGERS ARE NOW SAFE.’ We have a long way to go before we can say that.

Remember first of all that “any monitoring program is a compromise between science and logistic constraints,” - Hutto & Young 2003. The Ministry of Environment and Forest itself has cited the above quotation in its report, ‘Status of Tigers in India 2011,’ the source of all the ‘tiger figures’ that everyone is talking about now.

There is no denying the fact that scientific methods were adopted to arrive at the estimate. Hi-tech cameras were deployed to ‘trap’ images of the tigers and individual tigers were identified by their unique stripes.

However, it must be borne in mind that though 1706 is the estimated number of tigers in the country, only 550 were actually captured on camera. There were also reports that some of the cameras used in the tiger count had developed technical snags in the initial phases, which raise small doubts over the accuracy of the estimate.

Moreover, the current census included new areas that were not covered during the last count. According to the census report, the new areas include Sundarbhans, parts of Maharashtra, Uttrakhand, and Assam.

The Sundarbans region - where the census was undertaken for the first time using camera traps - alone accounts for 70 of the 1706 estimated tiger population in the country.

The report has also pointed out that the tiger occupancy area has shrunk from 93600 sq km to 72800 sq km.

Another major concern pointed out in the report is about the increase in human-tiger conflicts in areas surrounding the jungles of Corbett, Ranthambore, Tadoba, Bandhavgarh, and Bor. Efforts have to be increased to find an effective tiger –man coexistence model.

With P C Vinoj Kumar

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