What is Project Tiger?
In 1973, Project Tiger was established with the aim of implementing effective wildlife protection laws, increasing the number of tiger reserves, and gaining support from forest communities to allow for free movement of tigers. This involved creating corridors and expanding protected areas.
Currently, India has 53 reserves that cover approximately 2.3% of the country's land area. The country is divided into five major tiger landscapes which function as biological units allowing for tiger populations to share a gene pool and potentially disperse between them. A census is conducted every four years since 2006 to estimate the population of tigers.
What does the latest report suggest?
The process of conducting a tiger census is fascinating and intricate, involving camera traps and physical surveys by forest officials. The data collected is then analyzed and combined by scientists at the Wildlife Institute of India to determine tiger populations.
While the most recent survey was completed in 2022, some analysis is still pending, resulting in the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) only publicizing the lowest bound of animals present based on the number of unique tigers photographed via camera traps.
This year, an impressive 3080 unique tigers were photographed, compared to 2,461 photographed in 2018. However, due to incomplete modeling estimates, the total number of tigers is yet to be determined, making the published figure of 3,167 even more intriguing.
What report says about the health of tiger reserves?
The latest tiger survey report offers a fascinating new perspective. While it doesn't contain the usual data on tigers outside protected areas, it does highlight significant variations in landscapes. The report notes a substantial population increase in the Shivalik-Gangetic flood plains, Central India, North Eastern Hills, Brahmaputra flood plains, and Sundarbans. However, the Western Ghats have seen a reduction in the tiger population.
What's particularly exciting is the observation of tigers occupying new areas in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The numbers speak for themselves: 804 unique tigers in Shivalik-Gangetic plains, higher than the estimated 646 in 2018 and 1,161 unique tigers in Central India compared to an estimated 1,033 in 2018. And finally, we have the heartening news from the Sundarbans, where the tiger population has increased from 88 in 2018 to 100 in 2022.
Recent happening in Western Ghats?
The Western Ghats' protected areas are home to incredible biodiverse populations, with the tiger population estimated at 981 in 2018. However, recent data from 2022 indicates a decline in certain regions, with 824 unique tigers recorded. The stability or increase of tiger populations within protected areas is in contrast to outside regions, such as Wayanad, BRT Hills, and Goa/Karnataka border regions, where tiger occupancy has significantly decreased.
The Mookambika-Sharavathi-Sirsi landscape and Bhadra have also experienced notable declines in tiger occupancy. The Anamalai-Parambikulam complex outside borders has seen a similar decrease in tiger occupancy, while Periyar landscape's tiger populations remain stable. Local extinctions of tiger populations were also reported in Sirsi, Kanyakumari, and Srivilliputhur.
The reason of declining local population?
The growth of India's tiger population is a topic of interest, with a yearly increase of 6%. However, this growth is hindered by a multitude of issues, such as high mortality rates among cubs, man-animal conflict, and poaching.
Though the population has been recorded to be on the rise in quadrennial surveys since 2006, criticisms have been raised concerning the methods used for estimation and a lack of transparency in data-sharing. Researchers have pointed out mathematical flaws, design deficiencies, and an absence of independent scientists for evaluating analyses and results, thus threatening local extinctions.