Counting the Big Cats

There are more than 2,200 tigers in India's forests, a sharp 30% increase in the past four years, giving a huge boost to India's conservation efforts. The latest census, held in 2014, found evidence for 2,226 tigers, as opposed to 1,706 found in 2010. The southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala of the Western Ghats landscape recorded nearly one-third of the country's total number of big cats. Karnataka has the highest number of tigers in India, which itself is home to 70% of the world's tiger population.
The Mudumalai­-Bandipur­-Nagarhole­-Wayanad forest corridor in the Western Ghats holds the world's single largest tiger population. This complex--spread across Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu--has 570 tigers. If one com pares the results of the 2006 census--when modern methodology was first adopted,revealing a tiger population of just 1,411--the overall rise is a phenomenal over 800 tigers in the past eight years.
Releasing the 2014 data for tigers on Tuesday , Union environment and forests minister Prakash Javadekar said, “We should be proud of our legacy .We have increased the number of tigers by over 30% from the last count (in 2010). That is a big success story .“

A total of 3,78,118 sq km of forest area in 18 states having tiger population was surveyed during the census exercise with `double sampling' approach, including ground survey and remote camera trap-based capture and re-capture technique, being used. Besides, scat DNA sampling method was also used for corroboration in many forest areas.
More than 9,730 cameras were used in the exercise carried out by National Tiger Conservation Authority with state forest departments, national conservation NGOs and Wildlife Institute of India. Javadekar claimed that nowhere in the world had so many cameras been used for such an exercise that resulted in 1,540 individual tigers being photographed, making it the most authentic report on tiger population in the country . The report shows that the tiger numbers have increased in Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala over the past four years.
The latest round of independent `Management Effectiveness Evaluation' of the country's tiger reserves has shown an overall improvement in the score of 43 reserves during the period.
The minister attributed the increase to many initiatives like the crackdown on poaching, community partnership and minimization of human-animal conflict. “With this success story in hand, India is even willing to donate tiger cubs to the international community and play a key role in global tiger conservation efforts,“ he said.
Countries like Cambodia and Laos are learned to have approached India for this.“Many countries have asked us for help. It is because the world has understood that there is a need to save this species which may become extinct...whichever country wants tigers from us or wants our cooperation, we are ready to extend such help,“ said the minister. Officials said though the overall number has increased, some states like Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh can accommodate 1,000 more tigers in the coming years. Tiger population has, in fact, decreased in both Odisha (from 32 in 2010 to 28 in 2014) and Jharkhand (from 10 in 2010 to 3 in 2014).
State-wise, Karnataka has the highest number of tigers (406), followed by Uttarakhand (340), Madhya Pradesh (308), Tamil Nadu (229), Maharashtra (190), Assam (167), Kerala (136) and Uttar Pradesh (117). Region-wise record shows that the tiger population in the Sunderbans has remained stable and is estimated to be 76. The region had 70 tigers in 2010. A major part of the Sunderbans has now been cameratrapped with 62 unique individual tiger photos captured.The report noted that tiger population has shown an improvement in Assam too where Kaziranga national park has the maximum number of big cats.

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