India's conservation efforts have seen some results, at least on the wildlife front, with the tiger population in the country rising to an estimated 2,226 in 2014 from around 1,706 in 2010, according to a report prepared by the environment ministry.
"While the tiger population is falling in the world, it is rising in India. It is great news," environment minister Prakash Javadekar said.
"Never before such an exercise has been taken. We have unique photographs of 80 per cent of tigers," he said, detailing the year-long survey that helped to estimate the tiger population.
This has been made possible by government initiatives to streamline tiger conservation, effective forest management and community participation, the minister said while releasing the Status of Tigers in India Report 2014.
Government, he said, had created a special force for protection of tigers besides undertaking a programme for orphan tiger cubs, making efforts to control poaching and initiatives to minimise human-animal conflict and encroachment.
India has also donated tiger cubs to the international community and played a key role in the global tiger conservation efforts, the minister stated while inaugurating the two day meeting of the Chief Wildlife Wardens of Tiger States and Field Directors of Tiger Reserves, here today.
Rajesh Gopal, member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, said the estimation drive was a massive exercise across India, which showed improvement in tiger numbers in many states.
On the occasion, Javadekar conferred the best reserve award on Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. Annamallai Tiger Reserve (Tamil Nadu) received the award for best communication and Periyar (Kerala) was awarded for involving local communities. The Melghat reserve (Maharashtra) got award for smooth village relocation from tiger reserve.
The third round of country-level tiger assessment employing refined technology of double sampling using camera traps had recorded an increase in the tiger population. The mid value of the snapshot assessment using the same methodology in 2006 was 1,411. In 2010 the tiger population was 1,706 and in 2014 it stood at 2,226 - an increase 30.5 per cent since the last estimate.
A total of 3,78,118 sq km of forest area in 18 tiger states was surveyed, with total of 1,540 unique tiger photo captures.
As per the survey, the tiger population increased in Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. The third round of independent management effectiveness evaluation of tiger reserves has shown an overall improvement in the score of 43 tiger reserves from 65 per cent in 2010-11 to 69 per cent in 2014, according to the report.
Besides, the assessment of forest cover change in tiger landscape of Shivalik-Gangetic Plain has indicated an improvement of forest cover in core areas of tiger reserves.
The country has five tiger landscapes - Shivalik-Gangetic Plains, Central India and Eastern Ghats, Western Ghats, North-Eastern India and Sunderbans - for the tiger census that started in early 2013.
While there has not been a fall in tiger numbers in any landscape and most have witnessed some increase, some reserves have reached optimum capacity like Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh and Bor in Maharashtra, which raises some concern.
The latest report revealed a decline in tiger population outside its 47 protected areas and the corridors connecting them. Less than 10 per cent of the tiger population lives outside the protected zones.
Besides the tiger headcount, the census provides useful data on other wildlife living alongside the big cats.
The minister released the following reports on the status of tiger population in India:
- Report on All India Tiger Estimatimates 2014,
- Report on Management Effectiveness Evaluation of Tiger Reserves -2014,
- Compendium on Status of Tiger Reserves,
- Report on Economic Valuation of Tiger Reserves
- Report on Assessment of Changes Forest Cover in Tiger Reserves (Shivalik- Gangetic Plain Landscape), and
- Report on Corridors: Connecting Tiger Population for Long term Conservation.
Javadekar also distributed NTCA awards for excellence in various categories.