THE Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR) in Maharashtra is set to witness a significant increase in the number of tigers as compared to the last quadrennial Census of 2014. “The strong indicator has come in the capture of 22 individual tigers in a camera trap survey in the Territorial forest of East and West Melghat, which had a record of only nine tigers in 2014,” a senior forest official told The Indian Express.
“The survey, conducted by NGO Wildlife Research and Conservation Society (WRCS) over the past three months in these areas, has revealed presence of 22 adults, of which 21 are male ,” said the official.
The report of the survey is expected to be filed in a few days. The two areas constitute a total area of 240 sq km. While part of it is in the 2,700-sq km MTR core (about 1,500 sq km) and buffer (about 1,200 sq km) taken together, part is outside “In the same area, the WRCS had found nine tigers in 2014 and 2015, and 13 tigers in 2016.
“Each time, however, two individuals were permanent residents and others have been seen in the inside areas of core and buffer too, which means they could be transient tigers,” said a source. “Yet, since the number of tigers moving out has increased it means the number of them inside, too, may have gone up.”
The Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) is conducting a trap camera exercise, results of which are under compilation.
“But, in the trap camera survey we had conducted in 2016, we found 41 adults and 22 cubs in the core areas. Of them, 21 were male and 20 female,” said the official.
The 2014, all-India tiger census had found presence of only 32 tigers in MTR. The number compared was significantly lower than the over 44 tigers found in the 625-sq km Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR).
Another indicator of tigers feeling secure in the once notorious tiger-unfriendly reserve is the sighting of a tigress with four cubs in a buffer area on March 9. “It’s for the first time in the history of MTR that five tigers were sighted at one place. Tigresses here haven’t been sighted previously with more than two, and rarely with three, cubs. It’s a natural arrangement as tigresses undergo secretion of an enzyme called cortisol that restricts the offspring number to a secure level in areas they feel threatened,” he said.
Melghat has seen some good rehabilitation, anti-poaching and habitat development work in the past few years, which the officials attributed to the rise in the number of tigers. “In Akot division, for example, we are seeing a spurt in tiger and cheetah sightings. Such places were developed into meadows and have witnessed the return of preys and predators,” said the official.