A new prey and predator estimation in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Chandrapur district has found the presence of 115 tigers and 151 leopards inside the 1,727 sq km of the core and buffer areas of the reserve in 2019.
The estimation was done as part of the ‘Long-term monitoring of tigers, co-predators and prey species in TATR’. As many as 88 tigers have been individually captured in trap camera pictures, the report states. It also mentions that the leopard population in TATR was 151.
Although the tiger numbers appear to be up as compared to 2018, the population density shows a decline from 5.51 to 5.23 per 100 sq km.
Explaining the density drop, Bilal Habib, senior scientist from Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and co-author of the report, said, “Actually, we have covered about 300 sq km area more in 2019 than in 2018. So, we have seen this increase.”
He added: “If you extrapolate the tiger density figure of 2018 on the entire area of TATR, you will get the same number of tigers as 2019 for 2018 too.”
N R Praveen, TATR Field Director, said, “It only means that these 29 tigers may have been there last year too but since we couldn’t cover the entire area, we couldn’t establish their presence.”
The TATR comprises 625 sq km core and 1,127 sq km of buffer. The estimation exercise was carried out in 1,700 sq km area, excluding human habitation and inaccessible areas this time, by both scientific capture-mark recapture and camera trap methods.
The estimation, however, also shows that the margin of error in the number count in 2018 was plus-minus 3.5, which increased to plus-minus 12.42 in 2019. Explaining the difference, Habib said, “It is because there are many tigers that keep shifting places and rarely come in trap camera images. That’s why this time, the margin of error was high.”
In addition to 115 tigers in TATR, the territorial forest of Chandrapur has about 75 tigers. The Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) areas in the district too have a good number of tigers. The overall tiger count in Chandrapur district alone is more than 200, which is about two-third of the total number of tigers in the state.
Tiger kills woman
In yet another tiger attack, a 63-year-old woman, Leelabai Jeevtode, from Kolara village was killed by a tiger in the core area of TATR on Tuesday morning when she went there to collect tendu leaves. This is the second fatal tiger attack on humans in TATR core since March 16. “The area of the two attacks is the same. So it’s likely that it is the same tiger,” Praveen said.
The area has three sub-adult tiger siblings, who are trying to establish their territories, according to Praveen. With this, the total number of human deaths due to big cat attacks in Vidarbha this year, so far, has now gone up to 21. Twelve of these have happened during the lockdown period.