Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release the four-yearly report of the All-India tiger estimation on Monday, on the occasion of World Tiger Day.
According to officials familiar with the report’s findings, the overall count of tigers in the country is set to increase by about 400-450.
The estimate includes only independent adult tigers and not those under the care of mothers.
“With the grid area (the smallest part checked for a tiger presence) reduced from four to two square kilometres, and with more trap cameras used this time, about 80 per cent of the tigers have been directly caught on camera, lending more credibility to the whole process. It was about 65 per cent the last time. It means the business of extrapolating the figures from a sample to the whole landscape has also been vastly reduced,” Wildlife Institute of India Director V B Mathur told The Indian Express.
WII authored the report jointly with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and state Forest Departments.
Mathur, however, refused to give out any specific numbers. “But there is a good increase. And interestingly, we have tigers now even in many areas that had no tiger presence,” he added.
In 2014, the country had registered the presence of 2,226 tigers. According to officials familiar with this time’s report, that figure is likely to be between 2600 and 2,700, with Karnataka likely contributing 100 and Maharashtra about 70 more tigers to their 2014 tally. A senior Madhya Pradesh official said, “our number is going to be far, far better than in 2014, anywhere between 350 to 400.”
Sources said, “a significant rise in numbers this time, however, is from non-protected areas.” Asked what led to the “good increase”, Mathur said, “in the forest survey, we have seen how there has been an increase in green cover. Add to it a good conservation effort. But we have to also grant it to the species, which is a fast breeder. Also, more intensive mapping of all landscapes deploying more trap cameras and reducing the smallest survey area results in greater statistical rigour. So, maybe, some of the tigers were there earlier but have actually been verified this time.”
A senior Maharashtra Forest official said, “a tiger breeds faster when there is good preybase. So if tiger numbers have increased, it also means the preybase, too, has improved. It also means that the natality rate has outpaced the mortality rate, less poaching pressure and reduction in biotic pressure due to rehabilitation of people outside forests.”
India’s leading wildlife crime expert and central India director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, Nitin Desai, said, “apart from other contributing factors, a near-absence of organised poaching, particularly from the central Indian landscape since 2013, too, has helped.”
Asked if more tigers, particularly in areas they were previously not seen, means more conflict with humans, Mathur said, “there will be these challenges. Indian forests can certainly accommodate more tigers since now we have also started taking care of corridors, are doing mitigation efforts in linear projects and have adopted a landscape approach to conservation…”
About the safety of these tigers found in new human-dominated landscapes, Mathur said, “the beauty of the Wildlife Protection Act is that it offers protection to wildlife wherever it is found. So, it should help.”