India's tiger population is rising and it is not just because we can now count better
- The population of the endangered Bengal tigers in India has increased by 33% from 2,226 in 2014 to 2,967 in 2018.
- India counts its tigers every four years through a comprehensive survey. The latest
tiger censuswas carried out on 3,81,400 sq km in 20 tiger-occupied states.
- The government official had to set up camera traps at 26,838 locations to capture pictures of wild tigers.
After many years of rapid decline, the
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too proudly proclaimed on July 29, that India is now home to almost 75% of the global tiger population. If all goes well, Indian tiger count can go up to 4,000 like it was in the 1980s, said Valdmik Thapar, a prominent naturalist and conservationist in the country.
A good picture
A few experts however believe that the ‘good picture’ is because of better counting techniques, using cameras and improved placements. India counts its tigers every four years through a comprehensive survey.
The latest tiger census was carried out across 3,81,400 sq km in 20 states. Government officials had set up camera traps at 26,838 locations to capture pictures of wild tigers.
"There are a plethora of factors that have resulted in good numbers, including efficient management inputs, the density of camera, and supportive government efforts. Out of the 50 tiger habitats in India, 47 have shown positive numbers, said N Sunil Kumar, CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Foundation told Business Insider India. He further added, "We should strive to keep improving the habitats because that is the objective."
The c ameras captured 3.5 crore pictures, and using Capture-Mark-Recapture methodology, 76,651 pictures of tigers were identified. The authorities then used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to detect the presence of 3,000 tigers in 2018.
While the numbers have risen, India has also lost many tigers rapidly, due to increased urbanisation which cut into forest cover. In 1900, India was believed to be a home to 100,000 tigers. By 2006, it went down to a fraction of it, at 1,411.
To save their declining population, India along with 12 other countries, signed an agreement to double the number by 2022. According to Modi, India achieved this target four years earlier.
"The results of the just declared tiger census would make every Indian, every nature lover happy," he said.
But, there is a lot more work to be done to save tigers. "It is about carrying capacity of the reserves. The challenge now is to look beyond protected areas and be ready with measures to address conflicts," said Rajesh Gopal, former head of National Tiger Conservation Authority.
Prime Minister Modi says India has doubled its tiger population four years ahead of target