48 more tiger roar in Assam
Guwahati, March 28: The Royal Bengal tiger is thriving in the abode of the one-horned rhino. In the past four years, there has been an increase of 48 tigers in Assam — approximately 16 per cent of the total increase of 295 tigers in the country.
The results of the All-India Tiger Estimation exercise, declared by Union environment and forest minister Jairam Ramesh in New Delhi today, shows that tiger conservation efforts have paid off.
According to the 2010 census, there are 1,706 tigers in the country now, compared to 1,411 big cats in 2006.
In the Northeast’s hills and Brahmaputra flood plains, the latest census report pegs the tiger population at 148 (or 8.67 per cent of the country's tigers) compared to 100 in 2006. Of the estimated 148 tigers, 143 are in Assam and five in Mizoram.
While the tiger population has increased by 48 in Assam, the report says it is stable in Mizoram and data collection is still under way in Arunachal Pradesh.
The report says the tiger population in the region could be between 118 and 178, which means that it cannot be lower than 118 and if counted properly, could reach 178.
The 2006 report had set the lower and upper limit of the tiger population in the Northeast between 84 and 118.
Referring to the latest estimate, a top forest official of the Assam forest department told this correspondent, “It is a very good estimate and is an encouraging sign. It reflects our efforts in tiger conservation.”
Firoz Ahmed, a wildlife biologist with Aaranyak, who is involved in camera trapping of tigers in Assam told The Telegraph, “The upper limit of 178 is more realistic. It will increase as we do more study in Arunachal Pradesh and Karbi Anglong.” He was present in Delhi when the report was released.
The result shows Assam’s Kaziranga National Park to be the best tiger reserve in the region. It is estimated to have 106 tigers, with the lower and upper limits estimated between 81 and 131, in 800 square km.
“We are on the right track and the trend is good. Work is still ongoing on,” a senior park official said.
The good situation in Kaziranga supports the report, which says, “The positive trends in tiger population estimates in source sites are encouraging. The fact that better protected tiger source sites have maintained viable tiger populations underscores the importance of strong managerial support.”
Of the other two tiger reserves in Assam, Manas and Pakke-Nameri national parks, the former has not fared well.
In Manas, the report says, there are nine tigers in 639 square km. Experts feel the lower and upper limits of tigers in the reserve could be between 15 and 18. Manas has already been categorised as a low-density tiger reserve. In November last year, the forest authorities of India and Bhutan had agreed to start a joint initiative to “camera trap” tigers moving across the international border.
The report estimate puts the tiger population in Pakke-Nameri as nine in 371 square km, with the lower and upper limits estimated between seven and 11. Some preliminary work had started in Pakke last year and the reserve reportedly recorded a density of only 1.9 tigers per 100 square km.
Dampa tiger reserve in Mizoram is estimated to have five tigers.
The report says the entire survey and research work of the 2010 estimations of tigers will soon be put into the public domain.
Government officials and wildlife scientists, however, have cautioned against complacency amid disturbing losses and disputes over counting of tigers.
The estimates for 2010 released by the Union environment and forests ministry suggest a 16 per cent increase in the number of tigers in all tiger landscapes except the Sunderbans where no assessment had been done in 2006.
But a conservation scientist said the 16 per cent increase would suggest a reversal of the previous decline of tigers.
The new counts suggest that tiger populations have over the past four years increased in the Shivalik-Gangetic plains, along the western ghats, and in the northeastern hills and the Brahmaputra flood plains, but have decreased in central India and eastern ghats.
Census co-ordinators say the effort involved an analysis of field data collected by trained personnel, a status analysis of tiger habitat via satellites, and camera capture to identify individual tigers on the basis of their unique stripe patterns.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING FROM NEW DELHI