Why Tigers are important for ecosystem?
- Tiger is a top predator which is at the apex of the food chain and keeps the population of wild ungulates in check, thereby maintaining the balance between prey herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed.
- The extinction of this top predator is an indication that its ecosystem is not sufficiently protected, and neither would it exist for long thereafter.
About Tiger Census:
- The tiger estimation exercise includes habitat assessment and prey estimation.
- More than 80% of the world’s wild tigers are in India, and thus it is crucial to keep track of their numbers.
- The numbers reflect the success or failure of conservation efforts.
- Census is an especially important indicator in a fast-growing economy like India where the pressures of development often run counter to the demands of conservation.
Note: The Global Tiger Forum, an international collaboration of tiger-bearing countries, has set a goal of doubling the count of wild tigers by 2022.
Tiger Landscapes in India: India has five tiger landscapes where Tiger is found:
- Shivalik Hills and Gangetic Plains,
- Central Indian Landscape and Eastern Ghats,
- Western Ghats,
North-East Hills and Brahmaputra Plains
About Tiger Census of India:
- In India, tiger census is carried out every four years since 2006.
- It is being conducted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), in collaboration with the State Forest Departments, Conservation NGOs and coordinated by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
Presence of Tiger in world:
- India is now home to 75% of the global tiger population.
- The world-wide population of wild tigers stands at around 3,950 with Russia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand, Bangladesh and Bhutan being other key countries contributing to the remaining 25% count.
How do Tigers are counted?
- Pug Mark Method:
- In this method, the pug mark i.e. the foot print of the tiger is important.
- It is considered that each pug mark is unique in itself and by analyzing various foot prints in the areas of tigers, the number of tigers in that area can be counted
- Camera Trap:
- In this, cameras are installed in the tiger areas having night vision facility (the ability of the camera to record at night) as well.
- By recording various tigers in the camera, the number of tigers can be estimated.
- Poop/scat Method:
- In this method the number of tigers is counted by poop/scat (droppings of the tiger).
- The poop is analyzed by DNA sampling and then we can arrive at a more accurate count.
- Radio Collar Method:
- In this method, Tigers are captured and are fitted with a radio collar. In this way the tigers can be counted. (This method fails when the concerned tiger enters the salty water)
Tiger Census 2018:
- An area of 3,81,400 square kilometres (sq km) of forest was surveyed.
Phases of Census:The census was carried out in Four phases.
- Recorded carnivore tracks and signs, data sampling of prey species, vegetation and human disturbance.
- Phase 2 consists of remote sensing data by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), which partners the NTCA in this assessment every four years in collaboration with state forest departments.
- The information was plotted on the forest map prepared with remote-sensing and GIS application.
- Sample areas were divided in 2-sq-km parcels, and trap cameras were laid in these grids.
- Data were extrapolated to areas where cameras could not be deployed.
- Increase in number of Tigers:
- India’s tiger population has jumped to an estimated 2,967, a rise by 33% over 2,226 reported in 2014.
- This is also an incredible 210% rise from 1,411 recorded in 2006
- Shrink in Tiger occupied areas: Overall, areas occupied by tigers shrunk by 17,881 sq km (2014-18).
- Reason for shrink in areas:
- not finding evidence of tiger presence in sampled forests (20 per cent actual loss)
- not sampling forests that had tiger presence in 2014 (eight per cent).
- Decline in area occupied by Tigers in three out of India’s five tiger landscapes:
- The Shivalik
- Western Ghats
- North East Hills
- However, other two landscapes i.e. Central India and the Sundarbans landscapes registered an increase.
Increase in Tiger Population:
- The maximum increase has been in Madhya Pradesh, a massive 218 individuals (71%) from 308 in 2014 to 526.
- In Maharashtra, the number has gone up from 190 to 312 (64%), and in Karnataka, from 406 to 524 (118, or 29%).
- Uttarakhand has gained over 100 tigers (340 to 442; 30%)
State that have not performed well:
- In Chhattisgarh there has been fall in number from 46 in 2014 to 19 tigers.
- Reason cited for fall in numbers: law and order problem as large parts of the state are hit by the Maoist insurgency.
Report on the management of various reserves
Best managed tiger reserves in the country:
- Kerala’s Periyar sanctuary.
- Madhya Pradesh’s Pench sanctuary
Highest numbers of Tigers:
- Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of tigers
- Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu registered the “maximum improvement” since 2014
- The Dampa in Mizoram
- Rajaji reserves in Uttarakhand
- No tiger has been found in the Buxa Tiger Reserve (TR) in West Bengal, Palamu TR in Jharkhand and Dampa TR in Mizoram.
- Also, greater conservation efforts are needed in the “critically vulnerable” Northeast hills and Odisha.
Reasons for increase in number of Tigers:
- Increased vigilance:
- Organised poaching rackets have been all but crushed and there has been no organised poaching by traditional gangs in Central Indian landscapes since 2013.
- Conservation efforts:
- Increase in number of Tiger Reserves from 28 in 2006, to 50 in 2018, extending protection to larger numbers of tigers over the years.
- The increased protection has encouraged the tiger to breed and thus led to increase in population.
- Rehabilitation of villages:
- The rehabilitation of villages outside core areas in many parts of the country has led to the availability of more inviolate space for tigers.
- More accurate estimation:
- Estimation exercises have become increasingly more accurate over the years, it is possible that many tigers that eluded enumerators in earlier exercises were counted this time.
- Discrepancy in methodology:
- In 2014, tigers aged 1.5 years or older were counted. The current report has the cut-off age as 1 year.
Milestone initiatives taken by the Government of India through the National Tiger Conservation Authority for conservation and protection of tiger:
- Legal Steps:
- Amendment of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 in 2006 to provide enabling provisions for constituting the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
- Enhancement of punishment for offence in relation to the core area of a tiger reserve or where the offence relate to hunting in the tiger reserves or altering the boundaries of tiger reserves, etc.
- Administrative Steps:
- Constitution of a multidisciplinary Tiger and Other Endangered Species Crime Control Bureau (Wildlife Crime Control Bureau) with effect from the 6th June, 2007 to effectively control illegal trade in wildlife.
- Strengthening of antipoaching activities, including special strategy for monsoon patrolling, by providing funding support to tiger reserve States.
- Financial Steps:
- Financial and technical help is provided to the State Governments under various Centrally Sponsored Schemes, such as “Project Tiger” and “Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats” for enhancing the capacity and infrastructure of the State Governments for providing effective protection to wild animals.
- International Cooperation:
- Bilateral understanding with neighboring countries on controlling trans-boundary illegal trade in wildlife and conservation.
- Creation of Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF): The Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) has been made operational in states with 60% central assistance under the ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger.
- Online Tiger Mortality database: In collaboration with TRAFFIC-INDIA, an online tiger mortality data base has been launched, and Generic Guidelines for preparation of reserve specific Security Plan has been evolved.
About Project Tiger:
- For conserving national animal, Tiger, Government of India launched the ‘Project Tiger’ in 1973.
- From 9 tiger reserves since its formative years, the Project Tiger coverage has increased to 50 at present, spread out in 18 of our tiger range states.
- Project Tiger is an ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change providing central assistance to the tiger States for tiger conservation in designated tiger reserves.
- The tiger reserves are constituted on a core/buffer strategy.
- The core areas have the legal status of a national park or a sanctuary, whereas the buffer or peripheral areas are a mix of forest and non-forest land, managed as a multiple use area.
- Aim: To foster an exclusive tiger agenda in the core areas of tiger reserves, with an inclusive people oriented agenda in the buffer.
About National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA):
- The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body of the Ministry, with an overarching supervisory / coordination role, performing functions as provided in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- Providing statutory authority to Project Tiger so that compliance of its directives become legal.
- Fostering accountability of Center-State in management of Tiger Reserves, by providing a basis for MoU with States within our federal structure.
- Providing for an oversight by Parliament.
- Addressing livelihood interests of local people in areas surrounding Tiger Reserves.
About Wildlife Institute of India
- The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate change,established in May 1982.
- It carries out wildlife research in areas of study like Biodiversity, Endangered Species, Wildlife Policy, Wildlife Management, Wildlife Forensics, Spatial Modeling, Eco-development, Habitat Ecology and Climate Change.
- WII has a research facility which includes Forensics, Remote Sensing and GIS, Laboratory, Herbarium, and an Electronic Library.
- The institute is based in Dehradun, India.