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Latest India Tiger Census Shows Rapid Population Growth

The latest tiger census shows that India is now home to around 3,000 tigers. This count is a third more than it was four years ago.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who presented the findings recently, said the tiger population had risen from 2,226 in 2014 to 2,967 in 2018. He elaborated that India is “now one of the biggest and most secure habitats of the tiger”.

It is now estimated that India is now home to around 70% of the world’s tigers. India tallies its tigers once every four years. This long, arduous task involves forest officials and scientists trekking across half a million square kilometers (193,000 sq miles) in search of evidence of the tiger population.

Mr.Modi acknowledged that the outcome of this tiger census would make “every Indian happy”.

Correspondents call this is a major conservation success. Between 1875 and 1925 alone, it is estimated that some 80,000 tigers were killed in India. Bounty and sports hunting were rampant as kings and officials killed tigers with guns, spears, nets, traps, and poison. By the 1960s the count of Indian tigers had dwindled precipitously.

But several government initiatives to streamline tiger conservation including a strict ban on hunting and awareness drives in villages are behind the evident increase of the population. A  stringent wildlife protection law that was implemented in 1972 made it virtually illegal to kill or capture wild animals even in severe conflict situations with “problem animals”.  India even upped investments to hire more forest guards and improve the protection of reserves, under pressure from global conservationists. The results became visible in 2006, and since then there has been a healthy increase in tiger numbers.

 

But unexpectedly, there has now been an increase in human-tiger conflict possibly due to the fact that India has too many tigers and too few forests to sustain them unless more protected reserves are established.

According to an estimate, big cats breed and reside in only about 10% of India’s total potential tiger habitat of 300,000 sq. km (115,830 sq. miles). Animal density in many such forest areas is high, and surplus tigers now and then venture outside for food, bringing them face-to-face with people who live nearby.

Conservationists reveal that conflict with humans is mainly restricted to the edges of the reserved protected areas, forests, and plantations. Unless India expands tiger reserves, such conflicts may increase.

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