Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tiger population: Headache for wildlifers

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 26, 2011

The government on Monday will announce that India’s tiger population has increased but it may not be a reason for cheer with inviolate space for the big cat decreasing. Environment minister Jairam Ramesh will announce an increase of over 100 tigers as first reported by HT on February 19 in major tig er landscapes at a three-day international conference of experts on tigers.

According to ministry sources, more number of tigers have been spotted in Ranthambore in Rajasthan, Corbett in Uttaranchal, Kaziranga in Assam, Bandipur in Karnataka, Periyar in Kerala, Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh, Andheri-Todaba and Melghat in Maharashtra.

The tiger estimation has not shown comparatively good results in Arunchal Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa, sources said.

The good news will be coming from Central and Western Indian landscape, where tiger population had dwindled the most in the last estimation in 2008. "A tiger from Ranthambore took a historical route to Kuno in Madhya Pradesh. That shows tigers are doing well," a ministry official said.

"Where is the habitat to keep so many tigers safe?" asked Vivek Menon, Chief Executive Officer of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). "Constant habitat destruction and illegal mining is causing the wildlife stress," Dharmendra Kandhal, a Ranthambore based wildlife biologist said.

As per the government's own study tiger reserves in India cannot hold more than 1,000 to 1,200 tigers and forest have witnessed a degradation in the last two decades. The core tiger area has shrunk to 31,207 sq kilometers in from over one lakh sq kms in 1970s, when Project Tiger was launched. Ramesh has admitted that India cannot increase its forest cover.

Other experts such as Belinda Wright of Wildlife Protection Society of India poaching treat and fall in prey population in tiger habitats is a reason for concern. "If the population has really increased we can witness more tiger deaths because of their conflict with their own community for space and people living around tiger areas," said a Wildlife Institute of India scientist, who was not willing to be quoted.

The Wildlife Institute of India, which is conducting the estimation, has captured pictures of 12 tigresses with cubs in Dudwa tiger reserve in Uttar Pradesh, where a tiger killed two persons. In Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserve in Maharashtra, where six people had died in conflict, two tigresses with cubs have been spotted in the buffer area.

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