‘Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India, 2010' has both good and bad news

While tiger numbers have more than doubled in the past four years in the State, the habitat of the big cats, as well as co-predators and prey has shown a considerable decrease.

Statistics from ‘Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India, 2010' officially released by the Ministry of Environment and Forests last week reveal that the tiger population in the State has risen by 114 per cent from 76 in 2006 to 163 in 2010. As the tiger count is not absolute, the upper limit is pegged at 173 and the lower limit at 153.

As per the report, the tiger occupancy, or habitat, area within the Tamil Nadu part of Nagarahole – Mudumalai – Wayanad population landscape which has the highest tiger numbers in the country is 4,261 sq.km with an estimated 97 to 113 tigers. Tiger densities within the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve were high at 11.06 per 100 sq.km. And surprisingly, camera traps have revealed that the reserve forests of Moyar gorge – Segur plateau region surrounding the tiger reserve had high abundance of tigers at 7.65 per 100 sq.km.

In the Parambikulam – Eravikulam – Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary landscape, the Tamil Nadu side has between 32 and 36 tigers. The landscape has shown good recovery due to good management of several reserves constituting the complex, lower human pressure due to difficult terrain and contiguous nature of the tiger habitat, the report states.

On the Tamil Nadu side of Kalakad – Mundanthurai – Periyar population, the estimated tiger population is between 36 to 40 with the occupancy at 1,691 sq.km.

However, the tiger habitat in the State has come down from 9,211 sq.km to 8,389 sq.km but it is still considered stable. But the status of co-predators and prey with regard to the occupied areas has shown considerable decrease which could pose problems for conservation.

In the past four years, the habitat of leopards have come down from 14,484 sq.km to 10,060 sq.km; that of Dhole from 19,658 sq.km to 10,217 sq.km; and that of Bear from 13,224 sq.km to 9,736 sq.km.

Among the prey, the area occupied by Chital has decreased drastically from 13,567 sq.km to 4,027 sq.km and that of Sambar from 15,909 sq.km to 9,008 sq.km. Encouragingly, the Western Ghats complex, comprising Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, has also shown an increase in tiger numbers from 402 to 534 in the past four years. Here again, the tiger occupancy has decreased by about 5,000 sq.km registering a decline of about 11.5 per cent compared to that of 2006, the report reveals.