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Common survey to count India’s elephant and tiger populations

Jungle book: Asian elephants are listed as “endangered” on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. File  

From December, India will move to a system that will count tigers and elephants as part of a common survey. The tiger survey is usually held once in four years and elephants are counted once in five years. According to the most recent 2018-19 survey, there were 2,997 tigers in India. According to the last count in 2017, there were 29,964 elephants in India.

Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav on Thursday, which is marked as World Elephant Day, made public the population estimation protocol to be adopted in the all-India elephant and tiger population estimation in 2022.

At a meeting, he said there had been a “pressing need to improve and harmonise the population estimation methods along more scientific lines in various States across India,” to estimate animal numbers.

Since 2006, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, which is affiliated to the Environment Ministry, has a standardised protocol in place that States then use to estimate tiger numbers. Based on sightings in camera traps and indirect estimation methods, tiger numbers are computed. Elephant numbers, said Qamar Qureshi, wildlife scientist at the WII, largely rely on States directly counting the number of elephants. In recent years, techniques such as analysing dung samples have also been deployed to estimate birth rates and population trends in elephants. “Given that 90% of the area occupied by elephants and tigers is common, and once estimation methods are standardised, having a common survey can significantly save costs,” Mr. Qureshi told The Hindu.

In 2017, the Union Environment Ministry reported that there were 27,312 elephants on average in the country, according to figures collated from 23 States, a decline from the 29,576 elephants recorded as the mean figure in 2012. However, in 2019, it emerged that Kerala may have under-counted almost 2,700 elephants in the latest elephant census and the updated 2017 figures showed 29,964 elephants on average, or a slight increase from 2012’s mean.

This was because Kerala initially relied on a direct count method and then switched to an indirect method when the count showed a decline in its elephant population.

Asian elephants are listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. This has been done as most of the range States except India have lost their viable elephant populations due to loss of habitat, poaching, etc. Current population estimates indicate that there are about 50,000-60,000 Asian elephants in the world. More than 60% of the world’s elephant population is in India, said a statement from the Environment Ministry.


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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 10:21:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/common-survey-to-count-indias-elephant-and-tiger-populations/article35885595.ece

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