The much-awaited tiger census is likely to be released on July 29, Global Tiger Day, two officials independently confirmed to The Hindu .
The results of the census, conducted once in four years, has been delayed for over 7 months because of the intervening Lok Sabha elections, data collection anomalies from the States as well as a first-ever initiative to coordinate the counting exercise with neighbouring Bangladesh and Nepal to avoid double-counting of the animal.
Since 2006, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) — an Environment Ministry funded body — has been tasked with coordinating the exercise. That year, the once in four years exercise calculated that India had only 1,411 tigers. This rose to 1,706 in 2010 and 2,226 in 2014 on the back of improved conservation measures and new estimation methods.
The survey — divided into four phases — began last winter.
India accounts for most of the 3,500-odd tigers that are scattered among Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russian Federation, Thailand, and Vietnam.
As part of an agreement in 2010 among these countries, there is a goal to double the global tiger count by 2022.
Normally, the census is made public by the environment minister but sources said this time Prime Minister Narendra Modi could do the honours. “That's the plan as of now. We've requested him to do so but we don't yet know for sure,” an official in the know told The Hindu .
However, there have been doubts on tiger numbers by independent researchers.
“...the claims of a 58% tiger population rise in India over the past 8 years [from 2006-2014] based on estimates from the three National Tiger Estimate surveys lack reliable scientific support,” a research paper under review by K. Ulhas Karanth of the Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bengaluru; Arjun Gopalaswamy and Mohan Delampady of the Indian Statistical Institute, Bengaluru; and Professor Nils Chr. Stenseth,University of Oslo , claims. They say that a flawed methodology is being by the WII that exaggerates tiger numbers.