India has 2,967 tigers, a third more than in 2014, according to results of a tiger census made public on July 29 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Madhya Pradesh saw the highest number of tigers at 526, closely followed by Karnataka (524) and Uttarakhand (442). Chhattisgarh and Mizoram saw a decline in tiger population and all other States saw a “positive” increase, according to a press statement.
The survey, the fourth such since 2006, is a gargantuan exercise and conducted once in four years. The latest survey is the culmination of 15 months of forest officials surveying 381,400 square kilometres of forested habitat, installing 26,760 camera traps and wildlife biologists ferreting through 35 million images of wildlife — 76,523 of which were tigers (there can be multiple images of the same tiger). Nearly 83% of the estimated tiger population was captured in these images.
While Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of tigers, Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu registered the “maximum improvement” since 2014, a press note added.
“We have to create a healthy balance between sustainability and development. More roads and cleaner rivers, more homes for citizens and, at the same time, quality habitat for animals are necessary for a strong, inclusive India,” Mr. Modi said in his address.
The government also commissioned a study to gauge the economic value of tiger reserves. Based on an analysis of 10 of them, the government claimed that the cumulative benefits — from the carbon and timber conserved, livelihood to those who depend on forest and tourism — were anywhere from ₹4,200 crore to ₹16,000 crore annually.
Since 2006, the Wildlife Institute of India — an Environment Ministry-funded body — has been tasked with coordinating the exercise. That year, it emerged 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.
India accounts for many of the 3,500-odd tigers that are scattered among Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russian Federation, Thailand and Vietnam.
In 2010, these countries agreed to put in efforts to double the tiger population — in sum — by 2022.