In a big pat on the back for conservation efforts in Tamil Nadu, the population of tigers has tripled in the State in just eight years, finds the latest official count of the big cats.
From 76 tigers in 2006, the number of big cats shot up to 229 in 2014, says the report on the Status of Tigers in India - 2014 by the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The 2010 survey recorded 163 tigers.
The forest complex of Mudumalai, Bandipur, Nagarhole and Wayanad Tiger Reserves has “the world's single largest tiger population” now estimated at over 570 tigers, says the report. With the addition of Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in 2013, Tamil Nadu has four Tiger Reserves, including Mudumalai, Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve and Anamalai Tiger Reserve.
For the survey, researchers and volunteers sampled 7033 km of forest trails and analysed images of tigers from 578 camera traps.
Western Ghats Landscape Complex
The trend in Tamil Nadu’s tiger reserves is consistent with other tiger habitats in the Western Ghats, which together have seen the biggest growth in tiger numbers compared to other tiger-occupied landscapes in the country. The four States that make up the Western Ghats Landscape Complex saw a jump in tiger numbers from 402 tigers in 2006 to 776 in 2014.
Tiger expert Ullas Karanth, Director, Centre for Wildlife Studies attributed the growing numbers to the improved forest protection in this region in the last decade.
“Apart from the contiguity, the prey base and protection measures in this landscape will ensure the tigers will live here for many, many years,” says K. Sankar, Senior Scientist, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehra Dun.
The connectivity of this landscape with Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve, through Moyar gorge, is pushing the number of tigers up in this newly formed tiger reserve. Tigers must have inhabited the Sathyamangalam forests for long but not many dared to go inside when forest brigand Veerappan was alive. With easy access now, more tigers are being sighted, say activists.
The rising number of big cats also raises the apprehension on their survival outside the protected habitat. In 2014, Tamil Nadu topped tiger deaths in the country.
This October 7, 2014 photo shows the carcass of a tiger in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Photo:Special Arrangement
“The sub-adult tigers move out to carve out new territories for themselves and could resort to cattle lifting making them vulnerable to poisoning and poaching. There is a need for continuous monitoring of tigers outside protected areas,” says Mr. Sankar. The finer details of the analysis on the tigers and their habitat will be known by March, he adds.