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India’s tiger population has doubled since 2006: Here’s why it is important

World’s largest wildlife survey reveals tiger population is now almost 3,000. Forest officers say protecting big cat helps the ecosystem over long ranges.

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement that India’s tiger population has grown to almost 3,000 is not only significant because the number has more than doubled since 2006. Indian Forest Service (IFS) officers explain that saving the country’s national animal is akin to saving the environment itself.

“Tiger is an apex predator which is territorial and covers a long range. To protect a tiger means protecting the ecosystem and that particular habitat of forest,” said Parveen Kaswan, an IFS officer of the West Bengal cadre.

“The strategy not only protects tiger but all elements of that habitat, hence conserving the whole ecosystem. There is research available on how protecting tiger improves the forest and related ecological services, including rejuvenation of rivers.”

Dipika Bajpai, another IFS officer from Karnataka, added: “Tigers are keystone species of any forest. They ensures all other species get protected too. Tigers being long range animals, habitats gets (sic) conserved. If tigers die, other species get vulnerable.”

Historic achievement

Underscoring a major feat for India’s tiger conservation project, PM Modi said Monday that the tiger count had risen to 2,967 in 2018, a 33 per cent rise from the 2014 figure of 2,226.

The first tiger census, conducted in 2006, had thrown up the worrying figure of 1,411 tigers, and Modi called the improvement a “historic achievement”.

“It was decided to work towards doubling the tiger population by 2022 but India achieved this four years in advance,” Modi said. “India is proud to be home to almost 75 per cent of the global tiger population.”

According to the new census, Madhya Pradesh is home to the biggest number of big cats, 526, followed by Karnataka and Uttarakhand with 524 and 442 tigers respectively.

The world’s largest wildlife survey

Experts say the data released Monday has come out of the biggest wildlife census in the world.

Over 3,81,400 square kilometres of forest area was surveyed. A total of 5,22,996 kilometres were surveyed by forest staff on foot, while 1,21,337 kilometres were surveyed with 26,838 cameras. While the first figure, the total survey area, includes the area of all tiger reserves, the area surveyed on foot is greater since the staff moved to and fro within the reserves and even outside.

A massive 34,858,623 photographs were analysed for the survey.

The cost of the entire exercise, which required 5,99,882 man-days involving over 40,000 people, was Rs 10 crore.

Also read: How Bachchan, Kipling and Disney made future of the tiger uncertain in India


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