After dropping to an alarminng 1,411 adults in 2006, Indian tigers are back with a bang at 1,636, according to the 2010 ‘tiger census’ released today. Including Sunderbans, which was not counted in 2006, it is at 1706 adults.
The census is the second ‘scientific’ or double counted census of tigers in India. The first one was conducted in 2006.
The census, however, showed an alarming decrease in tiger habitat due to the encroachment of ‘development’ activities such as roads and factories in tiger areas.
Tiger roaming areas shrunk from 93,600 square km in 2006 to 72,800 square km in just four years.
The positive trend was primarily due to the efforts of the South Indian states, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand.
On the other hand, tiger faced its biggest reverses and challenges in Central India, in areas like Madhya Pradesh and Norther Andhra Pradesh.
The South Indian complex at the junction of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala (near Nagarhole and Wayanad) emerged as one of the biggest gainers in tiger population. The number went from around 250-300 in 2006 to around 310-400 last year, according to the survey.
“The area is now competing with Eastern Russia as one of the global hotspots of tiger population,” Jairam, who grew up near the area, said.
Similarly, the Shivalik (lower Himalaya, including Uttarakhand) also performed well, with a jump from 297 to 353 in four years.
Jairam said construction of roads was a major cause for isolating tiger habitats and cutting them off from each other. While this has not had an immediate impact on tiger numbers, he said, it will negatively impact the tigers’ long term future by leading to in-breeding and lower of genetic quality.
In-breeding makes specie more vulnerable to diseases and infertility, dampening their chances of survival.