Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: Being a home to nearly 70 per cent of the world’s tiger population, India has achieved its target of doubling the count of big cats much ahead of the 2022-deadline. Unfortunately, Odisha has no contribution in this feat achieved by India as the fourth iteration of the All India Tiger Estimation (AITE) conducted in 2018-19 revealed that the State failed to add even one tiger to its population.

The AITE report states that the number of tigers has remained unchanged in Odisha from 2014-2018. While the tiger population in Odisha stood at 28 in 2014, the figure during the fourth cycle of the survey remains the same.

States like Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Assam have registered a big surge in tiger population, while Odisha's count has decreased over the years. From 45 tigers in 2006, the State's big cat population has come down to 28 in 2018, pointing at a massive decrease in the tiger population by almost 40 per cent.

The quadrennial survey further observed that poor and continued decline in tiger status in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand is a matter of concern.

The largest contiguous tiger population in the world of about 724 tigers was found in the Western Ghats (Nagarhole-Bandipur-Wayanad-Mudumalai Satyamangalam-BRT block) while the second largest population of about 604 tigers was found across Uttrakhand and western Uttar Pradesh (Rajaji-Corbett-Ramnagar-Pilibhit-Dudhwa block).

At present, the tiger population within Tiger Reserves is 1923 which is 65 per cent of the total tiger population of India.

Some reserves like Similipal (Odisha), Amrabad, Nagarjunsagar Sri Sailam, Palamau, Sanjay-Dubri, Manas, Buxa, Dampa, Anshi Dandeli, Pakke, Nameri and Kawal are below their potential and require resources and targeted management. In areas where tigers have not been recorded or the population has declined, restoration needs to proceed by improving protection, augmentation of prey, and reintroduction of tigers from an appropriate source.

For tiger reintroduction or supplementation in Similipal and Palamau, tigers need to be sourced from the closest source in the same genetic cluster.

Tiger population in Similipal-Satkosia block is severely depressed and is estimated to be around 18 (16-21). Therefore, all efforts should be made to recover this population by controlling poaching of tigers and their prey through snaring, mentioned the AITE 2018 report, adding that it may be essential to supplement tigers and the closest genetic cluster that can be used for supplementation is from Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve.

Another factor resulting in local tiger extinction in a significant number of areas is the expansion in human settlements and forest loss.

These areas were around Kotagarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary, Kendujhar-Saranda, Bamur, and Sunabeda in Odisha; Raigarh, Korba, Kanker, Pakhanjore in Chhattisgarh; Satna, Katni, Singrauli, Obaidullaganj and Mandla in Madhya Pradesh; Sundarnagar range, Gadchiroli, Dhanora, Chandgad and Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra; Sobhanadripuram, Devarapalli and Kaundinya Wildlife Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh, and Ramagundam in Telangana.

"The Odisha government has failed miserably. Thirteen tigers died in Nandankanan but not a single officer was questioned. One tiger brought as part of translocation drive was also trapped and killed. Similipal has the potential but with conditions. New tigers need to be brought and those can add to the population. The only uniqueness of Odisha is the black tiger population (yellow and black morphed) in Simlipal," Biswajit Mohanty, secretary of the Wildlife Society of Odisha said to OTV.

"Crores of rupees have been given by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for Similipal and Satkosia Tiger Reserves. Obviously, funds are being swindled since 20 years. They could get only 8 tigers on a camera trap at Simlipal and 1 at Satkosia. No forest department has been punished for the loss of tigers. This is terrible performance," he added.

As per 2018 census, the tiger population in MP rose to 526 in 2018 from 308 in 2014. Karnataka was placed at the second spot with 524 big cats followed by Uttarakhand with 442 tigers.

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