Odisha’s tiger population could be 80, says minister

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government today claimed that the number of Royal Bengal Tigers (RBTs) can be 80 in the state, instead of 40 as estimated by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

State Forest and Environment minister Bijayshree Routray gave this figure while replying to a question on the reduction of tiger population in the state.Routray was addressing a press conference to highlight his department’s achievements during the last three years.

“I can assure you that the number of RBTs in Odisha can be double the figure given by NTCA. They (NTCA) undertake tiger census through camera trap method, while the traditional pug mark procedure shows that about 80 RBTs live in Odisha forests,” Routray said.

Stating that the camera trap method cannot be accepted as accurate, the minister argued that the RBTs keep themselves away from camera light.

“Tigers prefer to live in isolation in dense forests and avoid noise. Therefore, one cannot get the actual number through camera. Instead, one can get to near accuracy by adopting the pug mark method,” the minister said.

According to the NTCA, there are at least 40 RBTs and 318 leopards in different tiger reserves and forests of Odisha.

While the highest number of 26 RBTs live in Similipal Tiger Reserve, remaining 14 tigers are located in six other places, the report said.

An official of the forest and environment department said there are about 400 leopards in Odisha.

Of the 26 RBTs in Similipal, nine are males, 14 females and three cubs. All these animals are located in the core area of Similipal Tiger Reserve, the report said.

Apart from Similipal Tiger Reserve, four RBTs comprising one male and three females are there in Sunabeda sanctuary, while three each have been found in Karanjia and Keonjhar wild life divisions, it said.

The minister claimed that the state government has taken several measures to maintain tiger habitation in different forests of Odisha.