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Tiger numbers up by 20 pc in four years

New Delhi: The number of tigers in the country has witnessed an increase of 20 per cent from 2006 to 2010 but the shrinking habitat of the big cats remains a matter of concern.

"There is a country-wise increase of 20 per cent in tiger numbers in 2010 with an estimated number of 1,706 (1571-1875), while in 2006, the numbers were estimated at 1,411 (1165-1657) tigers," a report released today by the Ministry of Environment and Forests here states.

The detailed report on the All India Tiger Estimation (2010) along with the outcome of Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of Tiger Reserves also said, "There is a decline of 12.6 per cent in tiger occupancy from connecting habitats."   

"This has happened in peripheral and dispersal areas having low densities outside tiger reserves and tiger source populations," it said.
Director of Project Tiger Rajesh Gopal said shrinking habitat is "a matter of concern". "The peripheral forests are losing their quality in the context of a viable prey base to support the viable tiger number. The occupancy is shrinking. That is definitely a cause for concern," Gopal said.

He said the increase in numbers is due to the fact that tiger populations in Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka have shown an increase in tiger density.

According to the report, "Though the tiger population has increased due to good management of tiger reserves and protected areas, it has lost ground within connecting habitat corridors."

"These corridors are lifelines for individual populations to survive for the long-term. Their loss does not bode well for the tiger," it said.

The Ministry report warned that once the habitats are lost, it is impossible to claim them back for restoration.

"Poaching can wipe out individual tiger populations, but these can be re-established by reintroductions as has been done in Sariska and Panna," it said.

Currently, only a few populations like Nagarhole-Bandipur-Mudumalai-Wayanad-Moyar-Segur, Corbett population, Sundarbans (India and Bangladesh and Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong have the required population size for long term survival without immigration.

"The remaining tiger populations require habitat connectivity for genetic and demographic viability," the report said.

Populations that currently have corridor connectivity and exist as meta-populations are Rajaji-Corbett, Dudhwa-Katarniaghat-Kishanpur (along with Bardia and Suklaphanta in Nepal), Satpura-Melghat, Pench-Kanha, Bhadra-Kudermukh, Parambikulam-Indira Gandhi-Eravikulam and KMTR-Periyar.

"Loss of connectivity between these populations would prove detrimental for their persistence," the report said.

"The landscapes that have potential for meta population existence but are currently in need of conservation inputs are Srisailam, Simlipal-Satkosia, Ranthambhore-KunoPalpur-Sheopur, Indravati-Northern AndhraPradesh-Chandrapur-Nagzira-Navaegaon, and Bandhavgarh-Sanjay-Guru Ghasidas-Palamau," it said.

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