Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday (July 29, 2019) released the Tiger Estimation Report (TER) 2018 in New Delhi and according to it the tiger population of India currently is 2967 which is a 33 per cent growth in the 4th cycle of tiger census.
"Today we reaffirm our commitment towards protecting tigers. Results of the just declared Tiger Census would make every Indian happy," a jubilant Modi said after releasing the report called Status of Tigers Co-predators & Prey in India, 2018.
"India has achieved the target of doubling tiger population four years before the deadline," he added.
It may be mentioned here that in 2010 in St Petersburg the target of doubling the tiger population was set for 2022.
According to the 2014 tiger census report, the total number of tigers in the country was 2226.
"However, we completed this target 4 years early," further added the Prime Minister.
According to the TER, with 526 numbers Madhya Pradesh tops the list of the states with highest numbers of tigers.
The state is closely followed by Karnataka which has 524 tigers and Uttarakhand with 442 numbers of the big cat.
Assam too witnessed an increase in the number of tigers and presently there are 190 tigers in the state from 167 in 2014.
Even though other states witnessed a positive trend in the tiger population, Chattisgarh and Mizoram, however, witnessed a slight decline. Whereas the number of tiger population in Odisha remained constant.
Releasing the report the PM said that "India is now one of the safest habitats in the world for tigers".
Even though the tiger population in the country has increased in the last four years, but even then a lot is yet to be done in terms of conserving the big cat.
From January 2019 to May 2019, total 51 deaths of tigers were reported in the country, revealed a report by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) - at an average of 10 deaths per month.
The tigers were killed owing to various reasons like territorial fights, poaching and electrocution.
Only in last week, a 6-year-old tigress was lynched in Uttar Pradesh's Pilibhit after the feline attacked and injured nine villagers in Deurea range of the Philbit Tiger Reserve.
According to a Ranthambore National Park report, from January 2019 to May 2019, a total of 51 tigers died in the country owing to various reasons ranging from cancer to starvation.
In total 5 tigers were poached in various parts of the country during this period.
According to a Moongabay article, tiger deaths in 2018 scored a perfect 100 for the third year in a row and this is startling and something serious to think about.
With only seven months into 2019, already 52 confirmed tiger deaths have been reported from across the country and by the year ends, the number may “rise” and there is a possibility of it touching the “100 death mark” once again!
From 2012-2018, 656 tiger deaths were reported in the country, of which poaching and electrocution accounted for 207 (31. 5 per cent) deaths.
It is worth noting here that according to the 2014 census, around 40 per cent of the tigers in India lives outside their “natural habitat”.
In fact, the report released by the Prime Minister noted that during 2014-2018, the areas occupied by the tigers shrunk by 17,881 square kilometres.
"Reduction in occupied areas was due to a) not finding evidence of tiger presence in sampled forests (20 per cent actual loss), and b) not sampling forests that had tiger presence in 2014 (eight per cent)," the report added.
As per the report the Shivalik recorded a loss of 469 square kilometre area; the Western Ghats recorded 527 square kilometre area and the Northeast recorded 6,589 square kilometre area.
"If there is a loss in the habitat of the tigers, they are bound to venture out of their natural habitat and in such cases, the tiger-human conflict is certain to rise. In such a scenario, more tigers are certain to die," says an official of the Assam State Zoo-cum-Botanical Garden seeking anonymity.
"The report released today is encouraging; however we must also see that several areas, especially in the Northeast, were not given much focus. Dibru Saikhowa and Manas are two places where the emphasis needs to be given, shifting focus from the Kaziranga National Park," the official adds on.
"Tigers in Manas and Dibru Saikhowa have decreased, however, much is not said about it," he further adds on.
Guwahati-based independent journalist-cum-wildlife activist Nabarun Guha feels that then increase in tiger population in India is positive news.
"In Assam, tiger count has gone up from 70 to 190 in 12 years, which is a great thing," he says.
"However, barring Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, we don't have any other states in Northeast which can be called a tiger bearing state; Mizoram has lost its tiger population. There are stray sightings reported from Nagaland," he further adds.
"Northeast still has good forest cover and if we can get healthy prey base, then there the scenario of tigers here will improve even more," Guha concludes.
Even though India has been considered as the “safest home” for the tigers in the world, however, much is yet left to be done and one cannot sit idle and continue making merry with the 33 per cent increase in the wild cats’ population.
Once the tiger population in the country was estimated to be 40,000 and today what we have is a meagre 7.4175 per cent of it.
Poaching, death by electrocution, poisoning and “revenge attack” on tigers are some of the issues that need to be urgently addressed and a congenial environment for the tigers to grow must be created.
Partha Prawal (Goswami) is a Guwahati-based journalist who loves to write about entertainment, sports, and social and civic issues among others. He is also a published author.