NEW DELHI: Here's something to cheer the wildlife enthusiasts. Tiger conservation has been a roaring success with the population of the big cats taking a quantum jump from 1706 to 2226 in the past four years- an incredible increase of nearly 30%.  The southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala of the Western Ghats landscape recorded nearly one-third of the country's total number of big cats, according to latest tiger census.  Karnataka has the highest number of tigers in India, home to 70% of the world's tiger population. Interestingly, Mudumalai - Bandipur - Nagarhole - Wayanad forest complex within the Western Ghats holds the world's single largest tiger population. This complex - spread over Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu - has 570 tigers. If one compares the 2006 figures, the overall increase across the country is phenomenal with an addition of over 800 tigers in the past eight years. India had 1411 tigers in 2006 which increased to 1706 in 2010 and 2226 in 2014. Releasing the 2014 data for tigers on Tuesday, Union environment and forests minister Prakash Javadekar said, "We must be proud of our legacy. We have increased the number of tigers by over 30% from the last count (in 2010). That is a big success story." A total of 3,78,118 sq km of forest area in 18 states, having tiger population, was surveyed during the census exercise that used 'double sampling' approach including ground survey and remote camera trap- based capture and re-capture technique. Besides, scat DNA sampling method was also used for corroboration in many forest areas. More than 9,730 cameras were used in the exercise, carried out by National Tiger Conservation Authority in collaboration with the state forest departments, national conservation NGOs and Wildlife Institute of India.

Javadekar claimed that nowhere in the world, so many cameras have been used for such an exercise that resulted in having 1540 unique tiger photo captures - making it the most authentic report on tiger population in the country. The report shows that the tiger population has increased in Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the past four years. The latest round of independent 'Management Effectiveness Evaluation' of country's tiger reserves has shown an overall improvement in the score of 43 reserves during the period. The minister attributed the increase to many initiatives like the crackdown on poaching, community partnership and minimization of human-animal conflict. "With this success story in hand, India is even willing to donate tiger cubs to the international community and play a key role in global tiger conservation efforts," he said. Countries like Cambodia and Laos are learnt to have approached India for this. "Many countries have asked us for help. It is because the world has understood that there is a need to save this specie which may become extinct ... whichever country wants tigers from us or wants our cooperation, we are ready to extend such help," said the minister. Officials said though the overall number has increased, some of the states like Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh can accommodate 1,000 more tigers in the coming years. Tiger population has, in fact, deceased in both Odisha (from 32 in 2010 to 28 in 2014) and Jharkhand (from 10 in 2010 to 3 in 2014). State-wise, Karnatakas has the highest number of tigers (406) followed by 340 in Uttarakhand, 308 in Madhya Pradesh, 229 in Tamil Nadu, 190 in Maharashtra, 167 in Assam, 136 in Kerala and 117 in Uttar Pradesh. Region-wise record shows that the tiger population in the Sunderbans has remained stable and is estimated to be 76. The region had 70 tigers in 2010. A major part of the Sunderbans has now been camera-trapped with 62 unique individual tiger photos captured. The report noted that tiger population has shown an improvement in Assam where Kaziranga national park has the maximum number of big cats.

Source: Times of India (Dated 21 Jan 2015)