Conservationists rejoiced when the tiger numbers from the 2011 census were released today. According to the second all-India tiger population estimation study, carried out in the designated 39 tiger reserves across the country, there has been an increase of 295 tigers in India. The population is estimated at 1706, up from 1411 when they were counted last.
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In the latest census, Karnataka has overtaken Madhya Pradesh, as the state with the most tigers. Tamil Nadu has seen a big jump, while Andhra Pradesh has gone down.
But is this increase in numbers a result of better conservation, or improved counting? For the first time, tiger numbers for the Sundarbans has been released. The estimate has been put at 70, while it has been maintained all these years that it's above 200.
"..That is why I am comparing 2006 and 2010....When you compare the like with the like, 1411 in 2006 increases to 1636 in 2010. But if you include 70 estimated population in Sundarbans, the total estimated population -- there is a lower limit and there is an upper limit -- the mid-point range is 1706 tigers," said Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.
"The total number of tigers for the country is between 1500 and 1800. There has been a significant increase in the past 1411, which was the mid figure of our range last time," said Dr YV Jhala, coordinator, tiger census.
Over the next two days, the 13 tiger range countries will discuss challenges in conservation, and India with more than half the world's tigers, is clearly the leader.
The International Conference on Tiger Conservation is the largest gathering of countries with tiger populations as well as tiger experts under one roof, and while they say the numbers are encouraging, it is too early to celebrate, because apart from poaching, shrinking habitat continues to be the biggest threat for tiger conservation.Following is the break-up of tiger population in India:
Madhya Pradesh 257 +43
Karnataka 300 +10
Uttarakhand 227 +49
Maharashtra 169 +64
Andhra Pradesh 72 -23
Tamil Nadu 163 +87
Assam 143 +73
Kerala 71 +25
Rajasthan 36 +4