Sustained tiger conservation efforts have paid rich dividends in Madhya Pradesh where population of the big cat registered a healthy rise of 218 in four years, government officials said today.
After nearly a decade, Madhya Pradesh has bagged the coveted "tiger state" status after the 2018 estimation saw it is home to 526 big cats, the highest in the country.
In 2014, the state had a total of 308 tigers, a number which jumped by 218 in the 2018 census, taking the total count to 526.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday released the All India Tiger Estimation Report 2018, which revealed that the tiger population in the country has increased from 2,226 in 2014 to 2,967 in 2018. Sustained tiger conservation efforts have resulted in an increase in the number of big cats in the wild in Madhya Pradesh and other parts of the country, a forest department official said.
Tiger conservation activist Ajay Dubey expressed happiness over the rise in tiger count in Madhya Pradesh, but also pointed out that during 2014-2019, the state had lost 143 big cats due to various reasons, including poaching.
"In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the state was on top in the country in terms of tiger deaths, he told news agency PTI.
He said with five tiger reserves, Karnataka has 524 wild cats, the second highest, while Madhya Pradesh has 526 predators with six reserves.
"Ideally, the state should have more tigers than Karnataka as it not only has more tiger reserves but also larger area for conservation of big cats in comparison to the southern state," Mr Dubey said.
He said time has come for the state to seriously consider forming a Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) for protecting and conserving big cats in the wild.
Madhya Pradesh Forest Minister Umang Singhar said that after 2006, the state has once again emerged on top in tiger population in the country.
The central state had the largest number of striped animals as per the 2006 census. But it slipped to No. 2 position in 2010, when Karnataka emerged as the "tiger state".
In 2006, the total number of tigers in the country was 1,411, of which Madhya Pradesh accounted for 300, the official said.
However, in 2010, while the number of tigers increased in the country to 1,706, their count declined to 257 in Madhya Pradesh.
In the Panna reserve in the state, the tiger count had come down to zero and that had caused a lot of embarrassment to forest officials. The government then trans-located tigers in the reserve from other parks in the state.
After Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, the other states in top five in terms of tiger count are Uttarakhand (442), Maharashtra (312) and Tamil Nadu (264).