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The four-year tiger census report, Status of Tigers in India, 2018, released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi Narendra Modi shows numbers of the cat have increased across all landscapes. The Global Tiger Forum, an international collaboration of tiger-bearing countries, has set a goal of doubling the count of wild tigers by 2002 More than 80% of the world's wild tigers are in India, and it's crucial to keep track of their numbers.
The total count in 2018 has risen to 2,967 from 2,226 in 2014 - an increase of 741 individuals an increase of 33%, in four years. This is by far the biggest increase in terms of both numbers and percentage since the four years census using camera traps and the capture-mark-recapture method began in 2006.
The 2018 figure has a great degree of credibility because, according to the report, as many as 2,461 individual tigers (83% of the total) have actually been photographed by tap cameras. In 2014 only 1,540 individuals (69%) were photographed.
The tiger census is needed because the tiger sits at the peak of the food chain, and its conservation is important to ensure the well-being of the forest ecosystem.
The tiger estimation exercise includes habitat assessment and prey estimation. The number reflect the success or failure of conservation efforts. This is an especially important indicator in a fast-growing economy like India where the pressures of development often run counter to the demands of conservation.
Where has the tiger population increased the most?
The biggest increase has been in Madhya Pradesh - a massive 218 individuals (71%) from 308 in 2014 to 526.
However, since tigers keep moving between states, conservationists prefer to talk about tiger number in terms of landscapes.
So, why have the numbers gone up?
The success owes a lot to increased vigilance and conservation efforts by the Forest Department. From 28 in 2006, the number of tiger reserves went up to 50 in 2018, extending protection to larger numbers of tigers over the years. Healthy increases in core area populations eventually lead to migrations to areas outside the core; this is why the 2018 census has found tigers in newer areas. Over the years, there has been increased focus on tigers even in the areas under the territorial and commercial forestry arms of Forest Departments.
The other important reason is increased vigilance, and the fact that organized poaching rackets have been all but crushed. According to Nitin Desai of Wildlife Protection Society of India, there has been no organized poaching by traditional gangs in Central Indian landscapes since 2013.
The increased protection has encouraged the tiger to breed. Tigers are fast breeders when conditions are conducive.
The rehabilitation of villages outside core areas in many parts of the country has led to the availability of more inviolate space for tigers.
Also, because estimation exercises have become increasingly more accurate over the years, it is possible that many tigers that eluded enumerators in earlier exercises were counted this time.