The booming tiger population in India has resonated happy echoes across the world.
The tiger population figures in the country, which was released recently by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF), has seen a marginal rise from 1,706 in 2011 to 2,226 in 2014. The trend is encouraging considering the dwindling numbers of the big cat.
The present figure in the country alone amounts to 70 percent of the world's total tiger population.
In an exclusive chat with Neha Attre of Zee Media Corporation, Rajesh Gopal, Member-Secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) talks about the factors that have led to the increase in the tiger population in the country.
Q. Did the creation of buffer zones in and around tiger reserves help in increasing the tiger population?
A. The creation of buffer zones in and around the tiger reserves have been very helpful in maintaining the genes that percolate out and can reach areas which are promising and where tiger population can thrive. Rehabilitation plans have been implemented to minimise man-animal conflict scenario and relocate villagers who have been living in these areas.
Q. How crucial are wildlife corridors for conservation of tigers?
A. Habitat connectivity for genetic exchange is important for conservation of tigers and wildlife corridors linking tiger reserves facilitate easy movement of the big cats. With the help of corridors, the tigers can move from one conducive place to another. The easy movement of the big cats is extremely important as every tiger requires its own territory area.
Also, we suggest mitigating measures, suppose if a mine or a highway is present on the path of the corridor, then the concerning authorities are suggested to take remedial measures.
Q. What are the other factors that have helped in increasing the tiger population of the country?
A. Other important factors include creation of Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF), which helps in protecting the tiger population in vulnerable areas, and deployment of anti-poaching squads involving ex-Army personnel or home guards and workforce including locals.
Every reserve has a tiger conservation plan specific to the area and rehabilitation of villagers from tiger reserves and fostering corridors have also helped in conserving the tiger population.
The carrying capacity of a tiger reserve and prey base is also assessed. Depending on the same, the tiger is then physically shifted to other areas as each tiger requires its own territory area.
Q. Instead of the pugmark identification method, technologies like capturing tiger images and analysing DNA which are being used are more scientific?
A. With time, technology improves. It is a more scientific and accurate method of assessing the tiger population in the country and helps in giving a clear picture. Camera traps are used in tiger reserves which also helped in monitoring the movement of tigers.