New Delhi: Buoyed by the rising number of tigers in the wild, the government has decided to create more habitats for them to ensure their long-term conservation.
Sources said the Environment Ministry has initiated steps to convert more wildlife sanctuaries -- rich in biodiversity with a wide variety of flora and fauna including tigers, co-predators, prey animals and birds -- as tiger reserves.
At present, India has 47 tiger reserves. "In the near future, there will be about 50 tiger reserves in the country, an initiative which speaks volumes about India's effort towards preserving the big cat," an Environment Ministry official told PTI.
The sources said the Environment Ministry has granted in- principle approval for notification of the Guru Ghasidas National Park in Chhattisgarh as the 48th tiger reserve. Last year, the Ministry had declared Maharashtra's Bor as the 47th tiger reserve.
Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has also asked the Karnataka government to declare Cauvery and M M Hills wildlife sanctuaries in the state as tiger reserves after the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) gave its green signal.
The latest tiger Census report, released last week, has shown that Karnataka is leading the big cat count in the country with 406 tigers.
While Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over 102.59 sq km area in Bangalore, Mysore and Mandya districts, the Male Mahadeshwara Reserve Forest is located in southeast Karnataka, bordering Tamil Nadu.
Meanwhile, the government has also initiated steps to "better protection" for the five tiger reserves located in the 'Red Corridor' (areas affected by Left Wing Extremism) in eastern part of the country.
The five tiger reserves in the Maoist-affected areas are Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh, Simlipal in Odisha, Indravati and Udanti-Sitanadi in Chhattisgarh, and Palamu in Jharkhand.
The move comes close on the heels of India registering 30.5 per cent rise in the tiger population since the last estimate held in 2010. According to the data released last week, the number of tigers have increased from 1,706 in 2010 to 2,226 in the latest estimates which is, according to the government, a testimony of the success of various measures adopted by it to protect the big cat.