An Insight into Latest Tiger Census Report of India 2018, as It Sees an Increase in its Tiger Population

An Insight into Latest Tiger Census Report of India 2018, as It Sees an Increase in its Tiger Population
Last Updated: August 9, 2019

The Tiger Census 2018 tells us that the population of tigers in India has seen a rise of around 33%, as compared to the numbers in the census of 2014. On 29th July 2019, which is celebrated in India & the world as International Tiger Day, or, Global Tiger Day, PM Narendra Modi released India’s tiger census 2018 to the public. According to the latest tiger population report, India has a total number of 2,967 tigers, more than double as compared to the population of tigers in 2006 in India, and around one third more than that of 2014. With a massive growth in the population of tigers in the latest tiger census, India has proven to be one of the best and most favorable habitats for tigers.

Tiger population in India across its geographical regions

Landscape 2018 Census
Shivalik Gangetic 646
Central India and the Eastern Ghats 1,033
Western Ghats 981
North East Hills & Brahmaputra Plains 219
Sunderbans 88
Total Tiger Population in India 2,967

The Tiger Census Report 2018 revealed that the total tiger population in India is 2,967. This is a significant improvement for India, considering the fact that it was home to just 1,411 tigers, according to the census conducted in 2006. The table below shows the distribution of the tiger population in India across the geographical regions in India.

Distribution of tiger population across states

State 2018 Census
Bihar 31
Uttrakhand 442
Uttar Pradesh 173
Andhra Pradesh 48
Telangana 26
Chhattisgarh 19
Jharkhand 5
Madhya Pradesh 526
Maharashtra 312
Odisha 28
Rajasthan 69
Goa 3
Karnataka 524
Kerala 190
Tamil Nadu 264
Arunachal Pradesh 646
Assam 190
Mizoram 0
Nagaland 0
Northern West Bengal 0
Sunderbans 88

Some states are home to the maximum number of tigers in India, like Madhya Pradesh, which has reclaimed the title of being the “tiger state of India”. It is followed by Karnataka and Uttarakhand. There are some states which showed disappointing results in tiger conservation and increasing their population. The table below shows you the tiger distribution across states according to the latest tiger census conducted in 2018.

States with the highest population of tigers

State 2018 Census
Madhya Pradesh 526
Karnataka 524
Uttarakhand 442

In this survey, most of the states in India saw an impressive growth in the number of tigers in India. Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of the tiger population (526). With that, it has reclaimed the title of the “tiger state in India” after about 10 years. It is now home to 526 tigers. In 2014, the state had only 308 tigers, but with the tiger conservation efforts taken by the state, this number has gone up by 218 in just four years. Karnataka, which held the status of tiger state since 2010, slipped to the second position with 524 tigers.  It had a total of 406 tigers in 2014. Uttarakhand, having a population of 442 tigers, placed third. This makes Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Karnataka, the top tiger states in India which are home to around 50% of the entire tiger population. This growth of 33% in four years is the highest growth rate recorded, with the previous growth rate being 30% between 2010 and 2014, and 21% between 2006 and 2010.

Pench tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of tigers while Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu witnessed its greatest improvement since 2014, thus giving a new direction to big cat conservation in India.

States which saw a decline in tiger population

State Tiger Population Decrease in Tiger Population
Mizoram 0 100%
Odisha 28 38%
Chhattisgarh 19 27%

While the population of tigers in India has increased at an impressive rate, there were some states that fared poorly on this count. Where states like Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka achieved a tremendous increase in their tiger population, there are states like Chhattisgarh, Goa, West Bengal, and Mizoram which saw a decrease.

The number of tigers in Odisha has been declining for the past few years, and now stands at 28. According to the latest tiger report by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NCTA) and Wildlife Institute of India, Chattisgarh is left with only 19 tigers in 2018, as opposed to 46 in 2014. Goa, which had five tigers in 2014, is left with only three tigers in 2018. While Mizoram had three tigers in 2014, it had none whatsoever in 2018. This decrease in the tiger population raises many questions. Even though the tiger population has seen a noticeable increase, their habitats are shrinking. According to India’s tiger census 2018, their habitats have shrunk by around 20%.

According to the administrators, this decline in population or no record of tigers in the northeast region and West Bengal is a result of inadequate sampling. Be that as it may, the negative stats in Chhattisgarh is a matter of concern.

What is the tiger census & why is it taken?

Tiger Census Report 2018

India’s tiger census 2018 is one of the most detailed surveys to track the tiger population in India. The tiger census is conducted once every four years since 2006. The Ministry of Environment, along with the Wildlife Institute of India, conducts this survey. In the year that it was started, India had only 1411 tigers. This increased to 1706 in 2010 and 2226 in 2014.

India also sees an increase of tigers in protected areas

Because of India’s tiger conservation efforts, the number of protected areas have also increased from 692 in 2014 to over 860 in 2019. The community reserves have also grown from 43 in 2014 to 100 till now. This is a good sign for wildlife development as tigers occupy the top position in the food chain, and more tigers would ensure a balance between predators and prey. This would, in turn, ensure a balance in the entire ecosystem.

Ensuring a healthy population of tigers and dealing with the issue of human-tiger conflict, these are the pressing issues of today. It is of the utmost importance that we attend to both in the most efficient manner.

How was India’s Tiger Census 2018 conducted?

Counting of predators like the tigers is not an easy job, as tigers are reluctant to appear before humans. It took a lot of hard work, dedication and perseverance to collect the data for India’s tiger census 2018. Here, we tell you how the census was conducted, the various techniques that were employed to determine the tiger population, and the kind of technology that was put into use.

Tigers are solitary creatures who hunt by themselves, therefore, it is not easy to spot these animals and count them. A rough estimation would have been of no use. Therefore, to get a correct and accurate calculation, a staff of 44,000 people worked uninterrupted for 15 months looking up 318,000 habitats in 20 states of India where tigers live.

Till 2014, data for the tiger survey was compiled using the doubling sample technique. In this technique, forest guards, forest officials and forest rangers, patrolled and collected the raw data based on pugmark, leftover preys, scats, etc. This was followed by the installation of camera traps where pictures of tigers were captured. It was a helpful technique but the first phase wasn’t too accurate, and the data that was collected was marked by inaccuracies.

Digital India’s connection to Tiger Census 2018

Unlike previous studies, for the latest tiger population report to be precise, tiger census 2018 survey was synchronized with the ‘digital India’ initiative of the government of India. In this survey, the data was gathered using an android application called M-StrIPES, or Monitoring System for Tigers – Intensive Protection and Ecological Status. M-STrIPES is a monitoring system launched across Indian tiger reserves by NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority). The forest officials were provided with personal digital assistants and GPS to report fight, death or poaching. The scouting routes of the guards were tracked in the device and the data analysed through GIS (geographical information system).

In the operation that took 15 months, the team of forest officials surveyed 381,400 square kilometers of the forest territory and installed 26,760 camera traps all around 139 study sites to track down the number of tigers living there. The team of biologists went through 35 million images of wildlife, of which 76,523 were tigers and 51,337 of leopards. They also captured images of approximately 83% tiger population, with a robust analytical model being used to calculate the other 17%.

The team also took the help of various experts from all around the world to identify the pictures. Different specialists were involved in identifying the different measures based on which the tigers were recognized. Pattern matching experts matched the pictures of a tiger in different seasons and from different angles. While machine experts speeded up the process of identification, spatial experts estimated the population of the tigers and their prey. The team took the aid of experts and combined it with their knowledge of tigers and wildlife to make the data in the survey as reliable and error free as possible. The tiger census 2018 is also essential as it is the most technologically advanced survey conducted by India and contains the most detailed data.

The success story of tiger conservation in Madhya Pradesh

According to the latest tiger population report, Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh is described as the best tiger reserve in the country. It took a lot of effort and various preservation methods by forest officials and government with the cooperation of the people to achieve this. Here’s how Madhya Pradesh managed to increase the population of tigers by 308 to 526 in four years.

About seven months ago, a 14-year-old tigress, T-15, gave birth to four cubs, and with it, set the record for being the tigress with the highest litter at 8. The previous record of having maximum litters by a tigress was 7, which was set by T-15 about two years ago. Officials at the tiger reserve are not surprised with the 8th litter of T-15. They are pretty optimistic that with her good health and necessary care, she may even have her ninth litter. The tigress has given birth to 29 cubs in total, out of which 25 survived. T-15 is called ‘collarwali baghin’ (tigress with a collar) by the officials because of the collar she wears.

Efficient management equals increased tiger population

T-15’s story is not the only tiger success story in India as there are a lot of fertile tigresses in the state. The reason why tigresses like T-15 are giving birth to healthy cubs is because they feel secure in the well maintained and managed environment provided by the tiger reserves. The forests have enough food for the tigresses to stay fit and healthy and raise their cubs with the required nutrition and diet. This has been possible due to the tiger conservation efforts being made by government and tiger reserves. According to the administration, an ecological development plan and an eco-tourism panel exist in the surrounding villages. The management has relocated those villages that were in the reserve area so to remove any human presence, thereby allowing the tigers to roam, eat, hunt and reside without feeling insecure or facing any kind of danger.

Pench Tiger Reserve is a dense moist forest like most of the forest areas of Madhya Pradesh, which makes its habitat conducive to the survival and growth of tigers. Proper and efficient management by authorities in the tiger reserves for Madhya Pradesh enabled it to achieve recognition for being the top tiger state of India.

Earlier Karnataka held the title of being the tiger state of India. Although it slipped down to the second position, the increasing number of tigers in the state is a sign of good preservation methods adopted by the management. Karnataka is concentrating on implementing better management system and creating a better environment for tigers. In January 2019 Karnataka got its sixth tiger reserve. Besides this, the state is also focusing on expanding the tiger reserve area to maintain suitable habitats.

Poaching still remains a threat to tiger conservation

Poaching is still one of the biggest threats faced by tigers. According to a report, there were around 123 tiger deaths between 2012 and 2017 due to poaching. The other reasons given for a decrease in tiger population are human-wildlife conflicts, hunting of animals, mining, improper garbage disposal, pollution, climate change, etc. Around 50 tiger reserves in India are affected by the rapid expansion of infrastructure like roads and rail lines.

Precise steps should be taken in those states where the population of tigers is decreasing or is completely absent, with the aim of increasing their numbers. Authorities are planning on increasing the preservation of tigers and taking more effective measures. There are two steps that would be taken in this direction. One is an increase in the number of prey animals, and the other is the relocation of tigers from and to areas where they are most required.

Some facts straight from India’s Tiger Census 2018

The journey from 1411 tigers to around 3000 tigers is a praiseworthy job by India. This growth rate and India’s tiger conservation efforts have set a benchmark for tiger conservation practices and added a new chapter in the tiger success story. However, the 33% rise in tiger population of India was not a one man job. There were a lot of people involved, along with various authorities and organizations that worked together to make this possible. So here’s everything you need to know about India’s tiger census 2018.

India is now home to approximately 70% of the world’s tiger population

The latest tiger census tells us that 70% of tigers in the world live in India. In 1973 when the tiger preservation project was started, India had only 9 tiger reserves. That has now increased to 50 tiger reserves in 18 states that occupy around 2% of India’s total geographical area.

Most accurate and digitally advance tiger survey: The impact of Digital India’ campaign by the Indian government was noticeable in this latest survey. Where an android based application M-STrIPS with GIS was used for surveying, the number of camera traps were also increased in the survey of 2018. There were a total of 26,838 cameras traps installed in 141 sites, while in the last survey this number was 9,735 cameras in 51 sites. Spatially explicit capture-mark-recapture (SECR) technology was used to study the population of tigers based on the images that were captured which estimated 2591 tigers including 2461 individual tigers (tigers with ages more than 1.5 years). The area covered during this survey also increased as compared to the survey conducted in 2014.

44,000 people who made the survey possible: A total staff of 44,000 people came together to conduct the survey, which took around 15 months to complete. Forest guards and officials covered an area of 381,400 sq km, out of which 522,966 km was covered on foot. 317,958 habitat plots were sampled for vegetation and prey dungs, in 600,000 human days. Over 500 officials who were not members of any of the Forest Departments in India were also included in the team. Five tiger habitat regions were covered by the staff, namely, Shivalik-Gangetic plains, central India and eastern ghats, north-eastern hills, Brahmaputra flood plains, and Sunderbans.

The increased tiger population: There are now 4 states in India that have more than 300 tigers each and 8 states with more than 150 tigers each. Kerala saw a massive growth rate of around 40% since the census of 2006.

Tiger conservation methods taken by the Indian government

One of the estimates has it that 20th century India had around 40,000 tigers living in the country, but because of certain reasons, that number came down to around 1800 in 1972 and 1411 in 2006. Although the national ban on hunting was imposed in 1970 and the Wildlife Protection Act was introduced in 1972, the continued decrease of the tiger population pointed to the fact that India needed more efficient tiger conservation schemes.

1. The launch of Project Tiger: On April 1st, 1973, due to the rapid decline in the population of tigers, the government of India, led by PM Indira Gandhi, launched ‘Project Tiger’. The main aim of the project is to conserve and enhance the status of tigers in India. Various measures and initiatives have been taken by this project to maintain a viable population of tigers, protect them from extinction and preserve areas of biological importance.

Poaching has always been a major factor behind the decrease in tiger population. Several bodies have been formed to deal with the poaching menace. Wireless communication is also used while patrolling to identify the poachers.

Various tiger reserves have also been formed using core-buffer strategy to maintain human-wildlife balance. The core areas are those which deal specifically with wildlife and are free from any human interaction. These are given the status of wildlife sanctuaries. The buffer areas are those which include both forest and non-forest lands, where conservation of wildlife and development of surrounding villages is done simultaneously. Ever since the formation of these strategical tiger reserves, it has been observed that wildlife crimes have come down markedly, and there is less human-wildlife conflict.

2. Other steps taken by the government: The government of India has also taken various measures for fire protection, resulting in fewer forest fires. Relocation of villages, especially from the core area, was undertaken so that tigers could move about freely without the risk of coming in contact with the villagers. Numerous development schemes have also been introduced, including water policy and policy for improved vegetation, which would result in a better forest environment and hence more animals. The number of tiger reserves in India have increased from 15 in 1980 to 50 as of now. Management teams are working constantly on recovering the damage done to the ecosystem by human activities.

Along with these, various methods are introduced by the government from time to time for the protection of tigers and their habitats, including strict laws for reducing hunting and cutting down of trees. Scientific research is carried out on tigers, which helps them to understand the behavior and introduce new conservation policies.

3. Challenges that lie ahead: Due to India’s top conservation efforts, the target of doubling the number of tigers that were set for 2022 have been achieved in 2018. According to the officials, although this is a great success for India, conservation of tigers is still filled with challenges, with poaching and human-tiger coexistence being major issues. Increasing number of tiger population means more human-tiger interaction. It is estimated that around 25% of tigers in India are living outside the protected area. Therefore, more conservation methods should be adopted in the coming years to protect and increase the number of tigers along with their habitats. Statistically, Indian forests have the capacity to accommodate over 10,000 tigers, and increased funding in areas with tigers will help in the development of protected areas.

The Tiger Census Report 2018 couldn’t have come at a better time, as it draws our attention to several issues facing the tigers in India. The report, through meticulously researched data and statistics, highlights our achievements and the challenges that lie ahead in the area of tiger conservation.

Published: 21 Jan, 2015
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