Wildlife & Biodiversity

Tiger Census 2022: India’s tiger population increased by 200 in last four years

However, growth slower than previous four years

By Zumbish
Published: Sunday 09 April 2023
Tiger Census 2022: India's tiger population increases by 200 in last four years
Photo: iStock Photo: iStock

The tiger population in India grew by 200 from 2018 to 2022, according to the fifth cycle of the All India Tiger Estimation (2022) released April 9, 2023. The number of tigers in India was 3,167 in 2022, up from 2,967 in 2018, the report showed. 

The growth, however, slowed to 6.7 per cent in these four years from around 33 per cent during 2014-2018, analysis of the latest data showed. 

The report was released at an event organised to commemorate 50 years of 'Project Tiger' in Karnataka’s Mysuru by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also launched the International Big Cats Alliance the same day.

The tiger census covered forested habitats in 20 states of India. “A foot survey of 641,449 kilometres was done for carnivore signs and prey abundance estimation. In these forests, 324,003 habitat plots were sampled for vegetation, human impacts and ungulate dung,” according to the authors of the report.  

Camera traps were set up at 32,588 locations and generated 47,081,881 photographs, of which 97,399 were of tigers, they noted.

Parsed region-wise, the Shivalik Hills and Gangetic Plains saw a significant increase in the tiger population, according to the latest census. As many as 804 individuals were photographed in the landscape spanning several states that includes five important tiger reserves and several other protected areas. 

New areas in Uttar Pradesh (Suhelwa Wildlife Sanctuary) and northwest of Yamuna in Himachal Pradesh have recorded photographic evidence of tigers in the landscape, the report stated.

It is important to supplement and repopulate the Shivalik Forest Division of Uttar Pradesh, along with Kalesar Wildlife Sanctuary of Haryana, and increase protection for tigers in Suhelwa for ensuring long-term survival of new populations in this landscape, the experts noted in the document.

The genetically divergent population in Bihar’s Valmiki Tiger Reserve also requires special attention, they added.

The already congested and populated corridor between the western and eastern parts of Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand has seen linear infrastructure projects since 2018, mostly under the Haridwar and Rishikesh ring road project, the report highlighted. “Expansion of road in this section leaves this corridor functionally extinct for a large carnivore and elephant movement, therefore adopting an adequate number of green infrastructure is an important step in recovery of tiger population in this fragmented landscape,” the authors flagged. 

The governments of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh need to invest in mitigating conflict among tigers and mega herbivores, the experts suggested.

The highest number (1,161) of tigers were photographed in the Central Indian Highlands and Eastern Ghats in 2022. The big cat was found to occupy several territorial areas of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashta, which were not occupied in 2018, according to the report.

This expansion requires urgent attention and preparedness to deal with negative human-tiger interactions, the authors highlighted. 

Tiger occupancy in Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Telangana showed a decline. 

Tigers were locally extirpated from Kawal tiger reserve and Chennur of Telangana, Sri Venkateswara National park in Andhra Pradesh, Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Odisha, Sahyadri Tiger reserve from Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. 

The genetically unique and small population of tigers in Simlipal is of high conservation priority in the landscape because of the varied threats faced by the population, the experts highlighted. 

Tiger occupancy in the Western Ghats declined, the latest analysis showed. The number of individuals photographed in the region was 824. 

While the population inside the region’s protected areas remained stable (Mudumalai, Periyar) or have increased (Bandipur, Nagarahole), occupancy outside the PAs has declined, the data showed.

Significant declines were observed in the Wayanad landscape and in the Biligiriranga Hills. Although tiger occupancy increased in the Anshi-Dandeli landscape (eastern part), it declined in the border areas of Goa and Karnataka (Mollem-Mhadei-Anshi Dandeli complex). 

A major decline in tiger occupancy was observed in Mookambika-Sharavathi-Sirsi; population remained stable in the Bhadra landscape. 

Decline in tiger occupancy was also observed outside the protected areas of Anamalai-Parambikulam complex. Although the tiger populations in the Periyar landscape remained stable, the tiger occupancy has declined outside Periyar. 

Local extinctions of tiger populations were observed in Sirsi, Kanyakumari, and Srivilliputhur. 

The region’s Nilgiri cluster (Nagarahole to Biligiriranga Hills) is the largest tiger population in the world, and has contributed significantly to colonisation of tigers in neighbouring areas.

As many as 194 tigers were captured by the camera traps in the North East Hills and Brahmaputra Plains, the report showed. Although more than half of the landscape has forest cover, according to India State of Forest Report 2021, wildlife richness is limited to very few protected areas. 

Despite having habitat connectivity, many of the protected areas and forested areas are devoid of tigers. Better protection and augmentation of prey in protected areas like Nameri, Buxa, Namdapha and Kamlang could help in the increase of the tiger population, the experts wrote in the report.  

The northeastern hill tiger populations are genetically unique and should be the top priority of conservation action in the country due to their low population size and genetically unique lineage, they added. 

“Conservation planning and execution is needed to ensure ecologically viable economic development. As this landscape shares an enormous border length with neighboring countries, trans-boundary tiger conservation strategies will help sustain those isolated populations,” wrote the experts. 

The least number (100) of tigers were captured by camera traps in the Sundarbans. The unique geographic location of the Sundarbans makes it vulnerable to climate change and submergence from sea-level rise, the authors noted. Also the deltaic region faces a substantial amount of accretion and erosion every year. 

Due to the uniqueness of the landscape, the geographical extent of the tiger population is limited to the available mangrove habitat. The ever-increasing biotic interference in the form of livelihood forest explorations, fishing, palm and timber extractions as well as growing national and international waterways make this landscape and the tiger population vulnerable, the report underlined. 

Experts called for trans-boundary cooperation and knowledge sharing between India and Bangladesh to maintain ecological integrity of the landscape.

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