New Delhi, Feb 12: It is at last final and official. The latest all India Tiger Estimation released here today shows sharp decline in the number of tigers with the figure coming down to around 1500 from 3642 counted in 2001.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests, however, said the figures of the 2001 and 2007 could not be compared as the two used diferent methods of estimation. The census carried out by the Wildlife Institute of India(WII) was released by Minister of State R V Regupathy at a conference of forest and wildlife officials here.
''The total country-level population of tiger was 1411, with a 17.43 per cent coefficient of variation. The lower limit is 1165 and the upper limit is 1657,'' said Dr Rajesh Gopal of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, while making a presentation at the conference.
The number of tiger counted in different states is as follows: Uttar Pradesh-109, Uttarakhand-178, Bihar-10, Andhra Pradesh-95, Chhattisgrah-26, Madhya Pradesh-300, Maharashtra-103, Orissa-45, Rajasthan-32, Karnataka-290, Kerala-46, Tamil Nadu-76, Assam-70, Arunachal Pradesh-14, Mizoram-6, West Bengal-10.
The census excludes counts from Sunderbans, where the process of estimation was still in progress, and from Indravati Tiger Resrves of Chhattisgrah and Palmau Tiger Resreve of Jharkhand where areas were inacessible due to the naxalite problem, he said.
Mr Rajesh Gopal on this occasion also announced that the next estimation would be carried out in 2008-2009. He said the latest estimation had used new methodology of double sampling while the last one used the pug mark method in which there were chances of slippages. Dr Gopal said the status of tiger, its co-predators, prey and its habitat had not adversely changed in the Tiger Reserves and Protected Areas, but there had been a decline in the same in outside areas.
The spatial occupancy of tigers and other animals have been done for all the 17 tiger States, and mapped in the GIS domain.
He said the assessment showed that though the tiger had suffered due to direct poaching, loss of quality habitat, and loss of its prey, but there was still hope.
Dr Gopal listed the following areas as promising regarding desnsity and survival of the tiger: Shivalik-Gangetic Plain Landscape Complex Corbett, Central Indian Landscape Complex (Kanha) amd North East Hills and Brahamaputra Plains (Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong), Rajaji-Corbett, Dudhwa-Katerniaghat, Satpura-Melghat, Pench, Bhadra-Kudremukh, Parambikulam-Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary.
He said the Census suggests that four Landscapes in the country-- Nagarjunasagar, Srisailam, Ranthambhore-Kuno, Indravati-Northern Andhra and Bandhavgarh-Sanjay-Palamau needed input.
The government had declared eight more new tiger reserves to strengthen the population of tigers, and an area of around 31111 sq km of tiger habitat had been notified by tiger states as per provisions of the wildlife (Protection Act), said Dr Gopal.
To ensure the long-term survival of tigers, it is a must to protect the source populations, and manage areas with restorative inputs by involving local communities in buffer and corridor areas by providing them with a direct stake in conservation, he said.
Dr Gopal said the latest assessment for the first time depicts the status of tiger habitat, co-predators and prey across the landscape. Earlier, the Minister, while inaugurating the conference in the morning expressed concern over the decline in the number of the tiger.
''While the status of tiger has not shown a significant change in the core habitat of Reserves and Protected Areas, their status in other areas is not satisfactory,'' he said and called for mainstreaming tiger concerns in the land scape around the core areas.
Mr Regupathy urged the states to expedite the actions for tiger conservation schemes under the Project Tiger.
He said 100 per cent central assistance had been provided to 17 tiger states, in addition to annual plan allocation for creation of 'tiger protection force'.
The Minister said the ongoing Project Tiger has been strengthened to implement the urgent recommendations of the Tiger Task Force constituted by the Prime Minister. The important features of the revised scheme was increased in the village relocation package from Rs one lakh to Rs ten lakh. He said, this would help in early establishment of the critical tiger habitat notified by tiger states covering an area of around 31,111 sq km of the core areas of the tiger reserves.
The states would be required to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding for ensuring a project mode to save the wild tigers.
The Minister said the government reviewed the forest and wildlife sector through the National Forest Commission, and it has agreed with almost all its recommendation except the ones relating to creation of a separate Wildlife Cadre and to the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers(Recongnition of Forest Rights) Act, and the work was on to implement the recommendations.
He said to achieve the goal of 30 per cent forest cover by 2012, additional interventions and financial resources are needed, and the Ministry was working in that direction.
The Minister also called upon states to fill the vacancies in the forest department and to expedite clearance of projects under the Forest Conservation Act.