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Tiger Density in India- UPSC Current Affairs

Mar 17, 2022

Tiger density in India

Today's section of the UPSC Current Affairs Dialog box will comprise a discussion on the topic of Tiger Density in India and how it should be approached during the UPSC preparation. It has relevance from the CSE syllabus in the following way:

For Prelims: Tiger density in India, Project Tiger, Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

For Mains: Tiger Conservation Efforts, Man-Animal conflict.

Why in the News?

Recently, a preliminary finding of a study by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) suggests that the density of tigers in the Sunderbans have reached the carrying capacity of the mangrove forests, leading to frequent dispersals and a surge in human-wildlife conflict.

Probable Question

The importance of the tiger agenda is an ecological requirement for our environment's long-term viability. Examine India's efforts to conserve tigers in this context.

Key Points

Tiger Density in India

  • For example, in the Terai and Shivalik hills habitat Corbett tiger reserve, 10-16 tigers can thrive in 100 square kilometres.
  • This comes down to 7-11 tigers per 100 sq km in the reserves of north-central Western Ghats such as Bandipur and 6-10 tigers per 100 sq km in the dry deciduous forests, such as Kanha Tiger Reserve of central India.
  • The 2018 All-India Tiger report put the carrying capacity in the Sunderbans is “at around 4 tigers” per 100 sq km.
    • Low density of tigers in the Sundarbans is an inherent attribute of the hostile mangrove habitat that supports low tiger prey densities.
  • The ongoing WII study indicates a density of 3-5 tigers in the Sunderbans. Given that 88 (86-90) tigers were estimated in 2,313 sq km of the Sundarbans in 2018, the population has been close to its so-called saturation point in the mangrove delta for some time.

Also, read our PrepLadder Editorial on Are Tigers in Trouble? by Conservation Biologist, Neha Sinha and upgrade your UPSC exam preparation.

Factors Determining Tiger Density

  • Food and Space: Availability of food and space is the primary factor that determines how many tigers a forest can hold. 
  • Human Interference: Tolerance levels displayed by the people who live in the area to policymakers who make management decisions.

Conflict: Cause or Effect

  • The consequence is frequent dispersal of tigers which is leading to a higher level of human-wildlife conflict in the reserve peripheries. 
  • Although social carrying capacity is more crucial for wildlife living outside of protected forests, it is an equally important factor in human-dominated areas bordering reserves, where human-wildlife encounters are unavoidable.
  • Physical (space) and biological (forest productivity) factors have an obvious influence on a reserve’s carrying capacity of tigers. More so when different land uses overlap, and a good number of people depend on forest resources for livelihood.
  • Perceived conflict can squeeze the tiger’s domain, which the animal is bound to overstep from time to time, leading to further conflict.

Watch a video on Ladakh’s Demand of Sixth Schedule Status by Prem Sodhani Sir (Current Affairs faculty) in our Prelims Booster series and give an edge to your CSE preparation:

Way Forward

  • Increasing the Prey Base: Artificially boosting the prey base in a reserve is often an intuitive solution.
  • Minimizing External factors: Tackling external factors, such as bushmeat hunting, are necessary to ease pressure on the tiger.
  • Tiger Corridors: It is more beneficial to increase areas occupied by tigers. The solution is to provide safe connectivity across forests and allow tigers to safely disperse to new places.
  • Generous compensation policies can take care of the financial cost of losing livestock or crops or wasted man hours when a workplace is avoided due to a passing tiger. 
Tiger Reserve in India:

The tiger reserves of India were set up in 1973 and are governed by Project Tiger, which is administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority. 

Currently, 53 protected areas have been designated tiger reserves.

Latest Tiger Reserve in India:

Srivilliputhur - Megamalai (2021) Tamil Nadu
Ramgarh Vishdhari (2021) Rajasthan
Guru Ghasidas National Park and Tamor Pingla Wildlife Sanctuary (2021) Chhattisgarh

Protection Status of Tiger:

Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List: Endangered.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): Appendix I.
Tiger Density
Image Source: Times of India

Conservation Efforts

Project Tiger

  • The Government of India launched Project Tiger in 1973 from the Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand
  • It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment and Forests
  • It is administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
  • Aim: Protect tigers from extinction by ensuring a viable population in their natural habitats
    Government has set up a Tiger Protection Force under Project Tiger to combat poachers.
  • Project Tiger funds relocation of villagers to minimize human-tiger conflicts.

National Tiger Conservation Authority

  • National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change
  • It has launched the M-STrIPES (Monitoring System for Tigers – Intensive Protection and Ecological Status), a mobile monitoring system for forest guards.
  • It was established in 2005 following the recommendations of the Tiger Task Force.
  • It was constituted under enabling provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, as amended in 2006, for strengthening tiger conservation, as per powers and functions assigned to it. 

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