Needed intervention – Improving the habitat that sustains tigers is key to increasing their numbers | 11 August 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the recent revision to the tiger population in India.


  • GS3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment;
  • Prelims


  • Recently, the Wildlife Institute of India and the National Tiger Conservation Authority published updated data on the quadrennial ‘tiger census’ reports.

What are the key findings of the updated report?

  • This was the 5th quadrennial tiger census.
  • As per the data, India’s tiger population increased to 3,682 in 2022 (annual growth rate of 6.1% per annum).
  • The largest tiger population of 785 is in MP, followed by Karnataka (563) and Uttarakhand (560), and Maharashtra (444).
  • The tiger abundance within the Tiger Reserve is highest in Corbett (260), followed by Bandipur (150), Nagarhole (141), Bandhavgarh (135), Dudhwa (135).


  • Case study: Madhya Pradesh and Tiger Population
    • Madhya Pradesh, for the second time in eight years, reported 785 tigers, which accounts for about a fifth of the national count. This represents a 50% increase in tiger numbers since the last census in the MP.
    • Madhya Pradesh has implemented a successful approach to actively move both tigers and their prey within the state to balance predator and prey populations.
    • Over the past two decades, the state has reintroduced species such as barasingha (swamp deer) and gaur to new habitats, and supplemented prey species like chital (spotted deer) in various tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries.
    • However, such translocation must be cautious actions. Thus, it is important to note that such relocations should only be done within landscapes that are not too alien to the species, as per the principles of ecology.
  • Challenges to Conservation Philosophy in India:
    • Recent amendments to the Forest Conservation Act have allowed for greater diversion of large parcels of forest land for industrial purposes.
    • This has led to increased fragmentation within reserves and a greater reliance on the practice of moving prey around to maintain carnivore numbers.
    • This approach poses a conundrum to India's conservation philosophy, which aims to avoid creating fenced and segregated spaces for wildlife.
    • The goal has always been to restore the tiger population in a way that allows for coexistence with humans.
    • However, with the difficulty in maintaining connected forest landscapes and ensuring that both humans and wildlife stay within their boundaries, relying solely on nature to restore the predator-prey balance is becoming increasingly unrealistic.
  • Need for Active Prey Management Policies and Habitat Improvement:
    • To address these challenges, it is crucial for more states to implement active prey management policies.
    • This would require drawing on scientific expertise and garnering support from local communities living near reserves.
    • Additionally, there should be a shift in focus from solely evaluating carnivore numbers to consistently improving the habitat necessary to sustain these animals.
    • This would involve measures to enhance and restore natural habitats, ensuring a healthy prey base, and minimizing human-wildlife conflicts.

Way Forward:

  • By adopting these strategies, India can work towards maintaining a thriving tiger population while also promoting sustainable coexistence between humans and wildlife.

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