India’s wildlife tiger numbers grow 33% to nearly 3,000

Ashok Sharma
Associated Press

New Delhi – India’s tiger population has grown to nearly 3,000, making the country one of the safest habitats for the endangered animals.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the tiger count for 2018 on Monday and said it’s a “historic achievement” for India, whose big cat population had dwindled to 1,400 about 14-15 years ago.

India estimates its tiger population every four years. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said the tiger population was 2,226 in the last count, in 2014.

A Royal Bengal tiger sits at its enclosure at the Alipore zoo in Kolkata, India, Monday.

The tiger is India’s national animal and is categorized as endangered under the Wildlife Protection Act.

The human conflict with tigers has gradually increased since the 1970s, when India started a tiger conservation program that carved out sanctuaries in national parks and made it a crime to kill them.

“With around 3,000 tigers, India has emerged as of one of the biggest and safest habitats for them in the world,” Modi said, praising all the stakeholders involved in the country’s tiger conservation exercise.

“Nine years ago, it was decided in St. Petersburg (Russia) that the target of doubling the tiger population would be 2022. We in India completed this target four years in advance,” Modi said.

He also said that the number of protected areas in the country rose to 860 last year from 692 in 2014. Similarly, the number of community reserves has gone up to 100 from 43 in 2014.

Belinda Wright, founder of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, based in New Delhi, said India should be very proud of its conservation achievement as the latest study was a much larger and more thorough estimation of the tiger population than had previously been done.

“But we still have a long way to go to secure a long-term future for wild tigers,” she cautioned, adding that human-tiger conflict was one of the biggest conservation challenges because India has so many people.

The conflict between wildlife, confined to ever-shrinking forests and grasslands, and India’s human population is deadly. Government data show about one person is killed every day by tigers or elephants.