Wildlife

KARNATAKA GEARS UP FOR NATIONAL TIGER CENSUS, TIGER NUMBERS LIKELY TO RISE SIGNIFICANTLY

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By Meera Bhardwaj:

Tigers in Karnataka are expected to roar once again in the National Tiger Census that is likely to start from October this year. 

In the last All India Tiger Estimation (AITE), 2018, Karnataka stood second in the country with 524 tigers. Since 2018, tiger numbers have risen in the state’s five tiger reserves and other wildlife/territorial areas, all are hoping for a higher tiger population. 

Vijaykumar Gogi, PCCF (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden said good protection and conservation measures will definitely reflect in more tiger numbers. He added, “It will be more than the previous estimate. Efforts have led to increase in population and we hope, it will be reflected in 2022 estimation. Our firm belief is conservation efforts has led to increase in numbers.”

Sufficient prey base, conducive & undisturbed breeding place, adequate prey for raising young ones, contiguous PAs – all contribute to higher numbers, PCCF added. “The counting and monitoring which is done in all the tiger reserves is just an internal exercise. Further, it is reflected in its visibility when tourists, visitors visit national parks, safaris, etc.”

PHOTO CREDIT FOR IMAGES 1,2: STEFANO BOTTENE 

After four years, India is gearing up for the 2022 All India Tiger Estimation for which phase-wise training is needed. Estimation is being done with the help of MSTriPES. This is a GIS based patrolling module with an inbuilt eco-app and all data will be loaded on this. With the methods of estimation being the same, the Grid Size too has been kept at 2 square Kms for Phase-3 Camera traps. However, this time, all work is paperless as data entry is digital.

The Chief Wildlife Warden informs, “Preparations are in full swing. Training of Trainers (ToT) has already been completed in Karnataka. Trainers have been sent to Circles and phase-wise training will start which includes methods of doing population estimates, adhering to the time frame (3 months) and other necessary aspects.”

As far as participation of Volunteers in the tiger estimation exercise is concerned, it is not being allowed this time due to the Corona Pandemic.

Vijaykumar Gogi added, “No volunteers will be allowed this time for counting exercise as it will become very cumbersome due to the Pandemic. We have enough resources and adequate manpower. In such uncertain times, when corona cases are rising/falling, we are going to do it by ourselves.”

Meanwhile, forest officials at the field level stressed there is a rise in tiger numbers in the state but results will be out only on the next World Tiger Day.

They added, “Definitely, we see more tigers. However, it is too early to give any numbers as counting and interpretation takes time. We are not in the race to be first in the country. There is need for segregating and identifying every single individual as 10 pictures does not mean 10 tigers in an area…The premier tiger reserves of Nagarhole-Bandipur alone had 253 tigers in the 2018 census and is expected to show a very good rise.”

As per 2018 All India Tiger Count:

Nagarhole TR: 127 tigers 

(Density 11.82 tigers/100 sq kms) 

Bandipur TR: 126 tigers 

Density 7.7 density

BRT TR: 52 tigers 

Density 4.96 

Bhadra TR :30 tigers 

Density 2.86  

Kali TR: 4 tigers

MM Hills*: 15 tigers

(TR yet to be declared)

Nagarhole Tiger Reserve with an area of 643.39 square kms supported 127 tigers, as per 2018 estimate. Like Bandipur, it has shown rising numbers with 164 during 2019-20.

Takhat Singh Ranawat, CF, Kodagu Circle (Madikeri & Virajpet forest divisions and Madikeri wildlife division) said, “Tiger density is reaching its optimum in Nagarhole. Their population in territorial areas is just a spill over as we have seen in the conflict cases recently. It does not support any high population and we see the tigers moving from Nagarhole to territorial areas and then back.”

A detailed study of tiger population needs to be done in territorial areas. The CF added, “Conflict tigers have been observed only on the fringes of Nagarhole. And camera traps have clearly revealed this and presence of an individual tiger in territorial area can be traced back to Nagarhole database. And 90 per cent of the conflict cases have shown this. Further, there has been additions to wildlife areas. The buffer of Nagarhole TR was transferred to the tiger reserve giving it better protection.”

PHOTO CREDIT: AMITH BANGRE

From 128 resident tigers in Bandipur Tiger Reserve that has an area of 1020 sq kms, it has increased to 148 in 2019. Further, resident tigers and common habitat individuals add up to 185 tigers. 

S R Natesha, Bandipur Tiger Reserve Field Director and CF said “We are still getting the data for 2020-21 which has to be interpreted. A coordinated survey will be done in October-November this year. And the results will be known by next year.”

The CF adds, “The reasons for rise are many including good protection and good habitat, building up of prey base, intensive grassland development under CAMPA scheme, etc. We have also broken the chain of alternate forest fire this year which has benefitted the wildlife to a great extent.”

The BRT Tiger Reserve with an area of 574.82 square kilometres was home to 52 tigers as per 2018 tiger count. In 2019-20, the tiger reserve showed 57 tigers.

DCF of BRT Tiger reserve Dr Santoshkumar G said, “The tiger numbers compared to the last tiger count has risen. Census exercise will be starting soon. Monitoring, counting and analysing the data is a regular exercise. For this, we borrowed camera traps from Bandipur.”

PHOTO CREDIT: G VEERESH

Bhadra Tiger Reserve with an area of 500.16 sq kms does not support good numbers. In 2018, it revealed 30 tigers. In 2018-19, monitoring showed 35 individuals. In 2019-2020, the numbers fell to 33.

S Prabakaran, DCF and Director, Bhadra Tiger Reserve said, “We are definitely seeing some increase in the tiger numbers. However, the data has to be interpreted and analysed and we are waiting for the results.”

PHOTO CREDIT: KESTUR VASUKI 

Kali Tiger Reserve with an area of 1097.5 sq kms was home to only four tigers as per last tiger count. Recent internal exercises have shown 22 + or -1.

Kali Tiger Reserve Director and DCF Maria Christu Raja said, “Compared to 2018, there has been a significant rise in tiger numbers in the 2020 phase IV camera trap survey conducted in Kali tiger reserve. It is expected to show an increase in its numbers this time.”

Almost all new individuals are found to be adults, the Director added, “It may be safely assumed that the tigers must have moved from adjoining tiger bearing areas.” 

MM Hills Wildlife Sanctuary which is soon to get “tiger reserve” status is expected to double its tiger numbers from 15 to 30. 

V Yedukondalu, DCF, MM Hills Wildlife Division said, “In the last census, MM Hills recorded 15 tigers and the tiger census in 2018 and also many sub adults and cubs. So, this time, the tiger numbers are expected to go up as they are adults now. We are expecting the numbers to double.” 

Other areas where tigers are found in Karnataka are Madikeri Wildlife Division, Madikeri territorial division, Virajpet territorial division, Koppa Wildlife division, and Haliyal forest division.

Although the All-India Tiger Estimation-22 has fallen during the Pandemic times, however, forest officials and field staff have been on their toes the last one and a half years to count and monitor tiger population including the population of leopards and shift camera traps from range to range and even from tiger reserve to another. 

By next July end, the tiger numbers will be revealed across the country which will demonstrate the level of conservation and protection measures followed in different tiger range states.