Tiger Density in India

Prelims level : Environment & Biodiversity Mains level : GS-III Environment & Biodiversity Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation.
No Set Found with this ID

Why in News?

  • Preliminary findings of a study by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) suggest that the density of tigers in the Sunderbans may have reached the carrying capacity of the mangrove forests, leading to frequent dispersals and a surge in human-wildlife conflict.

Tiger Density of India:

  • In the Terai and Shivalik hills habitat — think Corbett tiger reserve, for example — 10-16 tigers can survive in 100 sq km.
  • This slides to 7-11 tigers per 100 sq km in the reserves of north-central Western Ghats such as Bandipur, and to 6-10 tigers per 100 sq km in the dry deciduous forests, such as Kanha, of central India.
  • The correlation between prey availability and tiger density is fairly established.
  • There is even a simple linear regression explaining the relationship in the 2018 All-India Tiger report that put the carrying capacity in the Sunderbans “at around 4 tigers” per 100 sq km.
  • A joint Indo-Bangla study in 2015 pegged the tiger density at 2.85 per 100 sq km after surveying eight blocks spanning 2,913 sq km across the international borders in the Sunderbans.

Conflict: Cause or Effect:

  • The consequence, as classical theories go, is frequent dispersal of tigers leading to higher levels of human-wildlife conflict in the reserve peripheries.
  • Physical (space) and biological (forest productivity) factors have an obvious influence on a reserve’s carrying capacity of tigers.
  • What also plays a crucial role is how the dispersal of wildlife is tolerated by people — from the locals who live around them to policymakers who decide management strategies.
  • More so when different land uses overlap and a good number of people depend on forest resources for livelihood.

Why Tiger Corridors are not a solution?

  • But though vital for genes to travel and avoid a population bottleneck, wildlife corridors may not be the one-stop solution for conflict.
  • First, not all Dispersing tigers will chance upon corridors simply because many will find territories of other tigers between them and such openings.
  • Even the lucky few that may take those routes are likely to wander to the forest edges along the way.
  • Worse, the Corridors may not lead to viable forests in reserves such as Sunderbans, bounded by the sea and villages.

Way Ahead:

  • Artificially boosting the prey base in a reserve is often an intuitive solution but it can be counter-productive.
  • To harness the umbrella effect of tigers for biodiversity conservation, it is more beneficial to increase areas occupied by tigers.
  • For many, the prescription is to create safe connectivity among forests and allow tigers to disperse safely to new areas.
Share Socially