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Tiger numbers swell in Karnataka

The Hindu
18 Jun 2017

Look at me: A file photo a tiger cooling itself in a water body in the Nagarhole National Park.
Look at me: A file photo a tiger cooling itself in a water body in the Nagarhole National Park.

Census shows Bandipur and Nagarhole have the most cats in south India

Karnataka is poised to fortify its position as the “Tiger State of India” with major reserves indicating an increase in the tiger population as per the annual census completed recently.

The State has five tiger reserves and Bandipur has reported 136 tigers, Nagarahole 91 tigers, while Bhadra has reported 26 tigers. There are 58 tigers in the BRT Tiger Reserve. Preliminary estimates of Anshi Dandeli reserve are being processed.

This is estimated to be a significant increase. For instance, at Nagarahole, 91 tigers were identified by their unique stripes through the camera trap method adopted for intensive monitoring of the source population. In 2015-16, the park had 81 tigers while their population was pegged at 72 in 2014-15.

The latest population estimates reinforces Bandipur and Nagarahole landscapes as having the highest tiger numbers in south India and can be ranked among the top 3 or 4 national parks in the country along with Jim Corbett, Kanha and Kaziranga.

“These are rough and broad estimates and subject to rigorous analysis which is currently on, but the final figures may not vary from the preliminary numbers,” P.S. Somashekar, Inspector General, NTCA (Southern Zone), told The Hindu . S. Manikandan, director, Nagarahole, attributed the general rise in tiger population to extensive protection of the national parks for decades coupled with high prey density.

Tiger population estimates were conducted under phase IV monitoring of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) protocols, which entails estimating the minimum numbers based on camera trap methods. All tiger reserves in Karnataka have completed the exercise.

As many as 380 cameras — donated by IT firm CSS Corps from its CSR funding — were installed in the park spread over 642 sq km with focus on areas with high probability of tiger sightings whose images could be captured digitally. The camera traps were left intact for a period ranging from 45 days to 60 days and the images downloaded and subjected to analysis using WildID software programme, said Mr. Manikandan.

At Bandipur Tiger Reserve, 399 cameras were installed in the 874 sq km national park and images indicated that there were 136 tigers which are the same obtained in the 2015-16 exercise, according to T. Hiralal, director, Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

The phase IV exercise is held in addition to the nationwide tiger estimates conducted once in four years. The tiger population in Karnataka as per the 2014 nationwide estimate was pegged at around 402 and the Bandipur-Nagarahole belt along with Mudumalai and Wayanad was reckoned to harbour nearly 570 tigers.