The Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) in Tamil Nadu is the one with the ‘least human impact,’ as per the Tiger Census 2018 report released on Tuesday (July 28), the eve of International Tiger Day.
The census, held once in four years, found that the country was home to nearly 70 per cent of the global tiger population.
“From amongst tiger reserves that had good spatial camera trap coverage, human impacts were recorded to be low (good protection) for Orang, Manas, and Kaziranga (all in Assam), Sundarbans (West Bengal), Kalakad-Mundanthurai (TN), Periyar (Kerala), Jim Corbett (Uttarakhand), and Bandipur (Karnataka),” the report said.
Located in the southern Western Ghats, the contiguous Kalakad and Mundanthurai sanctuaries were declared a tiger reserve in 1988. The total area of the reserve is 895 sq km. The report said KMTR hosted a low-density tiger population but proper management interventions and protection could ensure that the region could sustain a good number.
“The tribal settlements inside the core of the tiger reserve need to be resettled outside following the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)’s scheme,” the report said.
The report identifies the tiger population of southern Western Ghats as a ‘conservation priority population’.
“The Kani tribes reside in the reserve. There are about 150 families. Only seven families are in the core region. They learned to coexist and no human-animal conflict or poaching has been reported so far,” said M. Mathivannan, a researcher with ATREE, an ecology and conservation organisation.
Speaking to The Federal, M.G. Ganesan, eco-development officer, KMTR, said the resettlement of the tribes must be carried out as per the Forest Rights Act. “The process of resettlement takes more time. We should have consultations with people from the gram sabha level. If at all it happens, we must ensure that the tribesmen are not harmed,” he said.
The report said the country registered a significant increase in the number of tigers. The number grew from 2,226 in 2014 to 2,967 in 2018.
The census, said to be one of the world’s largest camera trap surveys, entered the Guinness Book of World Records, recently. A total of 26,838 camera traps were set up across 20 states and over 34 lakh photos were taken.
At the national level, Madhya Pradesh stood first in terms of numbers with 526 tigers, followed by Karnataka (524), Uttarakhand (442), Maharashtra (312), and Tamil Nadu (264). These states have seen a considerable increase in numbers. States like Chhattisgarh, Goa, and Mizoram saw a ‘considerable decrease’ in tiger population. Odisha’s number was static at 28.
In 2010, India signed the Petersburg Declaration, thereby agreeing to double the country’s tiger population by 2022. However, due to the dedicated conservation programme called ‘Project Tiger,’ it has achieved its objective two years ahead of the stipulated time.