India Says Wild Tiger Population Up by 15%, But Some Doubt the Accuracy of that Number

tiger india photo

Photo: bjoern, CC

Good News... If True

India has about half of the world's remaining endangered wild tigers. It has just released population estimates for the first time since 2007, and at first glance, the news are good: "The government estimated current tiger numbers in India at 1,706, up from 1,411 during the last count in 2007. However, the 1,706 figure includes an additional tiger reserve in the count, the Sundarbans, that contained 70 tigers. This area was not counted in 2007. Therefore, when comparing the previous survey with the current one, the official estimate stands at 1,636 when leaving out the Sundarbans, or an increase of 225." That would be 15.9% increase, but some experts aren't quite convinced...

tiger india photo

Photo: bjoern, CC

Methodology is Extremely Important

K. Ullas Karanth, a well-known scientist and conservationist who heads the Centre for Wildlife Studies in Bangalore, raises doubts on the accuracy of the new tiger populat numbers: "the full process of how these tiger numbers are generated for individual tiger populations and landscapes, has not been made public in a scientifically acceptable manner." He says he has found "serious deficiencies" in the partial methodologies which were published in the sole scientific paper on the subject.

He also finds it hard to believe that the declining trend would have reversed since the various threats to tigers haven't been eliminated since the last survey in 2007.

Another tiger expert wasn't entirely convinced: "Tiger conservationist Valmik Thapar was also sceptical of large growth claims, saying that the new areas surveyed in this year's exercise, such as the Sunderbans and some Naxal areas, accounted for much of the increase."

What truly matters is that tigers are protected on the ground, no on paper. If numbers keep getting better but tigers are still killed by poachers and their habitat gets destroyed, progress is only illusory. This doesn't mean that the Indian government's numbers are completely wrong, but making the methodology more transparent and making the sampling a bit more rigorous would help.

See also: Up Close: The Amazingly Beautiful Clouded Leopard!

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Via WWF, The Hindu

More on Endangered Tigers
Fewer than 50 Wild Tigers Left in China, Says Wildlife Conservation Society
Mass Grave Containing Rare Animals (Tigers, Lions, Leopards, etc) Discovered at Chinese Zoo
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