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Alarm as Tiger Habitats Vanish

- By Yojna Gusai

The Asian Age, New Delhi

New Delhi, July 30: A survey, the first of its kind, has revealed a drastic reduction in tiger habitats in tiger-bearing forests, a very disturbing fact that puts a big question mark on the survival of India’s tiger population.

Tiger habitats raise the probability of the long-term survival of tigers as they have favourable conditions required for the survival of these big cats.

The survey "Evaluating Tiger Habitat at the Tehsil Level" has been conducted by the Project Tiger Directorate and the Wildlife Institute of India to find out exact areas which have tiger populations. The survey reveals that in some states, like Bihar, 75 per cent area of the state (in terms of districts) has lost its tigers in the recent past. The loss is attributed to increasing pressure for the diversion of forest lands for agriculture and development purposes.

Overall, tigers have become locally extinct from 97 districts of the country, in the recent past. Obtain a precise and clear picture of the actual tiger habitat, within the forest areas and tiger reserves, the data was compiled on tiger presence reported at the tehsil (district) level for the past 5-6 years only.

Admitting that inadequate information on tiger habitats and associated cofactors has been a limiting factor in developing strategies for its long term survival, Union ministry of environment and forests secretary Prodipto Ghosh has noted that the study highlights state level habitat situation. Currently, tigers are present in forest areas of 17 states in the country.

While the country might boast of increasing its total forest cover, when it come to tiger habitat within that forest area, there is a decline causing decline in the density of tiger population in absence of prey and favourable conditions. The survey carries a deatiled state wise record, showing how much an individual state has lost its tiger habitat or tiger population in the recent past.

For instance, the state of Bihar has a total forest area of 5,842 kilometre square (km sq), which is mere 6 per cent of the total geographical area of the state. Tiger population is found only in 965 km sq of the total forested area, which is only 16 per cent of the forest area. Within this, the area of potential tiger habitat is 869 km sq only.

In the state of Rajasthan, which has 21,292 km sq of forested area, tigers are currently reported in only 1,835 km sq, which is mere 8.6 per cent of the total forested area. Area of potential tiger habitat is 529 km sq only.

Similarly, the state of West Bengal, which has 10,842 km sq of forested area has only 2,649 km sq of area where tigers can be found. But the actual tiger habitat is 2204 km sq only. The state has also lost tigers from 47 per cent of its districts in the recent past.

Uttaranchal, is one of the few states, where tiger habitat is found in greater areas. The state has 24,536 sq km of forested area and tiger is reportedly found in 13,954 km sq of area, which is 56.9 per cent of the total forested area. Its neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh, with 14,424 km sq of forested area, has 8,615 km sq of area where tigers are found. And within this, the actual tiger habitat is 5,506 km sq only.

In terms of tiger loss in recent past, 53 per cent of UP’s districts have lost tigers. 




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