India tiger population surges to 3,000, offering ‘hope and reassurance’ for survival of species

Presenting figures, PM Narendra Modi calls it a 'historic achievement' for India

Adam Withnall
Monday 29 July 2019 13:25
Man raises baby tigers in India as country undertakes first ever population count

The number of tigers living in the wild in India has jumped to almost 3,000, an increase of almost a third in four years.

The surge in numbers means India is now home to more than 70 per cent of the world’s wild tiger population.

Presenting the figures, prime minister Narendra Modi called it a “historic achievement” and said the country was now “one of the biggest and safest habitats for [tigers] in the world”.

India counts its tigers once every four years, and has been achieving modest increases since the population dwindled to just 1,400 in 2005.

The count in 2014 was 2,226, said environment minister Prakash Javadekar. For 2018, it rose to 2,967, with a margin of error of about 350.

The survey was led by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, and the Wildlife Institute of India, and carried out on an unprecedented scale.

A total of 381,400 sq km of forests were surveyed, with camera traps deployed on a 2 sq km grid and forest department staff walking a combined 522,996 km.

The Global Tiger Forum (GTF), an inter-governmental body coordinating tiger conservation across the range of Asian countries that are home to the big cats, said the “scale and magnitude of the assessment is unparalleled globally”.

Dr Yadvendradev Jhala, the lead scientist for the count, said tiger numbers had gone up significantly in areas which experts previously believed had reached their maximum capacity.

“The population has gone up… We didn’t expect this, but it has, and that’s incredible,” he said.

WWF India, which assisted with the count, said the survey results should “bring both great hope and reassurance about the tigers’ prospects”.

Ravi Singh, the conservation charity’s CEO, said: “Given the immense pressures on India’s biodiversity, the current estimates are encouraging and speak of immense commitment of the government, local communities and the support of citizens of India.”

The tiger is India’s national animal, and since the 1970s around 5 per cent of the country’s total land mass has been designated as national parks for the purpose of protecting them and other endangered species.

News of the count was released as Mr Modi touted his nature-loving credentials in the trailer for a new Discovery Channel special with Bear Grylls.

The programme, which airs on 12 August, sees Mr Modi and Grylls on a trip to the Jim Corbett National Park in northern India, a reserve with one of the country's largest tiger populations.

Mr Modi said in a statement he had been “intrigued” by the idea of doing a show with the adventurer. "For years, I have lived among nature, in the mountains and the forests," he said. "These years have a lasting impact on my life.”

Grylls famously produced a special edition of his Running Wild series with then-US president Barack Obama in 2016. The presenter later admitted he “did go easy on him”, the highlight of the show being a meal of raw salmon - leftovers of an Alaskan bear.

In the trailer for the “Man vs Wild” special with Mr Modi, the 68-year-old Indian prime minister can be seen rowing a boat, walking through grass and preparing a makeshift spear using a knife. "You are the most important person in India, it's my job to protect you," Grylls tells Mr Modi.

Counting Tigers: A survival special airs on ITV at 9pm on Tuesday, 30 July.

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