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View from India: Country’s tiger count makes it to Guinness World Records

Image credit: Dreamstime

The Guinness World Records has recognised India's 2018 Tiger Census as the world's largest on-camera survey. Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared the news over the weekend.

The official website of Guinness World Records states that every four years since 2006, a nationwide assessment of India’s population and habitat of tigers is conducted. This exercise is executed by the Indian government’s National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Wildlife Institute of India in collaboration with the state forest departments and conservation NGOs. The 2018-19 survey, which is the fourth iteration, has been the most comprehensive to date in terms of both resource and compilation of data.

What makes this survey noteworthy is the clever usage of camera traps, which has given a precise edge to the process of counting tigers. The camera traps are outdoor photographic devices fitted with motion sensors that start recording when an animal passes by. They have been placed in 26,838 locations across 141 different sites and have surveyed an area of 121,337 square kilometres (46,848 square miles).

In total, the camera traps have captured almost 35 million photographs of wildlife. Of these, 76,651 are tigers, 51,777 are leopards, and the remaining ones are the native fauna. From these photographs, 2,461 individual tigers (excluding cubs) have been identified through stripe-pattern-recognition software.

A three-phased assessment, statistical computation of various datasets has led to the final results of the report. There’s scope to scale up the tiger count by improving 'corridors' between the isolated pockets of tiger territory. It’s important to restore the habitat of the majestic striped animal and save it from poaching; its community needs to be conserved and expanded.

“The All India Tiger Estimation is now in the Guinness World Records for being the largest camera-trap wildlife survey, a great moment indeed and a shining example of Aatmanirbhar Bharat,” tweeted Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

Statistics from International Tiger Day 2019 revealed that India is home to 75 per cent of the world's tiger population. With 2,967 tigers, the country had strengthened its foothold as one of the world’s largest and safest tiger habitats.

Meanwhile the lion, the king of the jungle, made news last month. The Gir National Park in Gujarat has seen an increase in the number of Asiatic lions over the last five years.

The lion census, which happens every five years, was supposed to be conducted this year but the coronavirus pandemic forced authorities into taking a different approach.

Officials from the Gujarat Forest Department conducted a population estimation exercise on the full-moon nights of 5 and 6 June. The growing numbers of the Asiatic lion can be attributed to a number of factors including community participation and wildlife healthcare. There’s also emphasis on technology, as well as habitat management; measures to minimise human-lion conflict have also been taken.

The Gir National Park is the world’s only habitat for Asiatic Lions. Their population has expanded from 523 in 2015 to 674 in 2020, registering an increased growth rate of 28.87 per cent (one of the highest growth rates so far following 27 per cent growth in 2015). 

The distribution of the lions has gone up from an area of 22,000 square kilometres in 2015 to 30,000 square kilometres in 2020, which has led to an increase in the distribution area of 36 per cent.

Modi expressed his happiness and tweeted: “Two very good news: Population of the majestic Asiatic Lion, living in Gujarat’s Gir Forest, is up by almost 29%. Geographically, distribution area is up by 36%.”

Let’s hope that the tigers and lions, the Alpha predators of the jungle, are preserved and protected and that their tribe grows.

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