Double in a decade
India now has 2,967 tigers and that fact alone says it all. As the latest census results were made public by the prime minister, India deserved a pat on the back for the kind of determination that has been on display to ensure the survival of endangered species. Back in 2006, the glaring fact that had made it to dinner tables across the country was the alarming number of tigers left in the country–1411. Since then, four surveys–including the latest one–have seen a proportionate rise in tiger population much to the relief of forest officials who have worked relentlessly in collating data to arrive at the right number. And, the numbers indeed bring a jubilant moment for them as well as people in general since the declining population of tigers was a real scare where the people felt helpless in their apprehensions. The cause for celebration is the kind of perseverance shown in improved conservation as well as estimation means by the forest officials which has prevented the big cat population to fall beyond critical levels. The mammoth task of scanning lakhs of kilometres of forest area with thousands of cameras placed to track movements and millions of images processed to identify the accurate number, considering repeated images of the same tiger, deserves credit. The exercise outlines the true spirit of conservation and points at the sustainability factor well understood by concerned personnel. It lauds the commendable action plan spanning over years to ensure something that is in a lot of ways out of our hands. It is to be noted that approaching these animals and forcing them to breed is not something feasible and hence it is difficult to promote numbers when all one can do is sit and observe. But better management of sanctuaries across India is the reason that tigers found breeding and survival as the way of life–like it always has been. The Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest count of tigers while the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu showed the maximum improvement since 2014. Individually, these reserves and their policies have played a major role in ensuring the stability and sustainability factors. The government also gauged the economic values of these reserves which comprise protected forests, forest-dependent livelihood and forest tourism which turned out to be as high as 16,000 crores annually. The steady rise in tiger count gauged in four surveys viz., 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018 shows the diligent behaviour on display by those who have made it possible and commends India's action plan for tiger conservation.