48 tigers in non-protected Chandrapur forest areas: Survey

There is good news for the wildlife enthusiasts as a survey conducted by Wildlife Conservation reveals that there are 48 adult tigers in forests surrounding the Tadoba Tiger Reserve at Chandrapur in Maharashtra.

A first-of-its-kind tiger estimation study conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) in areas outside the Protected Areas of the Chandrapur District of Maharashtra has revealed the presence of 48 adult tigers. This pushes the number of tigers in the district to 120 including 72 living inside the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (as per the 2014 tiger estimation report).

The WCT study, which was conducted in collaboration with the Maharashtra Forest Department, covered 2,000 sq. km. of tiger habitat that falls outside the Protected Area network.

Speaking about the exercise, WCT researcher Aditya Joshi said, “We identified 20 breeding tigresses, which is a positive sign of the health of this multiple-use-landscape. Our findings have highlighted how important it is for protection nets to extend beyond Protected Areas. The tiger population in Tadoba is stable because of the healthy presence of tigers in the areas around it.”

“A particularly interesting aspect of the study,” said WCT President, Anish Andheria, “is that the tiger density in some reserve forest blocks is actually higher than that of some tiger reserves of India. For instance, tiger density in the Kanhalgaon-Central Chanda block is 2.34 which are more than that of the Melghat Tiger Reserve. In the Junona-Central Chanda block, tiger density stood at 1.77, higher than that of the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve.”

“The presence of tigers in such densities in human-dominated landscapes speaks volumes about the tolerance of the people of Chandrapur and the good work put in by the forest department of Chandrapur circle. This study has proved that humans and tigers can share a landscape however the future of large carnivores outside national parks and sanctuaries will depend on the efficiency of the forest department in mitigating human-animal conflict and an increased awareness among humans about tiger and leopard behaviour,” Andheria added.

Chief Conservator of Forests (Chandrapur Circle), Sanjay Thakre said his team was encouraged by the findings. The WCT study was conducted in close conjunction with the frontline forest staff with a strong focus on building technical capacity in the forest department for future tiger estimates.

As many as 600 camera traps, donated by Panthera were used for this study. The study area was divided into several blocks. Every block was further divided into 3 sq km grids and one camera trap pair was installed in each 3 sq. km. area for 25 days, fulfilling the guidelines mandated by the National Tiger Conservation Authority for such studies. The data was collected over 18,000 camera trap nights, making it the most intensive camera trapping exercise ever carried out outside Protected Areas in India.

The research substantiated earlier findings by WCT regarding the significance of territorial forests to the dispersal of tigers between Protected Areas in the state. In 2014, WCT researchers working in the Pench Tiger Reserve photo-captured ‘Prince’ (PTR-T8), a male tiger earlier seen in the Nagzira-Navegaon Tiger Reserve. A press release sent to the media also stated that WCT is trying to use the data collected from these studies to help design better wildlife management policies in tiger states.

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