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1 April 2011

The new tiger estimates are out. So are the disputes that surface when the country’s top tiger experts discuss how to save the enigmatic striped cat in the wild. Is there a better way of estimating the numbers? Is science being used or will another Sariska-type fiasco blindside the country again? Do precise numbers even matter? How do tigers survive in a democracy? How to make the rich pay for tiger conservation instead of the poor? The hype over tiger numbers and the requirement of inviolate spaces — where people don’t exist - drowns all talk of wildlife conservation when that can only happen with people's contribution. Often, tiger conservationists fail to answer how tigers living outside of the parks and sanctuaries can survive if people don’t cohabit with the animal. Two experts, one a foremost wildlife biologist on tiger and another, the head of the Tiger Task Force set up after the Sariska wipeout discuss what lies in the number game and beyond

1571-1875 is the range of tiger population estimate
12% increase registered over 2006 (Sundarbans included for first time

20,800sq km of land that showed tiger presence in 2006 did not in 2010. Most of these lands were outside the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries
Increase in population in Corbett, Ranthambore, Tadoba, Bandhavgarh and Bor - all these sites have a large number of people in vicinity or inside the parks

The National Tiger Conservation Authority has suggested 5 new tiger reserves and given in-principal approval to 5 others


The last meeting of the NTCA saw members lodge a complaint about illegally removing people from the tiger reserves without settling their rights. Cases of rights violation yet to be investigated.

Almost 30% of the tiger population is outside the network of national parks and sanctuaries, conflict growing

Protecting tigers outside the national parks and sanctuaries requires working with the lakhs of primarily poor people living on the periphery. But the forest department is seen more as a threat by people in these parts. Reconciling tiger conservation to Forest Rights Act provisions remains a big challenge .Where poor are displaced for the tiger, the tourism industry is taking over and threatening the tiger

Nothing done to restrict tourism or collect revenue from the elite tourism to pay for the displaced poor. Tiger Task Force had suggested levying a tax to pay for conservation. Centre and states have dithered on this Planning Commission has cut the annual financial allocation for tiger protection for the financial year 2011-12

Questions are being raised on how good the estimates are. The estimation method, including camera-trapping and DNA tests, has not been reviewed by scientists or published in peer-reviewed journals.