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Madhya Pradesh Roars Loudest, Reclaims Country’s ‘Tiger State’ Title with 526 Big Cats in its Forests

In the last four years, MP has been able to add 218 tigers to its forests which seems no less than a feat given the poor record the state holds in terms of tiger safety.

Vivek Trivedi | News18

Updated:July 29, 2019, 6:22 PM IST
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Madhya Pradesh Roars Loudest, Reclaims Country’s ‘Tiger State’ Title with 526 Big Cats in its Forests
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Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh, the erstwhile tiger state of the country with maximum numbers of striped felines, has reclaimed its coveted title that it had lost to Karnataka about a decade ago. According to a fresh tiger census report, the central Indian state has reported the presence of 526 tigers.

The 2018 report has put the total number of striped cats in the country at 2,967 with MP’s tally going up to 526 from 308 recorded in 2014. Karnataka that has been topping the list since 2010 slipped to the second place though by a very close margin with 524 tigers.

The hill state of Uttarakhand is in the third slot with 442 tigers roaring in its forests. However, the neighbouring state of Chhattisgarh, besides Mizoram have seen a declining tiger count.

Even as wildlife enthusiasts remained sceptical, forest officers and state Forest Minister Umang Singhar had remained upbeat about MP’s tiger count with about 400 of them roaming around in its forests. However, the actual results seemed to have exceeded their expectations.

In the last four years, MP has been able to add 218 tigers to its forests which seems no less than a feat given the poor record the state holds in terms of tiger safety.

According to a report of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), India lost 657 tigers between 2012 and 2017 with MP being hit the hardest (141).

According to a report from the wildlife group CLAW (Conservation Lenses and Wildlife), MP lost 12, 9, 14, 11 and 30 tigers in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively, owing to a variety of reasons, including natural deaths, poisoning, electrocution, territorial fight and others.

Since the establishment of tiger reserves in the Eighties, MP continued to be home to the largest number of big cats. However, with the rise in poaching, the ill-equipped state struggled to fight the menace and tiger population started to decline since the beginning of this century.

In 2010, it reported 257 tigers as against Karnataka’s 300. The efforts to safeguard big cats had intensified in the state, especially after a wipeout in the Panna Tiger Reserve that was once home to about 22 tigers. The reserve had lost all its tigers mostly to poaching by 2009. However, with a globally famed conservation effort, the reserve re-introduced tigers in the wilderness and now boasts of hosting over three dozen tigers.

With the growing tiger count in the state, the majestic animal’s territory has evolved to new habitats, including Shahdol and Katni, close to the famed Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve on the outskirts of Bhopal, at Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary and Hoshangabad near Bhopal, Dewas and Barwah close to Indore. MP has six tiger reserves — Panna, Bandhavgarh, Satpura, Kanha, Pench and Sanjay Dubri.

However, even as poaching ebbed, electrocution of tigers both by locals who crave for big cat organs for tantric rituals and for purposes of sale and farmers has proved to be a major menace.

However, a wildlife volunteer working in Madhya Pradesh said the number of tigers hasn’t surged suddenly, it’s counting in the general forest area (outside tiger reserves) that has led to the rise in numbers.

“Fearing added responsibility, forest officers normally don’t report tiger presence in their areas in general forest areas,” the volunteer said.

An elated Chief Minister Kamal Nath told reporters that MP wasn’t at the top of the list only in India, but it featured as one of the largest homes to the big cats. “Ours is a state rich in bio-diversity and we would make best efforts to enhance tiger population in future as well,” he said.

Speaking to News18, Forest Minister Umang Singhar credited the field staff for this accomplishment, while adding that the authorities would pitch for shifting Asiatic lions from Gir in Gujarat to Kuno Palpur in the state.

During an event in Bhopal on Monday, Nath and Singhar feted a number of forest field staff for their contribution to tiger conservation efforts.

However, for many the numbers are not yet too encouraging given the glorious past of the state. “MP had over a lakh tigers in the 19th Century and close to 700 even in 2000 when the state was bifurcated. Are these recent numbers a matter of pride really?” asked wildlife enthusiast Ajay Dubey.

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| Edited by: Sohini Goswami
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