NEW DELHI – India’s latest tiger census shows a sharp increase in the number of endangered cats in the wild, raising hopes that conservation efforts are working, officials said Tuesday.
The census conducted in 2014 found at least 2,226 tigers in forests across the country. That’s up from 1,706 counted in the 2010 census.
Environment minister Prakash Javadekar described the figures as a huge success story and said it was the result of sustained conservation efforts.
“While the tiger population is falling in the world, it is rising in India. This is great news,” Javadekar told journalists in New Delhi.
Tigers in India have been threatened by rampant poaching and shrinking habitats from deforestation due to power projects, roads and human settlements.
Javadekar said more than 9,700 cameras were used in the massive count and the results were the most accurate over the past few decades.
“Never before has such an exercise been taken. We have unique photographs of 80 per cent of the tigers” in the wild, he said.
A century ago, about 100,000 tigers roamed India’s forests. Their numbers declined steadily until around 2010 when conservation efforts began to pay off.
India faces intense international scrutiny over its tiger conservation efforts as it has nearly three-fourths of the world’s estimated 3,200 tigers, which live in dozens of wildlife reserves set up since the 1970s when tiger hunting was banned.
Shrinking habitats have brought the wild cats into conflict with farmers who live near tiger reserves. Also, the illegal trade in tiger skin and body parts remains a stubborn and serious threat. Tiger organs and bones fetch high prices on the black market because of demand driven by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.