A tiger in Kaziranga National Park. Picture courtesy: KNP/WWF/Aaranyak
Guwahati, Feb. 12: Kaziranga National Park has the highest density and the third highest population of tigers in the country, a recently released report of a study undertaken in 2014 has revealed.
The tiger density in Kaziranga is 12.72 per 100 square km, followed by the Jim Corbett National Park (11) in Uttarakhand and Bandipur National Park (10.28) in Karnataka, says a detailed report, Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India, brought out by the Wildlife Institute of India and the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
The park, which was declared a tiger reserve in 2007, has an area of 860 square km.
This is the first time that a central report has said that Kaziranga has the highest density of tigers. In 2010, a wildlife NGO of Assam, Aaranyak, had said the reserve has the highest density of tigers. The NGO had covered only the central and western areas of the park. The national tiger estimation of 2010, which was carried out by the NTCA and WII, had said Corbett had the highest density of tigers in the country.
As for tiger estimation, Kaziranga has 103 big cats, preceded only by Corbett (215) and Bandipur (120), says the report. The range of tiger population in Kaziranga is between 91 and 115, it adds.
The report gives the big cat population of all tiger reserves in the country. In an earlier report, Status of Tigers in India 2014, released last year, the figures, based on the 2014 study, were given on landscape basis.
Kaziranga field director M.K. Yadava told The Telegraph, "It is certainly good news. The authorities take it with pride that the reserve has the highest density of tigers."
He said studies undertaken by the park authorities had revealed that the carrying capacity of tigers is 141 (plus-minus 5). Carrying capacity is how many animals can be supported in a certain environment on the resources present.
Kaziranga authorities have submitted a draft tiger conservation plan to the Centre, which has asked for some more details before it can clear it, Yadava said. The plan lists 10 disasters like earthquakes, bio hazards, erosion and consequences of building dams on the Brahmaputra, which may strike Kaziranga and threaten its conservation value.
Yadava said the park authorities had carried out a camera trap exercise on their own last year. "We are expecting 120 tigers. The final results should be out soon," he added.
Kaziranga gets flooded every year by the Brahmaputra and the Karbi hills on its south act as an important refuge. The report says, "It is crucial to manage traffic on the highway passing through Kaziranga by modern technology so that infrastructure and urban sprawl do not form a barrier for this important movement of wildlife into Karbi Anglong".
Jimmy Borah, senior coordinator of the Tiger Conservation Programme of WWF-India, said the tiger, being a conservation-dependent species, acts as a symbol of excellent health of bio-diversity. "With a good protection regime for rhinos and the presence of a high prey base, tigers in Kaziranga have benefited in both ways. It is now up to all of us to ensure that these tigers have enough space and connecting corridors to disperse and breed in suitable habitats," Borah said.