The all-India tiger estimation conducted in 2022 stands out as the most extensive wildlife survey to date, encompassing 20 states and entailing an impressive foot survey of 6,41,449 kilometres, according to data released by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
The study team involved officials and experts from the NTCA and the states, research biologists, scientists, coordinators, interns and volunteers.
As part of the exercise, the team sampled 3,24,003 habitat plots to gather data on vegetation, human impacts and ungulate dung.
The camera traps installed at 32,588 locations resulted in an impressive 4,70,81,881 photographs, including 97,399 captures of tigers, according to the "Status of Tigers 2022" report released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an event in Mysuru on Sunday.
The study required an immense amount of effort, with the team investing more than 6,41,102 man-days to complete it.
"We believe that this is the world's largest effort invested in any wildlife survey till date, on all of the above counts," the report read.
The camera traps captured the images of a total of 3,080 tigers (aged above one year). The number represents an increase compared to the figures (2,697) of 2018.
"Based on the findings, the minimum population estimate of tigers in India is 3,167 individuals, reflecting an encouraging upward trend in the tiger population," a senior environment ministry official said.
In 2006, the country established a 100-square kilometre grid as the standard sampling space for monitoring tiger populations. This remains constant to date, with each grid assigned a unique code for subsequent analysis and comparison.
The first phase of the 2022 estimation exercise involved data collection across the country, covering 10,146 grids of 100 square km each, the report said.
The entire phase-1 data was collected using the MSTrIPES android application.
The second phase, conducted at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, entailed generating landscape-level data using remote sensing and secondary data sources.
Finally, the third phase involved sampling at 174 sites, encompassing 32,588 locations, which yielded 4,70,81,881 photographs, including 97,399 pictures of tigers.
The effort invested in the data collection and collation was more than 6,41,102 man-days, making this the largest survey conducted ever, officials said.
The 2022 all-India tiger estimation revealed a notable increase in tiger occupancy.
It identified and photographed 3,080 unique tigers, representing an increase from the 2,461 tigers captured in 2018.
According to the report, the minimum estimated population of tigers in India is 3,167, up from 2,697 in 2018. Tiger populations have increased significantly in the Shivalik and Gangetic floodplains as well as in central India, the Northeastern Hills-Brahmaputra floodplains and Sundarbans.
However, the Western Ghats, recognised as one of the most notable biodiversity hotspots in India, showed a decline. The region recorded 824 "unique tigers" in 2022, as compared to 981 in 2018.
According to the study team, aligning the aspirations of large-scale economic development while safeguarding forests and wildlife and mitigating human-tiger conflict is one of the major challenges.
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