The Odisha government has decided to conduct its own tiger census in October after a report released by the Union environment ministry showed a worrying decline in the state’s tiger population.
According to the tiger estimation report released by the Union environment ministry on International Tiger Day on Saturday, the total number of tigers in Odisha’s forests has come down to 20 in 2022 from 28 in 2018.
Data showed that there were more tigers in Nandankanan, Odisha’s lone zoo, than in the wild. Officials said, the zoo, located on the outskirts of the capital city, has 27 tigers, including seven white and three melanistic tigers.
The only good news is that the estimated number of tigers in Similipal Tiger Reserve in Mayurbhanj district has increased from eight to 16 between 2018 and 2022. Out of the 20 tigers in the wild, 16 are in Similipal while the rest live in the nearby areas adjoining the tiger reserve, officials said.
The number of tigers in Odisha has been steadily declining. In 2006, the state had 45 tigers but the number came down to 32 in 2010, 28 in 2018 and 20 in 2022.
The census was carried out in 2021-22.
Odisha’s chief wildlife warden S.K. Popli told The Telegraph: “The aforesaid estimation is based on the field exercise done in 2021-22. We will carry out the estimation ourselves from October. This exercise will provide the updated status of the tigers in Odisha.”
Officials said Odisha would adopt two methods for the tiger census — the line transect and camera trap.
“A tiger has been spotted at Debrigarh sanctuary in Sambalpur district. We hope we will spot tigers in other forests such as Hemgiri in Sundergarh and Munigura in Rayagada. We will use more than 800 cameras for the census,” a senior official said.
The state government found it alarming that the Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Angul district, which had one tiger in 2018, reported none in 2022.
The Odisha government had with the help of the Madhya Pradesh government brought a three-year-old tiger (Mahavir) and a four-and-half-year-old tigress (Sundari) from Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve under India’s first inter-state tiger translocation exercise to repopulate the big cat population. However, Mahavir died after getting caught in a snare laid by poachers on the fringes of the forest in Satkosia while Sundari was sent back to Madhya Pradesh in 2021.
In order to create awareness about tiger conservation, around 70 students were invited to the Nandankanan zoo to have first-hand knowledge of the day-to-day life of tigers on the occasion of International Tiger Day on Saturday.
Sanath Kumar N., deputy director of the Nandankanan Zoological Park, said an online quiz on tiger conservation was conducted. “Students were invited to participate in an orientation programme where all aspects of tigers’ upkeep were explained to them by zoo volunteers.”