By Amit S. Upadhye
An eight-day long tiger census will be kicked off from Monday across all the protected areas of the state. About 800 volunteers have enrolled so far and they along with forest officials will begin the exercise to count the big cats in the state.
Nine national parks and wildlife areas will be covered by the survey team, besides looking for tiger signs in reserve forests. The state has five tiger reserves and five national parks where tigers are found. Interestingly most of these protected areas also share borders with the tiger reserves in the neighbouring states such as Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa, thus providing the big cats vast tracts to survive.
The state currently has a population of around 300-320 tigers, but experts have called for formation of more tiger complexes in the next ten years to achieve a population of 400. Close to 5,000 sq km of forests has already been protected for the big cats.
Wildlife authorities have expressed concern about incidents of poaching, as tiger body parts command a lucrative price in the market. Poaching incidents have been reported in wildlife areas such as Pushpagiri, Brahamagiri and Kudremukh.
The recently created tiger reserve in Satyamangalam, which connects the Niligiri Biosphere, faces danger from increased forest produce extraction. The resettlement programmes launched by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments have been slow and may pose a threat to the wildlife.
Wildlife First Trustee Praveen Bhargav said that unless the forest department solves the problems pertaining to protected areas, the tigers in the state may face danger. “It is important that we add newer areas to have more number of tigers, besides solving the problems in the existing protected areas. The tiger reserves often face the threat of poaching and eternal vigil is the only key to successful conservation. If at any point the vigil is dropped, we risk losing animals,” he said.