NTCA To Conduct Tiger Census In Gujarat After 26 Years
The possibility of an extant tiger population in Gujarat has caused a spurt of excitement in conservation circles. After 26 years, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has included the Dang district, bordering Nashik, in the official tiger census, which begins this month.
Photo: Shivaram Subramaniam. The tiger image is for representational purposes only.
Gujarat, known as the stronghold of Asiatic lions, was also home to tigers, till a few years after independence. However, things only went downhill after the first alarm was raised in 1979 in response to dwindling tiger numbers. Ten years later, a census estimated the tiger population at a mere 13 individuals, and the 1992 census declared a complete disappearance of tigers from Gujarat. A lone tiger was once spotted in 1997, and was never seen again.
Now, the NTCA along with a team of scientists plan to conduct a special ‘sign survey’, with the help of camera traps. Dang district will be covered in the second phase of the census. Amit Khare, the honorary wildlife warden of Maharashtra, has confirmed the presence of tigers in Dang. "If the Gujarat government is keen on conserving tigers, I can give them the exact location of tigers in Gujarat. We are not making the exact location public, fearing poachers”, Khare told the Times of India.
Khare, who had also noticed tigers’ presence at Nandurbar on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border, was the first to submit a scat analysis report in November 2016. This report revealed that a male tiger had ventured up to the border of Gujarat, 3-4 km. from the Dang forest.
"I have seen tiger evidence while walking these forests two decades ago. This area straddling the Gujarat-Maharashtra border at Nasik used to be the world's Western-most range of the tiger until it was declared locally extinct a decade ago.” says Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary Asia.
While scientists and conservationists wait in anticipation, if the NTCA census confirms the presence of tigers in Dang, Gujarat will be reinstated to its former glory of being the only state in the country to serve as territory to all three big cats — lions, leopards and tigers.