How the tiger can regain its stripes

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This article was written for/first published in The Hindu, OpEd page, August 13, 2020, titled “How the tiger can regain its stripes”.

Tiger conservation needs a reboot to match the scale of India’s aspirations in other domains.

On International Tiger Day, July 29, authorities proudly declared that India should “celebrate” the increase in tigers from about 2,000 in 1970 to about 3,000 now. This is an annual growth rate lower than 1% after 50 years of incredible, sometimes heroic, efforts. … Read More

A Flawed Vision — Demystifying India’s Tiger Counts

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This article was originally published in The Telegraph.

For some reason, reports on India’s ‘tiger numbers’ get a lot of people excited. This was the case on July 28, 2020 when a report on the country’s tiger numbers from 2018 was released accompanied by profuse self-laudatory statements. The fact is there is nothing new in this report because the same results were released by the prime minister a year earlier. Perhaps everyone was bedazzled by the beautiful tiger photos and … Read More

Connecting Tiger Populations for Long-term Conservation

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According to a Dec 02, 2019 Press Release from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), the Indian Government has mapped 32 major tiger corridors inside and outside protected areas across the country, as part of a long-term conservation strategy for the big cats. The plan, which is also likely to benefit many other species, will include mandatory animal passages when developing new infrastructure projects.

The plan is contained in a document titled ‘Connecting Tiger Populations for Long-term Read More

Connecting the Tigers — Mapping Habitat Connectivity for Tigers in Central India

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It turns out that – when it comes to protecting India’s tigers – size matters, just not in the way most people might think. Large protected areas are clearly important for such a wide-ranging, territorial species. But in what may be a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, new research also shows that small protected areas often play a disproportionate role in ensuring the long-term survival of tigers in Central India.

Over the last several years, India has been working to improve tiger … Read More

Statement of Concern by Tiger Biologists on the WWF-GTF Report

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On Sunday, April 10th, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Global Tiger Forum (GTF) issued a report stating that the world’s wild tiger population was on the rise, and on track for a doubling in a decade. We do not find this report1 and its implications scientifically convincing.

  1. Having devoted years of our lives to trying to understand and save wild tigers, we believe their conservation should be guided by the best possible science. Using flawed survey methodologies can
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Don’t Blame the Tiger

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The tiger enjoys tremendous support. It should not be blamed for lack of conservation efforts elsewhere.

It is frequently alleged that tiger conservation consumes the bulk of India’s conservation budget, leading to the neglect of other species. While the annual budgetary allocation may appear to support this notion, the truth is somewhat different.

Being an incredibly charismatic animal, the tiger naturally enjoys tremendous conservation support. This is equally true of most flagship species, such as pandas, whales, elephants and polar … Read More

Q: “I have seen news reports that radio collaring in tigers affects mating? How true is that?”

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Answer from Dr. K. Ullas Karanth, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS): Radio-collars have been in use since the 1960s on a variety of animals ranging in size from small birds to whales..tigers included. When professionally done it does not interfere with the normal activities of the animals. Over a 100 wild tigers have been fitted with radio-collars since the 1970s and no adverse effects on mating or reproduction have been observed. I have personally observed radio-collared tigers mating without a problem. … Read More

Book Review — Fundamentals of Wildlife Management

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Fundamentals of Wildlife Management

Author: Rajesh Gopal

Publisher: Natraj, Rs. 1,395

The size is daunting — a fact remarked upon by the Minister of Environment and Forests, Jayanthi Natarajan, when she released this book, explaining that she had not read it yet, but would certainly have done the deed by the end of her tenure. Besides the fact that she was keen to read the book, I believe she also conveyed her intent to stick around for some time … Read More

Ranthambore’s Isolated Tigers Face Threat Of Lack Of Genetic Diversity

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A recent study by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) says that Ranthambore’s tigers show a loss of genetic diversity over the years, due to the tigers being an isolated population without any genetic exchange. Ranthambore’s tigers used to take the Chambal river route to the Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. But due to the flattening of the river banks, the tigers stopped using this route for dispersal and there has been no gene flow between the two tiger populations. … Read More

Review of the Tiger Task Force report, 2005 — Joining the Dots but Losing the Cats?

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After the Sariska catastrophe, and the resultant public outcry, the Prime Minister appointed a Tiger Task Force (TTF) to review the status of the species. The TTF submitted a 206-page report titled Joining the Dots in August 2005. Dr Ullas Karanth reviews the TTF report.

Maintaining ‘inviolate’ areas for wild tiger populations

The TTF recognizes that viable breeding populations of wild tigers need sufficient habitats free of incompatible human uses. It projects an area of 37,000 sq km, within boundaries … Read More

Are Indian Tigers Key To Saving The Species?

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A study by Samrat Mondol, Ullas Karanth and Uma Ramakrishnan confirms that India’s tigers have higher genetic variation — and are thus the most robust in terms of survival of the species. Conservation India summarizes the findings of the the study from the original scientific paper.

Wild tigers historically occurred across 30 present-day nations ranging from Armenia to Indonesia (from west to east), and the Russian Far East to the southern tip of India (north–south). The range encompassed a variety … Read More