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Karnataka can double its tiger count, says Ullas Karanth

The Times of India, New Delhi, 27th January, 2015


 MYSURU: Karnataka can hope to continue its lead in tiger conservation with noted conservation scientist Ullas Karanth predicting that the state has scope to double its count. That's the good news. The jarring note is the projected rise in the number of big cats in the wild could also lead to increase in human-tiger conflict.


Attributing rise in the tiger population to conservation efforts, mainly investment towards managing the tiger reserves, Karanth said: "We've succeeded in conservation and hence have the problem of human-tiger conflict." He suggested extreme measures like shooting down the tigers that are on the prowl in human habitat, the tiger conservationist asserted that tigers-on-the-prowl have to be killed to save the species.


This assumes significance given the violent reaction from the villagers in the fringes of Bandipur tiger reserve after a tiger killed four persons.


The latest tiger census report has put the tiger population at 406 tigers, which is highest in the nation accounting for 18 per cent of India count. Appreciating the rise in the tigers in the wild, he said: "We do have the capacity to double numbers." He attributed it to good predator-prey ratio, increase in the field staff leading to greater patrolling and a disciplined forest force. Indian culture is also tolerant towards its wildlife, even greater than Buddhist. This has also contributed to their survival and the number after all India census is for real, he stated at the Mysuru Zoo delivering talk on tiger conservation.


He warned, however, that fragmentation of forest cover could upset the applecart, which, he said, could lead to increase in human-tiger conflict at the forest fringes. Tigers are facing problems because of human predation, he said pointing at the public outrage at the killing of humans. When locals are killed, reason and logic vanish pushing the villagers to be violent. Controlling public reacting is important. We cannot have effective conservation with the support of the villagers, who are the local stakeholders.


He argued that translocation of tigers is no answer and explained that in 2012 three problematic tigers were shifted from Nagarahole tiger reserve but it was unsuccessful. Captivity also have limited success given that money is involved. Advocating killing of tigers that stray outside the reserves, he said: "We've to sacrifice individuals to save the species." The forest department has to prevent conflict given that they might increase, he stated.


APCCF (wildlife) Ajay Mishra was present.