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What is the News?
Preliminary findings of a study by the Wildlife Institute of India(WII) suggest that the density of tigers in the Sunderbans may have reached the carrying capacity of the mangrove forests, leading to frequent dispersals and a surge in human-wildlife conflict.
Tiger Density in India
In Terai and Shivalik hills habitat — Corbett tiger reserve, for example — 10-16 tigers can survive in 100 sq km.
This comes down to 7-11 tigers per 100 sq km in the reserves of north-central Western Ghats such as Bandipur.
According to the 2018 All-India Tiger report, the carrying capacity in the Sunderbans is at around 4 tigers per 100 sq km.
What factors determine tiger density?
Availability of food and space is the primary factor that determines how many tigers a forest can hold.
Moreover, what also plays a crucial role is how the dispersal of wildlife is tolerated by people — from the locals who live around them to policymakers who decide management strategies. This is more important when a good number of people depend on forest resources for livelihood.
What is the way ahead to avoid conflict in tiger density areas?
Artificially boosting the prey base in a reserve is one of the solutions, but it can be counter-productive.
Hence, experts have said that it is more beneficial to increase areas occupied by tigers. For instance, India can create safe connectivity among forests and allow tigers to disperse safely to new areas. But the tiger corridors may not be the one-stop solution for the conflict.
Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: How many tigers are too many” published in Indian Express on 7th Mar 2022.