NEW DELHI: Did the tigers in Rajasthan’s national parks exist only on paper? Yes, if one goes by the disappearance of all the tigers from Sariska and the decrease in the numbers of the big cat in Ranthambore as a per the latest census report.
While there is no trace of the Sariska tigers counted in the last census, Ranthambore National Park has just 26 tigers, compared to the 40 reported in the census last year.
No tiger was found in the adjoining Kewla Devi Sanctuary that had six big cats as per the last census. This takes the decrease in tiger population in and around Ranthambore to 20.
Now, this big fall in the number of tigers is being attributed to an exaggeration of their actual population. All past census were largely based on unscientific methods and park authorities showed consistent growth of tiger populations at large, it is being said. Claims were made that the number of tigers in Ranthambore increased from 30 in 2001 to 40 in 2004.
Similarly, the presence of 15 to 20 tigers was reported at Sariska in the census in May last year. None of tigers can be found there now. Many of them fell prey to poachers, but senior officials admit the actual number of tigers was “over-reported” in this case too.
As there is no proven case of poaching in Ranthambore, the state government now suspects that the park authorities had exaggerated the number of tigers.
The government has set up a one-member enquiry committee to look into the exaggeration of tiger figures in the park since 1998. The committee will enquire if the number of tigers were inflated, what were the reasons behind it and how had the number of tigers decreased.
In the past, respective national park authorities conducted the tiger census. But the latest census report on Ranthambore is based on a census conducted by outside experts with the help of multiple techniques. It was conducted using a variety of census techniques and was prepared by wildlife experts.
Still, some senior wildlife officials question the conclusions drawn in the latest census. “Results of different census should only be compared if they are based on the same method. Since the latest census used different methods, its results will obviously be different from ours” was what a senior wildlife official offered as an “explanation”. - The Statesman