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India tiger census: Population doubles in less than a decade

By Brooks Hays
India tiger census: Population doubles in less than a decade
There are now nearly 3,000 tigers living in India. Photo by Pixabay/CC

July 30 (UPI) -- In just nine years, India's tiger population has doubled -- and over the last four years, the country's tiger population has increased 33 percent.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently wrote on Twitter, the results of India's tiger census should "make every Indian, every nature lover happy."

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At a 2010 conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, Modi and the Indian delegation promised to double the country's tiger population by 2022. They fulfilled their commitment four years early.

The prime minister published the results of the All India Tiger Estimation Report 2018 on Monday.

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"With around 3,000 tigers, India has emerged as of one of the biggest and safest habitats for them in world," Modi said at a press conference.

The prime minister thanked conservation groups and other stakeholders for their hard work, but said more work must be done to expand conservation and continue protecting large predators.

"Tigers invariably come out of their habitats, looking for water and prey. We have started taking water and prey augmentation in tiger habitats and reserves," environment minister Prakash Javadekar told Times of India. "Besides, we have also decided to allocate additional land for compensatory afforestation works in tiger corridors. This new policy will help in avoiding any human-tiger conflict situation."

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Modi said it's possible to expand infrastructure while increasing protections for forests and wilderness.

"In 2014, the number of protected areas were 692, the number rose to more than 860 in 2019," he said. "Similarly, the number of community reserves were 43 in 2014 and rose to more than 100 in 2019."

Thanks in part to those conservation efforts, India is now home to nearly 3,000 tigers -- 75 percent of the world's tiger population. Now, Modi wants the country and its conservationists to set its sights on protecting other vulnerable species.

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Some say they already have. It's likely that increased conservation efforts benefit more than just the tiger.

"When the tiger recovers, you're not only seeing the recovery of that species but you're also protecting large areas ... and so we're able to help conserve literally hundreds if not thousands of other species," Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of the World Wildlife Fund, told NPR.

Of course, tigers continue to face a variety of threats, mostly through interactions with humans. Tigers are still targeted for retaliatory killings after attacks on humans. But experts argue the best way to decrease the odds of dangerous human-tiger interactions is to expand the size of protected wilderness.

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