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Tiger population in NE increasing

By Kalyan Barooah

NEW DELHI, July 28 - Tiger population in the North-East including Brahmaputra flood plains has continued with its increasing trend and has recorded an estimated population of around 219 tigers. The tiger population has shown promising trend in Brahmaputra flood plains, but Nameri and Pakke block has shown a decreasing trend.

The findings were a part of the Tiger Census Report released on the eve of Global Tiger Day here today by Union Minister for Environment and Forest, Prakash Javadekar.

According to the All India Tiger Estimation Report 2018-19 released by the Prime Minister, the State has emerged as the seventh highest tiger populated State in India. As per the report, the total number of tigers in Assam was 190.

The report mentions about the problems of encroachment within Kaziranga National Park, unabated coal mining in other forest areas, among others.

A chapter titled North Eastern Hills and Brahmaputra Flood Plains said that camera trap based mark-recapture and density estimates of tigers were obtained from eight sites of the Brahmaputra flood plain and North East hills landscape. Tiger presence was also recorded from newly formed Kamlang Tiger Reserve and Nampdapha Tiger Reserve.

The Brahmaputra flood plains have high prey biomass and support high density of tigers. The Kaziranga population is one single largest source tiger population in this landscape. Kaziranga tiger population is connected to Orang Tiger Reserve on the west, Nameri, and Pakke Tiger Reserve in the north through the island systems of Brahmaputra.

Significantly, the report also mention about encroachment of the fertile river islands inside Kaziranga National Park. The river islands or 'chaporis' play an important and vital habitat link to maintain gene flow between plains and hill population of tigers (in Arunachal Pradesh). But, these river islands being extremely fertile for agriculture and pasture for livestock are mostly encroached being a major hindrance for animal movement.

Kaziranga population has almost lost the connectivity to the North Bank of the Brahmaputra. The Orang Tiger Reserve also has a significant tiger population; however the connectivity of this population to Kaziranga in south and Nameri- Pakke in north is being disrupted due to increasing human settlements and 'khutis' (cattle farms).

Kaziranga is connected to Karbi Anglong Hills in the south and further to Intanki National Park through some degraded forest areas. This connectivity to Karbi Anglong is crucial for dispersal of tigers and other wildlife species that use these hills as refuge during the floods. Unfortunately, the limited surveys conducted in the Karbi Anglong Hills during this estimation did not record any tiger signs.

The NH 37 runs through the southern boundary of Kaziranga National Park. It is crucial to manage traffic on the highway passing through Kaziranga by appropriate mitigation measures so that infrastructure do not form a barrier for movement of wildlife to Karbi Anglong.

Also mining and stone quarrying and stone crushing in Karbi Anglong Hills are matter of concern and the Assam Government has already been requested to put a ban on mining activities in these sensitive areas. Intanki National Park is also connected westwards through forests up to Balphakram National Park. Surveys and camera trapping, though limited, did not record any tiger sign in Intanki as well.

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