The Government of India under the ‘Directive Principles of State Policy’ is constitutionally mandated to strive towards wildlife conservation. In this article, we analyse how the population of some of the animals have trended in recent times.
India’s Gir sanctuary in Gujarat is most probably the last abode to Asiatic lion in the world. Even here, population of lion had dwindled due to many factors like animal-human conflict, deforestation, or disrupted predator-prey relationship.
However, the Chief Minister of Gujarat was recently quoted in the report below, saying that the number of Asiatic lions has increased to 600, up from 523 in 2015 census. This increase has been attributed to the continuous government efforts and support from local people.
Being a state animal, the government has repeatedly shown its commitment to the cause of safeguarding the endangered species. Recently, the Government of Gujarat was faced with the spread of viral infection that took lives of 21 Gir lions, as reported. Taking serious cognizance, the government has roped in experts and veterinary doctors to control the spread of virus.
India houses the largest population of tigers in the world. Despite increasing man and animal conflicts, due to paucity of land, the government’s efforts, declaring several dedicated protected areas and ensuring consistent increase in their areal coverage have proven to be beneficial for animal conversation, especially in case of tigers which are protected in about 50 tiger reserves.
Table: Estimated Population of tigers in India
Source: Lok Sabha Reply
**** Tiger Population census 2018 is ongoing and data is likely to be released by January 2019.
The population of tigers rose by more than 30 percent between 2010 and 2014. The tiger population census, conducted at the interval of every 4 years, is ongoing for the year 2018, data for which is likely be released by January 2019. As per the preliminary findings of the ongoing census, the government is expecting a rise in the numbers of the tiger as many measures like checking poaching activities have been taken.
As per the above report published in December 2017, there is a notable increase in the big cat population in the state surveys. The results of the state survey will also reflect in the total tiger population across the country, that may reach around 3000.
India houses a huge population of elephant. They have been labelled as the ‘Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered’ (EDGE) species. As per the ‘Synchronised Elephant Population Estimation India 2017’ survey, a population of 27,312 has been estimated in the country. Experts and wildlife conservationists have found this population to be stable.
Some animal activists noted a decline in absolute numbers from 2012 census which may have been due to a difference in the counting method. Elephant Expert and Head of the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF) R Sukumar, who has been studying elephant population for 20 years, commenting on the decline in absolute number of elephant population from 2012, said,
“We have a healthy elephant population in India. There is no question of decline. In fact, there may have been a slight increase.”
In fact, there was a duplication in counting and errors were reported in the census of 2012.
India declared Gangetic dolphin to be its national aquatic animal in 2009. This species has always faced a threat from fisherman as well as pollution in the River Ganga. However, there has been an increase in the sightings of Gangetic dolphin. In a recent dolphin mapping project conducted in collaboration with WWF India, as many as 110 dolphins were spotted in a stretch between Kaushambi and Handia. The efforts of the government towards reducing the pollution in this stretch are producing positive results.
Kashmiri Stag (Hangul)
The population of one of the most endangered species of India which was on the verge of extinction has been revived. There is a positive trend in the numbers. BJP MLA and the then Minister for Forest Lal Singh, on the floor of the assembly, had said, number of hanguls at the Dachigam National Park (where most of the hanguls are found) stood at 182 as per the latest census of March 2017.
Government efforts in this direction are bearing fruits. The hangul population in 2015 was estimated as low as 81 (lower range) which was on a declining trajectory since 2011. The government was able to reverse the trend by 2017, as seen in the rising numbers.
Above study suggests the manner in which the Union and state governments along with people’s participation are coming together to ensure India’s animal population is progressively enhanced and conserved, since they form an integral part of ecology.
There is much more to be achieved towards this cause, especially in the background of fast paced urbanisation and increasing deforestation. A cue can be taken from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has made the following observation in his recent op-ed, ‘The green state of mind’:
“Today human society stands at an important crossroad. The path that we take hereon will not only determine our well-being but also that of the generations who will inhabit our planet after us. The imbalances between our greed and necessities have led to grave ecological imbalances. We can either accept this, go ahead with things as if it is business as usual, or we can take corrective actions.”