Not too long ago, India was facing an acute tiger crisis when the total cat count came down to 1,411 in 2006. It was a sharp drop from nearly 100,000 tigers in the wild at the beginning of the 20th century in India.
Over the years, illegal poaching, loss of forest cover and the booming international market in smuggled tiger parts, especially to cater to the huge appetite for them in China, have contributed to the steady decline.
In China, the growing demand for tiger bone wine, which is believed to be a treatment for rheumatism and impotence, has even given rise to a tiger farming industry in recent years.
Tigers are found in the wild in 18 Indian states. “We have the world’s best managed tiger reserves," Javadekar said, praising the focused conservation efforts in recent years.
But the growth can also create a new challenge for India and an opportunity for the world.
“There is a carrying capacity of each tiger reserve. We will have many more now,” Javadekar said. “We can even give it to the world community, those who want to preserve and increase the number of tigers in their reserves.”
Ironically, the spike in tiger numbers comes amid reports of rising deaths. In November, Javadekar told parliament that 274 tigers died in the last four years, which is the highest toll between two tiger censuses. Of this, only 62 were natural deaths.
India showed a marginal increase in the last tiger census as well – from 1,411 to 1,706 four years ago – but some conservationists questioned the data collection methods used in the survey.
In the current count, 9,735 cameras were used. Javadekar boasted that such a large number of cameras have never been used anywhere in the world for a tiger census. Officials said that about 70 percent of the tigers were captured individually by camera-traps during the count, leaving very little room for dodgy extrapolation of data.