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Odisha’s tiger population dwindled by half in 16 years, says national report | India News

Odisha has witnessed a fall in its tiger population, with the number of big cats having decreased by half in 16 years, according to the All India Tiger Estimation 2022 report released on Saturday.

The total number of tigers in the state has dropped from 45 in 2006 to 20 in 2022, a fall of around 55 per cent. The numbers were 28 each in 2018 and 2014, while the tiger count in 2010 was 32.

Besides natural deaths, rampant poaching is also a reason behind the sharp decline in the number of big cats in the state.

However, officials of the forest department have raised questions about the estimation methods—involving camera traps and prey—that the National Tiger Conservation Authority has used since 2006. They say that tigers above the age of one year are being included in the NTCA estimation.

The state government has therefore decided to conduct its own survey. “As ordered by the chief minister during the last review of departmental work in May, we will carry out the estimation ourselves in the state starting from October. This exercise will provide the updated status of the tigers in the state,” said S K Popli, principal chief conservator of forests.

Anup Nayak, former additional director-general (project tiger) and member secretary of the NTCA, said the fall in the number of tigers was a cause for concern. “Though Odisha has habitats for tigers, there is a need to increase the prey base to sustain the tiger population. Officials should ensure that the populations of chital, sambhar and deer increase,” he told The Indian Express.

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The Satkosia Tiger Reserve, which had one tiger in 2018, remained tiger-less in 2022. But the Similipal Tiger Reserve saw the number double in four years—from eight in 2018 to 16.

The tigers of Similipal represent a unique lineage of central Indian tigers as melanistic big cats are occasionally found in the reserve. It is the only home of such tigers in the world, according to the website of the reserve.

Experts describe the tigers as pseudo-melanistic as they have both black and yellow stripes interspersed on their bodies.

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