It’s good news from the wild for once, as officials in India have reported multiple sightings of rare tiger cubs in a region once so famous for its tigers, it was named the “Tiger State”.
Bengal tigers are mainly found in India, with small populations in Nepal, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. Hunted to near extinction, the reserves created in India in the 1970s have helped stabilize tiger numbers, though demand for tiger parts from Asia is growing again, meaning poaching is on the rise.
Madhya Pradesh, a huge forested state in central India, has six national tiger reserves. The latest tiger census, taken every four years, suggests the state's tiger numbers could be up to 400, up from 308 counted in the 2014 census.
However, the start of 2019 has seen 14 tigers killed so far in the state, so reports of 11 rare cubs spotted across three national reserves in just one week is very exciting.
Five little furballs have been spotted in the Panna Tiger Reserve, and three each in Nauradehi and Ratapani, Times of India reports.
In Nauradehi, where the fluffy trio were spotted on May 9, it’s the first tiger cub births in years. Thought to be the first litter of two tigers translocated from Kanhna and Bandhavgarh, Radha and Kishen, they are so precious they now have an official armed guard, officials have said.
In Panna National Reserve, a collared and tracked tiger has had two cubs, while an uncollared one has had three. This is incredible for the reserve after losing its entire population to poaching, destruction of habitat and dying of old age without reproducing, back in 2009. The park reintroduced the big cats back into the reserve by translocating some from other more populous parks, and according to the last census houses 47 tigers – now, plus five.
“We have 52 tigers in Panna now,” K S Bhadoria, field director of Panna announced, Times of India reports. The locations are being kept secret from most, but are reportedly deep in the dense forests.
Officials in Ratapani Reserve also reported three cubs spotted near Obaidullaganj, bringing its tiger total up to 23.
These numbers will change when the official 2018 tiger census by the National Tiger Conservation Authority is released, most likely in June. It has currently been delayed by the sheer amount of data to analyze, as the 2018 report sees the inclusion of three more states, on top of the previous 18.
The first tiger census was conducted back in 2006, estimating a countrywide total of 1,411. In 2010 that total rose to 1,706, and again to 2,226 in 2014. If the population increase is on a similar upward trend as the previous years, we could be looking at an estimated 2,870 tigers currently in India.
India holds 70 percent of the world's population of tigers, and though it appears its tiger population is increasing, globally the tiger is still listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List due to a continuing population decline. Hopefully, this good news is a sign of things to come.