Wildlife conservation efforts in India recently got a fillip when 14 tiger reserves were awarded the Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CATS) status. The tiger reserves thus recognised are Manas, Kaziranga and Orang in Assam, Satpura, Kanha and Panna in Madhya Pradesh, Pench in Maharashtra, Valmiki Tiger Reserve in Bihar, Dudhwa in Uttar Pradesh, Sunderbans in West Bengal, Parambikulam in Kerala, Bandipur Tiger Reserve of Karnataka and Mudumalai and Anamalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu.
Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CATS) has been agreed upon as an accreditation tool by the global coalition of Tiger Range Countries (TRCs) and has been developed by tiger and protected area experts. Officially launched in 2013, it sets minimum standards for effective management of target species and encourages assessment of these standards in relevant conservation areas. CATS is a set of criteria which allows tiger sites to check if their management will lead to successful tiger conservation.
Tiger conservation in India took off as a major activity under Project Tiger in 1973. A tiger census conducted in 1972 (tiger hunting was banned in 1970) estimated there were 1,827 tigers in the country against an estimated 40,000 at the turn of the 20th century. The Wildlife Protection Act also came into force in 1972. According to the 2018 tiger census, there is an estimated 2,967 tigers in India, of which 2,461 tigers have been photographed through camera traps. Guinness World Records (in 2020) has also recognised the camera trap survey as the largest such wildlife survey undertaken.
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It is well established that tigers are an &lsquoumbrella species&rsquo, and by focusing on tiger conservation, the forest they live in is also protected to the highest standards, with all the faunal and floral species benefiting from it too.
The Indian tiger reserves recognised under CATS are also part of the tourism circuit of the states they belong to. Although winter is the most convenient time to visit these tiger reserves, peak summer is the best time when the chance of meeting the magnificent beast is more. Most of these reserves have well-defined tourist zones, accessible with special permits.