The coverage of protected areas has risen to 5.03 per cent from 4.90 per cent of the country’s geographical area since the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government came to power in 2014, officials said on Saturday.

Highlighting the government’s wildlife conservation efforts, they said there were 740 protected areas covering 1,61,081.62 sqkm in 2014 and their number is now 981 with an area of 1,71,921 sq km.

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During the day, Modi released eight cheetahs brought from Namibia in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park in a boost to the country’s wildlife.

Forest and tree cover has increased by 16,000 sqkm in the last four years. India is among the few countries in the world where forest cover is consistently increasing, they said.

“There has also been an increase in the number of community reserves. From 43 in 2014, their numbers shot up to more than 100 in 2019,” an official said.

India is home to 52 tiger reserves covering approximately 75,000 sqkm area in 18 states, housing approximately 75 per cent of the global population of wild tigers.

The country achieved the goal of doubling the tiger numbers in 2018 itself, four years in advance from the targeted year 2022, officials noted.

The tiger population in India increased from 2,226 in 2014 to 2,967 in 2018.

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The budgetary allocation for tiger conservation has increased from Rs 185 crore in 2014 to Rs 300 crore in 2022, officials said.

The population of Asiatic lions has also shown a steady increase with a population of 674 from 523 in 2015, an increase of 28.87 per cent — one of the highest growth rates so far– they said.

India had 12,852 leopards as compared to the previous estimate of 7,910 in 2014, registering an increase of over 60 per cent in their population, they noted.