The Odisha government has said that Royal Bengal Tigers (RBTs) have been spotted in three new locations in the state.
Forest and Environment minister, Bijayshree Routray said on Saturday that RBTs "presence have been reported" from Hemagiri forest in Sundargarh, Debrigad Wildlife Century in Hirakud and Munigada in Rayagada district.
The minister said the presence of the RBTs have been confirmed from pictures captured in cameras installed in the forests.
"There should be around 60 RBTs in Odisha. However, they were not earlier sighted at these three places. Tiger being found in Muniguda of Rayagada district is definitely a good news," said Routray.
The official count as per the 2014 census is 40 tigers in Odisha, said Sandip Tripathy, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wild Life) adding that the current census by NTCA (national tiger conservation authority), Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and Odisha Forest Department is underway.
"Ther result of the current tiger census will be available early next year," Tripathy said.
Meanwhile, the minister said the Forest department has been instructed to take steps to ensure safety of the tigers and maintain their habitation.
"Our forests have huge potential and the population of Royal Bengal Tigers will definitely increase in future," the minister said.
The Centre and the state government had earlier a dispute over the tiger population in Odisha. Citing a 2016 report, the Centre had said that the state had 28 Royal Bengal Tigers, while the Odisha government claimed to be home to 40 RBTs and 318 leopards.
The tiger census report of the state government was also rejected by the NTCA, which had put the number of big cats at 28.
The counting of RBTs was done only in Shimilipal and Satkosia Tiger Reserves and could not be held in other places during 2016, Forest officials said.