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Home / India News / 2007 / May 2007 / May 24, 2007
Wildlife experts ring alarm bell for tiger conservation in India
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Wildlife experts ring alarm bell for tiger conservation in India

The wildlife experts and conservationists have said that the early results from a tiger census indicate that the population of the endangered big cats is drastically lower than previously assumed, and that the situation is grave.

By Ravinder Sheoran

New Delhi, May 24 : The wildlife experts and conservationists have said that the early results from a tiger census indicate that the population of the endangered big cats is drastically lower than previously assumed, and that the situation is grave.

"The situation is very grave. Tigers are threatened in India. All this should do is to make us understand that what we need to do is faster. We do not waste any more time. We have an agenda; we know what has to be done. The question is now to expedite those actions," said Sunita Narayanan, Director of New Delhi based Centre for Science and Environment.

Experts from the government-run Wildlife Institute of India (WII) had presented initial results of a new count of tigers in 16 of India's 28 tiger reserves and their surrounding areas.

The WII, which has been monitoring tiger populations across the country for the past two years, did not give a new estimated national total for tigers but said habitat destruction and human encroachment were leading to declining numbers.

India has half the world's surviving tigers, but conservationists say the country is losing the battle to save the big cats.

There were about 40,000 tigers in India a century ago, but decades of poaching had cut their number to about 3,700, according to a count conducted in 2001 and 2002.

"You really didn't have those kind of tiger numbers for a long time. In our own report we said that for the last 15 years the census methodologies have been very poor. You have been checking the pugmark, which is the footprints of every tiger and we know that you have been double counting and triple counting the footprint, Narayanan said, adding, "This is the first time you have an estimate. So what does the estimate say? The estimate gives you some broad numbers and tells you that there are about 80-90 in a particular reserve or about 300-400 tigers remaining in central India."

Conservationists said they believed the new census results suggested there was a decline of 65 percent in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, which has one of the largest populations of tigers in India.

"Now at last we have concrete facts which unfortunately start with the fact that we have very few tigers left. But also this report clearly says that wherever we have human disturbance tiger's don't flourish. And the tigers are the symbol of India. It's the second largest reason after the Taj Mahal why people come to India. So let's celebrate the tiger. Let's be proud of having this extraordinary animal," said Belinda Wright, director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

Earlier tiger counts had been done solely by spotting their pugmarks (tracks) but conservationists said the method was faulty, mainly due to varying soil and weather conditions.

The new method involves actual tiger sightings using camera traps, as well as pugmarks and faces.

Wright said that while there was a good protection for tigers inside reserves and national parks, the outer areas needed to be equally well protected as tigers often move into buffer areas.

WII experts have said effective tiger conservation would only become a reality if reserves were connected to one another so tigers have a larger area to breed and hunt.

The WII has said full national figures would be released at the end of the year.

ANI

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