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New Tiger Count in Bangladesh Serves as a Reality Check

Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris). Photo courtesy of flickrfavorites via flickr.
Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris). Photo courtesy of flickrfavorites via flickr.

When a census of tigers in Bangladesh’s Sundarbans was taken in 2004, environmentalists were living in a fantasy world, thinking that there were 440 of these big cats still roaming the forests. A recent survey published on Monday, July 27, shattered the illusion by concluding that there are now only around 100 tigers residing in the world’s largest mangrove forest.

Experts say that the drastic drop in numbers is a result of a better counting methodology. The recent census utilized hidden cameras to more accurately measure animal populations as opposed to the former method of searching for pugmarks – footprints – to track individuals.

An analysis of the camera footage from a year-long survey that ended in April revealed numbers ranging from 83 to 130, or an average of 106, explained Tapan Kumar Dey, of the government’s wildlife conservation office.

Y.V. Jhala, a professor at the Wildlife Institute of India is urging authorities to take more action toward better protecting the cats.

“The 440 figure was a myth and an imagination. Bangladesh and parts of the Sundarbans with its prey size can support up to 200 tigers,” said Jhala.

These numbers from Bangladesh are unfortunately a representation of what is happening with tiger populations around the world. As a whole, this stately species is endangered. An estimated 2,226 Bengal tigers still live in India, with smaller populations in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar.

According to Panthera, as recently as 100 years ago, there were as many as 100,000 wild tigers living in Asia. Today, fewer than 3,200 remain. And while six subspecies continue to endure, three have gone extinct in the last 80 years – the Javan, Caspian and Bali subspecies.

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