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India Tiger Population Growing Again

March 27, 2011

According to a news report on Saturday, India’s tiger population increased for the first time in decades.

The Indian Express newspaper said that the 2009 to 2010 tiger census for the animals that roam India has jumped to between 1,510 and 1,550 from 1,411 in 2004 through 2005.  

The report came ahead of an international tiger conservation conference due to open on Monday in the Indian capital New Delhi.

India is home to over half of the world’s wild tiger population, but its conservation program has been struggling to halt the tiger’s dwindling numbers.

Tiger conservationists were happy with the news and said the population increase was due to the authorities surveying more areas to conduct the census and creating more tiger reserves.

Tito Joseph, program director at the Wildlife Protection Society of India, told AFP that “the latest census included some of the areas they left out last time because of problems accessing the terrain, like the Sunderbans” which is home to hundreds of tigers.

The Sunderbans mangrove forest sits on the borders of India’s West Bengal state and Bangladesh and lies on the Ganges-Barhmaputra delta.

“They have also set up more tiger reserves. In 2004 there were only 28-33 tiger reserves, now there are 39 reserves, so that’s obviously helped,” Joseph told AFP.

“It’s a good strategy, because tigers need space above all, and if you can create inviolate space their numbers will naturally go up,” he said.

The current tiger population remains a long way off the numbers registered in 2002 when about 3,700 tigers were estimated to be alive in the country.

There were about 40,000 tigers in India at the time of independence from Britain in 1947.

Authorities across Asia are battling poachers and other man-made problems like destruction of the tigers’ habitat due to industrial expansion.

A major poacher trafficking route starts in India and ends in China where tiger parts are highly prized as purported cures for a range of ailments and as aphrodisiacs.

“Tiger skins fetch anywhere around 11,000-21,000 US dollars and bones are sold for about 1,000 US dollars in China,” said Rajesh Gopal, chairman of National Tiger Conservation Authority in New Delhi.

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