Sundarbans have only 90 tigers
Monday 25th July 2011

KOLKATA: It is neither 274, nor 64, the exact number of tigers in the Sundarbans is 90. Recently, the Wild Life Institute of India (WLII) has informed this to the state forest department, said state's chief wild life warden Sitanshu Bikash Mondal.

Earlier, the WLII set the figure at 64, while the state forest departments used to claim that there were 274 tigers in the Sundarbans and the tiger population was ever increasing.

Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) earlier carried out study to refute the claim of the state forest department. The ISI study revealed that the number of Royal Bengal tigers in Sundarbans would be some where closed to 70. However, the forest department questioned the veracity of this study.
According to WLII, there are 1627 tigers in India. Unlike rest of the forests in India, it is really difficult to carry out tiger census in Sundarbans. The entire area is strewn with pneumatophores or breathing roots of mangrove trees. Routinely, each island gets completely inundated. So it is next to impossible to physically access every part of the Sundarbans.

So, WLII and the forest department jointly put camera traps, put radio-collars around some tiger's neck and of course analyse the tiger scat to identify the DNA of the tiger. The tiger scat were collected periodically by the forest guards.

The number of tiger in Sundarbans is difficult to ascertain. More than half of Sundarbans is in our neighbouring country Bangladesh and tiger never follow the political boundaries created by human beings. So tigers often move around a wider area across the Sundarbans. Unless it is a joint Indo-Bangla tiger census, the tiger-population in Sundarbans is difficult to as-certain, said a senior forest officer.

The Indo-Bangla joint initiative was first taken up by the then union forest minister Jairam Ramesh. Ramesh made it a point by inviting the Bangladesh forest minister in Kolkata to take the initiative forward. Now it is up to new forest and environment minister Jayanti Natarajan to take the is-sue forward farther.

According to the forest department, there are 185 rhinoceros. But the gender ratio is quite skewed. To strike a balance, 20 male rhinoceros of North Bengal will be exchanged with 20 female rhinos of Kaziranga national park, Assam shortly.