Bengal Tigers under threat
Poaching of tigers and its preys in the Sundarbans, commercial boat traffic through different channels and development activities within and near the world’s largest mangrove forest is threatening the Bengal tiger population.
Now only 106 of the big cats are left in Bangladesh, according to a recent census. In total, only 170 tigers live in Bangladesh and Indian parts of the forests.
The report came out just two days ahead of the International Tigers Day, held annually on July 29, to create awareness on tiger conservation.
When asked about the census result, eminent tiger expert Professor Dr Monirul H Khan said it’s true that the number of the tiger has decreased.
In 2004, a pugmark survey estimated some 668 in both parts of the Sundarbans with 440 in Bangladesh part alone.
“The tiger census in 2004 was totally unscientific. But this time it was conducted in a scientific way. So the tiger population decreased but not that it has decreased to 106 from 440,” said Dr Monirul.
Actually, the tiger population was not as high as 440 in 2004, he said, adding he himself conducted a 2006 survey which found around 200 tigers in the forest.
Talking about the latest census, forest department sources said they installed two video cameras face-to-face on two sides of the corridors used by tigers.
A total of 270 cameras have been set up in the three blocks, each having 90 cameras at 45 points under the project, “Strengthening Regional Co-operation for Wildlife Protection Project of the World Bank.”
Later, experts examined the tigers' images captured in the cameras and determine the number of the majestic animals by analysing their stripes. Each tiger has a unique set of stripes just like the fingerprints of humans.
Bengal tigers roamed in 17 districts of Bangladesh only a century ago but now the Sundarbans is their lone habitat in the country.
Along with the year-long camera trapping, the department of Forest and experts from Indian Wildlife Institute carried out a 2,500km khal survey to be certain about the number of tigers.
The survey ended in April this year and estimated the Bengal tiger population could be as low as 83 and as high as 130 in 6,000sq-km of Sundarbans. The mean figure 106 was said as the current population of Tiger.
Contacted, Dr Tapan Kumar Dey, conservator of Forest (Wildlife) said, the methods of two censuses were completely different. This time a better methodology was applied.
“This time we have conducted the census with more scientific method and it gives us a more accurate report,” said Dr Tapan Kumar Dey.
Earlier, Professor YV Jhala, chief consultant of the camera trapping Asked about the impact of Rampal plant project on the Sundarbans, Jhala said it would hamper the tiger conservation programme as continuous movement of water vessels in the rivers bordering the mangrove forest would affect wildlife and their movement across the rivers.