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 user 2007-05-25 at 1:42:00 pm Views: 76
  • #17932

    India tigers ‘in rapid decline’
    India has far fewer tigers living in the wild than had been thought, initial results from a major new study suggest.
    Wildlife Institute of India census showed tiger numbers falling in some
    states by two-thirds in five years. A final report is due out in
    December.India’s last major survey in 2002 put tiger numbers at 3,500.
    That was far too optimistic, say conservationists.They blame poaching
    and urbanisation for the decline and say the authorities must do more
    before time runs out.A century ago India was believed to have tens of
    thousands of tigers.

    The new survey, conducted
    over two years, was the most ambitious ever undertaken to try to stem
    the decline in the population of India’s tigers.It found the largest
    decline in the tiger population to be in the central state of Madhya
    Pradesh, where the number of big cats has gone down from 710 to 255 in
    the past five years.”The figures are quite different from what we have
    seen earlier,” said Mr Rajesh Gopal, secretary general of the
    government’s Tiger Conservation Authority of India, which also took
    part in the survey.Mr Gopal said the new study was far more detailed
    than any previous research.Results are available only for some regions
    and a total overall figure is not expected until later this year.But
    conservationists say the 2002 census badly overestimated tiger
    number.Wildlife experts have criticised the Indian government for
    failing to crack down on poachers and the illegal trade in tiger
    skins.”The results are depressing,” Belinda Wright, director of the
    Wildlife Protection Society of India, told the Associated Press news
    agency.”But it’s a major step forward that a government study has
    finally come to terms with this disastrous decrease in tiger numbers,”
    she said.

    Pricey pelts
    According to reports, there were
    40,000 tigers in India a century ago.The country is home to 40% of the
    world’s tigers, with 23 tiger reserves in 17 states.Tigers are poached
    for their body parts – skins are prized for fashion and tiger bones are
    used for oriental medicines.Tiger pelts can fetch up to $12,500 in
    China.Some conservationists say forest officials often inflate the
    number of sightings to paint a rosy picture of how India’s tigers are
    surviving.Tiger expert Valmik Thapar says the government has failed to
    protect its tigers.He says instead of wasting time and energy on
    carrying out the new survey, the government should concentrate instead
    on protecting tigers.