It’s official: tigers are disappearing


New Delhi : The government Monday confirmed what wildlife activists have been saying for quite some time: tigers are disappearing in India.

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The environment and forest ministry, which had contested the Wildlife Institute of India's (WII) report that tigers are increasingly disappearing from the country, has finally come around to accept it.

In its partial report, the WII has recorded that there are only 490 tigers in the 16 reserves of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, while the 2002 census had recorded 1,233 tigers in these states.

"The WII is part of the ministry and we had commissioned the survey four years back. We had approved the methodology used by the institute, hence there is no question of not accepting the outcome," Environment and Forest Secretary Pardipto Ghosh told reporters here.

"Let me make it very clear that WII and the ministry are not speaking two different things. But we need to remember that the methodology used is different and the partial report did not take into account the juvenile tigers," Ghosh added.

This time, the WII had used cameras and the pugmark photography method apart from the traditional pugmark counting for the report. It captured the images of big cats, taking into account the number of prey animals and the poaching factor more seriously.

The WII report has said the number of tigers in Madhya Pradesh has gone down to 276 in 2007 from 710 in 2002, a decline of 61 percent. In Maharashtra there were only 102 tigers as against 238 in 2002.

While Rajasthan is home to 32 tigers now as against 58 five years back, Chhattisgarh has 26 tigers left as against a 227 during last census. The counting at the Indravati reserve in Chhattisgarh is still on.

"The use of the scientific method was approved to reduce the error margin but let's not jump to conclusions so early. The final report will come in December 2007," said the secretary, who retires May 31.