Nearly 12 tigers have gone missing from the Rajaji National Park, forest department officials said on Monday.

According to official sources here, the latest estimate suggests that there are only 10-12 tigers left in the area, which had a total population of 24 according to the 2005 census. In 2008 census, the tiger count in the park mentioned presence of only 10-12 tigers on the basis of modern census using latest techniques like camera traps.

Rajaji park Director S.S. Raisili said: “The data of 2005 census was based on only pugmark imprints. But the census carried out by Wildlife Institute of India has given the figure of 10-12 tigers based on modern techniques.”

In 2005, tigers vanished from the Sariska wildlife sanctuary prompting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to set up a special task force on the conservation of tigers. Poachers nabbed

Staff Correspondent adds: Police and Wildlife Protection officials nabbed two poachers with two skins of leopards and parts of a bear from Haripur in Kalsi area near here recently. Their companion however managed to escape.

The duo had admitted to killing the animals in the nearby forests and were on their way to sell the skins, officials said.

It may be mentioned that poaching of leopard and musk deer increases in the winters as the animals come down to the forests and villages in lower areas and become easy prey for poachers, a senior forester said.

In its report issued in 2008, titled “Status of Tigers, co-predators and prey in India”, the National Tiger Conservation Authority estimated the tiger population in the Rajaji National Park to be 14, based on a confidence interval of 11 to 17 tigers.

The report said: The smaller tiger population of Rajaji National Park having an occupancy of 390 km2 with an estimated population of 14 (11-17) tigers is sustained by dispersing tigers from Corbett Tiger Reserve. Through, with recent management interventions of translocating resident Gujjar families from Chilla and Dhaulkhand these areas have the potential of sustaining small breeding populations of tigers. If such small breeding populations in mini cores are fostered in Rajaji by good management practices and protection there is a possibility of repopulating the Shivalik Forest Division (UP) with dispersing tigers from Rajaji.

Forest contiguity exists from Corbett to Kalesar in Haryana and onwards in Southern Himachal Pradesh.

Dispersing tigers occasionally traverse the intervening forests. Breeding tiger populations in Rajaji are essential to ensure tiger occupancy of these forests.