Assam forest department's claim of increasing tiger population was not only false but has been made with the aim of getting money from various funding agencies, a prominent conservationist organisation claimed today.

"Forest officials have claimed that the tiger population in Assam has increased but the fact is that it is decreasing alarmingly and a group of people are grabbing money from various agencies by making such claims," Nature Beckons' Director Soumyadeep Dutta told reporters in Guwahati.

If Kaziranga National Park harbours 32 tigers per 100 sq km as claimed, then tiger sightings would be very common and the total number of the animals in the Park should be 160. Reports available through RTI have also proved the rapid disappearance of tiger species from the forests of Assam, he said.

The Forest Department on Sept. 15 provided the tiger census report of 1993 and 2000 according to which there were 430 tigers in 1993 but went down to 346 in 2000.

"During the seven years period (1993-2000) alone we have lost 84 tigers and the Forest Department did not take any effective measures to counter this situation. Instead it began manipulating the data to grab the money meant for the conservation of the species," Dutta added.

He appealed to all officials, NGOs and people to work for the conservation of the wild cat in Assam which is the richest in terms of its diversity with eight species.

Among the eight species - tiger, leopard, leopard cat, clouded leopard, golden cat, jungle cat, fishing cat and marble cat - seven, barring the jungle cat, are listed as endangered species, he said.

Nature Beckons also appealed to the state government to immediately declare the Poba Reserve forest in Dhemaji district and Ultapani Reserve Forest of Kokrajhar as sanctuaries to preserve the wild cats.

It also appealed for steps to improve the socio-economic condition of the people in the forest village and fringe areas and improvement of the living standards of the lower grade employees of the forest department ensuring their financial security.