The figure exceeded the estimates of the 2011 census

There are more Royal Bengal tigers in the Sundarbans than was earlier thought. Exceeding the estimates of the 2011 census, West Bengal’s Forest Department has announced that the minimum identified tiger count in the unique natural habitat stands at 103.     

The study, conducted by setting up camera trap stations in the four ranges of the Sundarban Tiger Reserve (STR) and the adjoining South 24 Parganas districts, is based on over 800 photographs of the animals in the wild.

Of the 3,500 sq km of the Indian side of Sundarbans, about 40-45 per cent is water. This leaves about 2,000 sq km for the tigers, Pradip Vyas, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), told The Hindu on Saturday. He said the figures indicated that there was presence of a tiger in every 20 sq km of the delta.

 The density of tiger population varied for a tiger from 14 sq km to 18 sq km in a mainland forest. The study indicated Sundarbans was a healthy habitat despite shortage of the prey base for the animal. Sundarbans were only mangrove forests, he noted.

 The figures released on Friday point out that there are 22 tigers in South 24 Parganas forest and 81 in the STR.  Of the 81, there are 27 tigers in the National Park (West) zone of the STR, 22 in the National Park (East) zone, while 19 tigers were spotted in the Sajnekhali and 13 in the Basirhat ranges respectively.

 According to field director of the STR Soumitra Dasgupta, about 55 pairs of camera traps were set up in each zones between October 2012 to March 2013.

 “The results are very encouraging,” Mr. Dasgupta said, pointing out that the 2011 figures was based on a statistical extrapolation on the survey conducted on a small area.  In the survey, the lowest figure was 64 and the highest was 90 with 77 being the mean value of the tiger count.

  The study was conducted in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund For Nature (WWF) and Wildlife Institute of India.

 “These types of studies are the future model of wildlife conservation in the country,” Mr. Vyas said. Prior to the study it was difficult to assess the tiger population in the delta, which was very hostile and challenging terrain, he added.

 “We have obtained baseline figures in the study. The exercise has to be repeated a number of times and we will have to see that there is a scope for optimisation,” Anurag Danda, Head Climate Change and Sunderban Landscape of WWF, said.   

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