The latest estimation of tiger numbers in the Indian Sunderbans indicate an increase in the population of big cats. According to the West Bengal Forest Department, the tiger count for the year 2019-20 rose to 96, from 88 in 2018-19.
The Sunderbans delta, spread over India and Bangladesh, is the only mangrove forest in the world inhabited by tigers. Giving details of the tiger estimation exercise, West Bengal Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee said that the increase in the number by eight was significant as it was the biggest annual jump reported from the Sunderbans. Previously, the highest yearly increase of tigers in the Sunderbans had been seven, he added.
“Considering the images of tigers, which we received during the estimation exercise, we can say that the habitat can sustain more number of tigers in future,” Mr. Banerjee said.
The estimation revealed that of the 96 tigers, 23 were identified as male and 43 as female, while the sex of 30 big cats could not be determined. The survey also revealed the presence of 11 tiger cubs. The estimation exercise was carried out in two phases: the first period commencing on December 16 and ending on January 13, and the second phase starting on January 22 and ending on February 19.
“For the first period, a total of 1,156 Cuddeback camera traps (578 pairs) were installed in the Sunderban Tiger Reserve and during the second period, 272 camera traps (136 pairs) were installed in the 24 Parganas (South) Division,” the State Forest Department said.
The Sunderban mangrove forest is spread over 2,585 sq. km and includes the Sundarban Tiger Reserve and the 24 Parganas (South) Division. While 23 tigers were found in 24 Parganas (South) Division, 73 big cats tigers were recorded inside the four divisions of the Sunderban Tiger Reserve.
Estimation of the number of tigers in the Sunderbans, a world heritage as well as a Ramsar site, has always been a challenge because of the difficult terrain that comprises dense mangrove forests, with creeks and rivulets, and floods twice a day during the high tides.