In official and distressing figures released last week by the newly-minted National Tiger Conservation Authority (set up to implement India's Project Tiger), the latest estimated count of tigers remaining in India’s protected forests hovers at a mere 1,411 – less than half of the 3,642 tigers tallied during the last census of 2001-2002. India is believed to be home to about half of the world’s remaining wild tiger population.
The main culprits for this decline are poaching, habitat loss and the increasing scarcity of prey. Across the border in China and in other parts of Southeast Asia, tiger-derived products and medicines are in demand, further pushing the tiger toward extinction.But according to the secretary of the Tiger Project, Rajesh Gopal, there is still hope to be found in the fact that the government is setting up eight new tiger reserves, covering 30,000 square kilometres of known tiger territory. In addition to this and in the face of immense international pressure of "too little, too late", the government also recently set up a wildlife crime control bureau to keep poaching of tigers and other endangered animals in check.
Though the announcement seems grim, three other important tiger habitats were omitted from the count, while census work carries on in mangrove forests of the Sundarbans, located in the eastern state of West Bengal. Due to the risk posed by Maoist rebels, the census also omitted eastern Jharkhand and central Chhattisgarh.