Dhaka, July 29 (IANS) The exact number of tigers living in the Bangladesh part of the Sundarbans will be determined by 2019, officials conducting a census in the country’s lone natural tiger habitat have said.
THE Bangladesh Forest Department is conducting the census in collaboration with WildTeam, an NGO working for tiger conservation, in Satkhira, Khulna, Sharankhola and Chandpai ranges of the Sundarbans using the camera trapping method, the Dhaka Tribune reported on Friday.
The census, under the Bengal Tiger Conservation Activity project, began in November 2016 to determine the exact number of tigers in the world’s largest mangrove forest, of which around 60 per cent lies in Bangladesh.
The most recent census concluded in 2015 recorded only 106 tigers in the Bangladeshi Sundarbans, down from 440 in 2004.
The census will determine if the number has been constant, fallen or has risen.
The data collection for the census has been completed in Satkhira range. It will be extended to the Khulna, Sharankhola and Chandpai ranges by 2019.
According to officials, primary monitoring and count in Satkhira began on December 1 and ended on March 15. A total of 45 officials divided into six teams conducted the survey.
“We set up 804 cameras at 402 stations in the range to collect data of tiger movement and density in the area,” said Sayed Ali, divisional forest officer at the Sundarbans West Zone.
Using photos taken by the cameras, the population in Satkhira range will be determined by analysing the stripes on the tigers — each tiger has its own unique set of stripes.
“We will get the accurate number of tigers in Satkhira by September,” Sayed said.
Besides the camera trapping method, the team has also surveyed tiger activity in the canals.
Amir Hossain Chowdhury, director of the census project, said: “The photos are being analysed using the latest technologies. Once the analysis is done, we will get an idea about the population density and footprints of tigers in Satkhira.”
“It might take two more years to complete the survey in the entire Sundarbans and find the exact number of tigers in the forest,” Amir said.
The Forest Department has undertaken the project following the declaration at the International Tiger Forum which took place in St Petersburg in 2010.
According to the Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Division, the previous census began in November 2013 and ended in 2015, also using a camera trapping method.
At that time, the census covered just the areas with high population density, which amounted to only 26 per cent of the 6,017 square km of the mangrove forest inside Bangladesh.
Thirty officials conducted the census using photos collected by 90 cameras, and recorded only 106 tigers living in the Sundarbans.
The population was 453 in 1982 and 440 in 2004, according to the Forest Department.
The department attributed the massive drop in numbers in just a decade to illegal poaching of wildlife and increasing human-tiger conflict.
At least 49 tigers were killed and 232 people killed in tiger-human conflict between 2001 and 2014, the official said.
The Royal Bengal Tiger has been listed as “endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since 2010.