India begins census of Royal Bengal tigers

CALCUTTA: Wildlife workers in eastern India have begun counting endangered Royal Bengal tigers in the Sunderbans, the world's largest mangrove forest straddling the Indian-Bangladesh border. 

“The traditional pugmark (paw imprint) counting method is being used to count the big cats in the marshy islands of the forest,” Jogesh Burman, forest minister in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal said yesterday. 

“More than 70 people have been deployed to get the difficult job done.” 

The UN Development Programme, which is assisting in the project, has said the census will give the best snapshot yet of the tiger population in the Sunderbans.  

The tigers are on the verge of extinction because of poaching for their skins and bones, which are used in traditional medicine, and habitat loss due to human encroachment, wildlife authorities say. 

Experts earlier estimated the world's Royal Bengal tiger population at around 5,000 to 6,000 – down from around 100,000 in 1900. – AFP  

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