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article imageOnly 100 tigers left in Bangladesh's famed Sundarbans: Survey

By Megan Hamilton     Jul 28, 2015 in Environment
Nestled in the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers in Bangladesh's Bay of Bengal lies the Sundarbans mangrove forest, one of the largest forests in the world.
It is home to the Royal Bengal tiger, whose numbers are in steep decline.
A recent survey shows there are only about 100 of these beautiful big cats living in the forest, and the number is much lower than previously thought, said a top forestry official on Monday, according to the Bangkok Post.
During the previous census in 2004, about 440 tigers were recorded in the Sundarbans, which is a World Heritage site. This is one of the last remaining habitats for Bengal tigers.
Experts say better methodology is the reason for the plummet in numbers, and that this time hidden cameras were used instead of tracking the big cat's pug marks (tiger tracks). The cameras gave a considerably more accurate figure.
The government's wildlife conservator, Tapan Kumar Dey, said that in the year-long survey which ended in April, analysis of camera footage shows that tiger numbers ranged between 83 and 130, but that's been averaged out to 106, The Guardian reports.
"So plus or minus we have around 106 tigers in our parts of the Sundarbans," he said. "It's a more accurate figure." The survey has not been released in public yet, he said in an interview with Agence France-Presse, per The Guardian.
The Indian side of the Sundarbans, where about 74 tigers live, makes up about 40 percent of the forest and straddles both countries over an area of 10,000 square kilometers.
The largest population of Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) lives mostly in India, where there are 2,226, with smaller populations in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China, and Myanmar.
Monirul Khan is a zoology professor at Bangladesh's Jahangirnagar University and he is the nation's foremost tiger expert. The survey confirms his worst fears, The Guardian reports.
"It seems the population has declined more than we had feared," he said, adding that his studies showed the figure was no more than 200.
Khan says the government must do more to protect tigers, whose numbers are shrinking due to poaching and rapid development on the edge of the forest.
Worldwide, populations of these majestic cats have plummeted from 100,000 in 1900 to only 3,200 today and they are in grave danger of becoming extinct in the wild, the World Wildlife Fund says, per The Guardian.
The pugmark tracking system used in 2004 wasn't reliable, officials concluded, so cameras were installed in trees throughout the park for the survey.
This new figure is the "reality," YV Jhala, professor at the Wildlife Institute of India, told Agence France-Presse, per The Guardian. He is also urging authorities to better protect the big cats.
"The 440 figure was a myth and an imagination," he said. "Bangladesh parts of the Sundarbans with its prey size can support up to 200 tigers."
The Bengal tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh, and it's considered to be the second largest of the world's tigers, behind the Siberian tiger,A-Z Animals reports, although recent reports suggest that, on average, the Bengal tiger is larger than its Siberian cousin.
The Siberian Tiger Is the Largest Of the Tigers
Siberian Tigers are listed as "endangered" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List with just 400 living in the wild across Russia and China
Interestingly, the white tiger is a Bengal tiger that has mutated genes, and most of us have seen photos of these gorgeous cats, but there's also black tigers, which have black fur with paler stripes. These are even rarer than white tigers.
White Bengal tiger
White Bengal tiger
Jacob Jose
Bengal tigers are the dominant predators where they live, and hunt by stalking their prey until they can catch it off guard. They primarily hunt larger animals, and this includes deer, wild boar, cattle, and goats, A-Z Animals reports. With their massive size and power, Bengal tigers have no natural predators in their native environment. Humans and the habitat loss that we create are the only threats to this beautiful cat.
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