Wild Bengal tigers are becoming more of a rarity in the world. A recent census in Bangladesh showed that the actual number of the country’s national animal is significantly less than previously believed, and some speculate that the Bengal tiger may go from endangered to extinct in the near future.
Bangladesh is home to what was recently believed to be approximately 440 Bengal tigers, who reside in a unique area of the country called the Sundarbans.
The Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, run along the northern coast of the Indian ocean, and are home to the world’s largest tiger population, which is split between Bangladesh and India.
Though roughly 60 percent of the Sundarbans lie in Bangladesh, a recent census determined that there are substantially fewer Bengal tigers in the Bangladesh Sundarbans than originally thought, and that has conservationists concerned.
“It seems the population has declined more than we had feared,” said Monirul Khan, a zoology professor at Jahangirnagar University, in an interview with The Guardian.
The Bengal tiger population in Bangladesh has decreased from 440 tigers, to a mere 106 tigers inhabiting the Sundarbans.
“So plus or minus we have around 106 tigers in our parts of the Sundarbans. It is a more accurate figure,” said Tapan Kumar Dey, the Bangladesh wildlife conservator, in an interview with The Guardian.
Dey spoke of the decline in the Bengal tiger population, and the attribution of that decline to inflated population calculations in the 2004 census.
Pugmarks, a method of identifying and tracking animals via footprint analysis, was used in the 2004 census, and has since been replaced by hidden cameras, a far more accurate method of observation, identification, and calculation of the tiger populous.
“The 440 figure was a myth and an imagination. Bangladesh parts of the Sundarbans with its prey size can support up to 200 tigers,” said YV Jhala, professor at the Wildlife Institute of India, in an interview with Agence France Presse.
But even with an error in the 2004 census calculation, and using Jhala’s estimation of 200 tigers in the Sundarbans at the time instead, it would mean that with the current population at 106 tigers, the tiger population in Bangladesh has been reduced by half since 2004.
Several factors may be contributing to the rapid decline, one of which is climate change.
“This area harbours Bengal tigers and protects coastal regions from storm surges and wind damage. However, rising sea levels that were caused by climate changes threaten to wipe out these forests and the last remaining habitat of this tiger population.” said the International Union for Conservation of Nature on it’s site promoting International Tiger Day.
Conservationists want the Bangladeshi government to step up and help save the tigers through greater administration and enforcement of anti-poaching laws, as Bangladesh does not legally protect tigers to the extent that other governments do, according to Inhabitat.
Development is also soon to have an impact on the Sundarbans and its ecosystem. Construction has begun on a coal-fired power plant located in Rampal, less than nine miles from the Sundarbans, according to The Daily Star.
Noise and environmental pollutants, air and water quality could all be negatively impacted by the coal-based plant, affecting the Sundarbans ecosystem, and the Bengal tiger population.
[Image courtesy of Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images]