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Tiger count up in Sunderbans

The number of sightings in a week has gone up to six times since the lockdown
A tiger captured by a pair of camera traps in the Sunderbans
A tiger captured by a pair of camera traps in the Sunderbans
Tlegraph picture

Snehal Sengupta   |   Calcutta   |   Published 06.05.20, 11:52 PM

The big cat count in the Sunderbans is nearing hundred, the latest census conducted by the forest department has revealed.

The findings of the 2019-20 census shared by the state administration on Wednesday counted at least 96 in the Indian territory.

The 2018 national tiger census, the results of which were made public in July 2019, had pegged the number of tigers in the Sunderbans at 88, up from 76 in 2014.

The state, however, conducts a census of the big cats every year. The 2018-19 state census had coincided with the national census.

Sightings, too, have gone up in the Sunderbans because of the lockdown, forest officials said.

“Before the lockdown, when tourists were allowed, forest officials would report not more than two sightings a week,” said Sudhir Das, the director of the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve.

The number of sightings in a week has gone up to six times since the lockdown, Das said, mainly because “launches and motorboats have stopped plying “.

Rajib Banerjee, the state forest minister, said there were 23 male tigers, 43 females and 11 cubs among the 96.

Senior forest officials attributed the rise in the number of tigers to a healthy prey base in the area.

The forest department had placed 714 pairs of all-weather night vision camera traps in December.

The photographs clicked by these cameras were analysed by software capable of of identifying tigers by their stripes. “The stripes of each tiger are unique. The software can identify individual tigers by their stripes,” said Ravi Kant Sinha, the chief wildlife warden of Bengal.

Joydip Kundu, a member of the state board for wildlife and general secretary of the Society for Heritage & Ecological Researches (SHER), said the rise in count was shot in the arm for tiger conservation efforts.



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