DHAKA • Bangladesh has only about 100 tigers living in the world's largest mangrove forest, a recent survey has found, and far fewer than previously thought.
About 440 tigers were recorded during a 2004 census in the Sundarbans, one of the world's last remaining habitats for the endangered big cats, and a Unesco World Heritage Site.
But experts said the reason for the huge drop in tiger numbers was better methodology. In fact, the hidden cameras used this time round, rather than pug marks, gave a much more accurate figure.
The government's wildlife conservator Tapan Kumar Dey yesterday said the analysis of camera footage from the year-long survey that ended in April found that tiger numbers ranged between 83 and 130, giving an average of 106.
"So, plus or minus, we have around 106 tigers in our parts of the Sundarbans. It's a more accurate figure," Mr Dey said of the survey, which has not yet been publicly released.
About 74 tigers have been previously counted on the Indian side of the Sundarbans, which makes up nearly 40 per cent of the forest that straddles both countries over 10,000 sq km.
Bengal tigers live mainly in India, where there are 2,226 tigers nationwide, with smaller populations in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar.
Zoology professor Monirul Khan, from Bangladesh's Jahangirnagar University, and the nation's foremost tiger expert, said the new survey confirmed his worst fears. "It seems the population has declined more than what we had feared," Prof Khan said. He added that his own studies showed the figure was no more than 200.
Prof Khan said the government needed to do more to protect the animals, whose numbers were shrinking because of poaching and rapid development on the edge of the forest.