Tiger roar likely to get louder

Picture credit to Novojit Dey

The finding of the just concluded tiger census indicates that the number of Royal Bengal Tigers in West Bengal part of Sundarban is set to increase by “at least 10 per cent” compared to last year. The 2016-17 census found 103 tigers including adults & sub-adults. In Bangladesh part, the number of tigers was found to be 121 in 2017 based on a genetic study; an improvement over 106 tigers found by Bangladesh forest department in 2015.

“We had just concluded the tiger census in Indian Sundarban and the results were handed over to Wildlife Institute of India (WII) for analysis. It will take some time to know the exact number” said Nilanjan Mallick, Field Director of Sundarban Tiger Reserve and nodal officer for tiger count in Sundarban to portal. However Mallick admitted that the some of the areas in national park and Sajnekhali range have recorded tiger sightings for the first time.

Biswajit Roychoudhury, a wildlife expert and member of the state wildlife board who was actively associated with the census, observed that “at least 10 per cent increase in tiger number is likely within Indian Sundarban”.

A senior official of the West Bengal forest department has admitted to portal that they also expect the number to rise significantly in 2018 census. “As we have put up double number of camera traps compared to last year as the grids have become halved from erstwhile 4 sq km to 2 sq km; the survey is more robust this year and is likely to capture more number of tigers which we might have missed in earlier census”, stated the official. The official further added that “the sightings of sizeable number of young and sub-adults during the just concluded census is also the tell-tale indicator of a thriving tiger population in Indian Sundarban”.

Kamar Kureshi, a scientist in Wildlife Institute of India (WII), said that they “are also counting the number of prey species in Sundarban to assess the exact number of tigers” as prey count of an area is considered to be an important indicator of maximum number of tigers those can be sustained in that area. According to WII sources, though joint counting of tigers in transboundary Sundarban was originally scheduled this year between Indian and Bangladesh, so far it could not take place. Incidentally transboundary Sundarban, spread within India and Bangladesh, stands fifth in terms of tiger number in global context.

Though tiger survey in Bangladesh in 2018-19 has not started alongside India but results of earlier two surveys –one through camera trapping and the other by genetic study – indicate that the tiger number is also on the rise in Bangladesh Sundarban. Sadinul Hasan, a divisional forest officer in Bangladesh Sundarban, observed that Bangladesh had counted the tigers through camera trapping method – standard methodology being practiced now – for the first time in 2015-16 and identified 106 tigers. Subsequently a research “using non-invasive genetic data to estimate density and population size of the tigers in Bangladesh Sundarbans”, published by Professor Abdul Azij from Jahangirnagar University of Bangladesh with support of Darrel Institute of Conservation; University of Kent; University College of London and some other institutes, calculated 121 tigers in Bangladesh Sundarban. Under the project , a team of 56 researchers collected different tiger body samples from four ranges including Khulna, Satkhira, West Wildlife Sanctuary and Chandpai covering 1994 sq km of forest and sent them to premiere research institutions in Amsterdam, USA and finally to London to confirm that Bangladesh Sundarban forest holds at least 121 tigers.

Earlier Y V Jhala, a tiger expert of Wildlife Institute of India, pointed out that based on earlier census data that the density of tigers in Indian Sundarban is higher than in its Bangladeshi counterpart.;“while there are 4 tigers in every 100 sq km forest of Indian Sundarban , Bangladeshi sundarban has 2.17 tigers in every 100 sq km.

Box
Tiger count : Global vs Sundarban

  • Global tiger population 3890 (2016) as per WWF
    • Indian Sundarban 103 (2016-2017)*, 84 were adults
    • Bangladesh Sundarban 106 (2015)*
    *counted through camera trapping method