The previous census, carried out in 2004, announced a total population of 440 tigers living in Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest. Ten years later, during an evaluation year, results indicate that only around one hundred now remain.
Several factors can explain this decrease. Firstly, techniques have evolved. Ten years ago, an estimate of the number of Bengal tigers in the area was reached through a random sampling method based on counting tiger print marks, which are indirect signs of their presence. This technique is now considered unreliable and has been replaced by the use of cameras equipped with movement detectors placed in trees.
Whilst previously recorded figures may lack reliability, Bangladesh’s wild tiger population is continuing to decline, in real terms. Renaud Fulconis, Director of Awely notes that “China and Vietnam are significant consumers of tiger-based products for use in traditional medicine. Furthermore, the Sundarbans shelters armed groups that are involved in this illegal trade, on an international scale. Added to this, there has been a sharp decline in the availability of the felines’ prey in the area. This revised population figure is undoubtedly much closer to reality than the 2004 data.”
Hunting, as well as intensification of poaching, heavy human pressure on the tigers’ habitat and rapid development of land on the forest edge mean that the species is in danger of disappearing. It’s in this context that out local partner, WildTeam carries out anti-poaching activities, by boat, in the Sundarbans region. The organisation also works for the conservation of the tigers’ prey and habitat. In addition, awareness-raising campaigns have been put into place and volunteer patrols formed to help keep the animals away from villages, without putting them in danger.