3 Apr 2011

Indian tigers still under threat despite rise in numbers

8:09 am on 3 April 2011

The number of wild tigers in India has increased according to the latest figures from the Government.

A Census has counted 1706 tigers in forests across India. There were 1411 tigers at the last count in 2007.

But threats to their roaming territory could reverse those gains.

Officials are concerned about the amount of territory that tigers have to roam in.

India has more than 45,000 sq km of forest area in 39 designated tiger reserves.

But Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh described the shrinking of tiger corridors as "alarming".

Wildlife experts say the preservation of these corridors should be a priority for the government.

Conservationists used hidden cameras installed at strategic points and DNA tests to count the cats.

Earlier estimates used an older method of counting the pugmarks - or the unique footprint - of individual tigers.

The BBC reports India had 100,000 tigers at the turn of the last century but there has been a serious decline in numbers since then.

Experts say that 97% of tigers have been lost to poaching and shrinking habitats.

Today, fewer than 3500 tigers remain in the wild around the world with India accounting for more than half of them.

Correspondents say tiger products are a lucrative business.

There is huge demand for tiger bones, claws and skin in countries like China, Taiwan and Korea, where they are used in traditional Chinese medicine.