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Bangladesh striving to save endangered Bengal tigers.

While the Bengal tiger is believed to be the most numerous of tiger species, there are only around 2,500 remaining in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). DHAKA: The number of Royal Bengal tigers in the Sundarbans mangrove forest in the Bay of Bengal is decreasing at an alarming rate. Both government and NGOs say there are just 121 tigers left in the Sundarbans. Bangladesh's Forest Department and international agencies have launched several initiatives to help protect this endangered species. While the Bengal tiger is believed to be the most numerous of tiger species, there are only around 2,500 remaining in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fun (WWF). Bangladeshi zoologist Abdul Aziz recently completed research for his doctoral thesis on tigers in the Sundarbans, and his survey of 2,000 sq. km of the Sundarbans - a UNESCO World Heritage site - confirmed that 121 Bengal tigers live in the forest. "It was a Herculean job," Aziz told Arab News. "Fifty-six local people worked with me for six months to collect the tigers' feces and fur from the Sundarbans. This was the first time genetic screening technology was employed to make a census of the tiger population in the mangrove forest. Earlier, researchers used camera trapping to investigate the population since every tiger bears some unique stripes on its face and tail area." It took a further two years for laboratories in the US and Europe to analyze all the samples collected by Aziz and his team. Jahidul Kabir of the Bangladesh Forest Department's Wildlife and Nature Conservation Circle told Arab News: "We can say (there are) between 101 and 121 Royal Bengal tigers in Sundarbans." The deparment's last tiger census, in 2015, put the number at 106. The department will implement a five-step action plan next year, he said, focusing on tiger protection, strengthening resources, engaging local residents, education outreach, and research and monitoring. "In the next five years, we plan to spend 400 crore taka ($50 million) on the conservation of the Sundarbans and Bengal tigers," he added. According to Anowarul Islam, the chief executive of conservation organization Wild Team, tiger movement in the Sundarbans offered cause for optimism between 2009 and 2012, when "the situation went bad." However, he added that, this year, the situation has stabilized. Between 1975 and 2006, censuses show that there were between 200 to 450 Bengal tigers in the Sundarbans, so there has been a marked decrease in numbers in recent years, even while - according to the WWF - 13 tiger-populated countries including India, Russia and Bhutan have managed to increase their tiger numbers between 2011 and 2016. There are explanations for why the Sundarbans have not seen a similar upward trend in tiger numbers, said Ishtiak Uddin Ahmed, Bangladesh's country manager for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), while stressing that - because a tiger's "home range" is typically 20-to-25 sq. km, and because of the "ecological situation" in the mangrove forest - the Sundarbans could only support a maximum of 300 tigers. Destruction of their habitat, scarcity of food, and poaching are three of the main reasons why the local tiger population is diminishing, he said, adding: "Another reason is the increased frequency of natural calamities, especially heavy cyclones, which is an adverse impact of global climate change."

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Geographic Code:9BANG
Date:Nov 30, 2017
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