The endangered tiger is making resurgence in India. A recent census indicates the number of tigers has risen in the South Asian nation, which is home to half the world's population of the big cats.
Using hidden cameras and DNA tests, census data collectors found 1,706 tigers in forests and wild life sanctuaries across the country - about 300 more compared to four years ago.
That came as good news for conservationists struggling to halt a steady decline in the numbers of the big cat. The results of the last census, announced in 2007, raised concern after it revealed that India’s tiger population had plummeted by more than 50 percent.
Rajesh Gopal heads "Project Tiger," the government-run conservation effort to save the tiger.
He says the latest count included every part of the country, unlike the last census, which excluded some areas. Gopal says the numbers are higher, even after adjusting for areas that were not covered in the last survey.
"If you compare the exact area which was estimated in 2006 and 2010, excluding areas like Sunderbans and parts of Assam which we had not assessed, then there is a 12 percent increase in the tiger numbers over the past four years," said Gopal.
India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, says the rise in the numbers of tigers is encouraging. But he says much remains to be done to ensure the species survives. "We have a mixed bag, we have reason to feel satisfied with what we have done, but the threats are imminent," he stated.
About 45,000 square kilometers of forest area have been earmarked for tiger reserves across India. But India's rising human population is shrinking the tiger's natural habitat. An increase in poaching in recent decades has added to the tiger's plight.
As a result, the number of tigers has plummeted from about 100,000, in 1900, to the current level of about 1,700.
Several countries are waging a battle to save the tiger, but the most critical fight will be in India, which accounts for about half the world’s remaining tiger population.