Friday, July 04, 2008

Nepal tiger population 'decimated by poachers'

Nepal tiger population 'decimated by poachers'

KATHMANDU (AFP) — A study on tigers in one of Nepal's national parks suggests that the population has been halved by poachers in just a few years, a senior wildlife official said Friday.

The official, Shyam Bajimaya, said camera trapping techniques led them to believe that there are just six to 14 of the big cats left in the Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve on the border with India.

"In 2005 we found 24 tigers in the same reserve, and the decline in numbers is a great concern," said Bajimaya, from Nepal's department of national parks and conservation.

The World Wildlife Fund, which ran the study with Nepal's conservation body, said recent seizures of pelts close to the park and images of men with guns captured by the camera traps show systematic poaching is taking place.

Nepal has an estimated population of 360 tigers, found in three national parks.

The official said Nepal's current political turmoil has created ideal conditions for poachers who kill the animals for their skin, meat and bones, which are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine.

"Poaching of endangered species like rhinos and tigers has definitely been on the rise. The poachers are taking advantage of weak law enforcement and ongoing political disturbances," he said.

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