After spate of controversies, tiger census team keep their fingers crossed this time
Shiv Sahay Singh
Posted: Saturday , Mar 06, 2010 at 0205 hrs
Sunderbans Tiger Reserve:
As hundreds of forest officials, volunteers of several wildlife NGOs scour through the mangroves of the Sunderbans looking for the Royal Bengal Tigers as part of a mammoth exercise to count their numbers, there is only one question in the minds of everyone — How many big cats are there in the Sunderbans?
The number is anybody’s guess.
There are several ‘versions’ about the number of tigers present in the largest delta of the country, borne out by past controversies and still fuelling some more.
The last tiger census that was carried out here — and its result published — was in 2004. Then the census had put the number of tigers in the Sunderbans area at a whopping 274.
Two years later, a survey was carried out but its result is the best kept secret.
Sources in the forest department said that there was conflicting figures about the tiger population. While the Wildlife Institute of India (ISI) concluded that there were 150 big cats in the area, the Kolkata-based Indian Statistical Institute painted a gloomy scenario. According to the latter, there were only 69 tigers. Interestingly, both the conclusions were drawn from the same inputs.