By Monica Chadha
BBC News, Delhi
A special task force set up by the Indian government to investigate dwindling tiger numbers has held its first meeting in Delhi.
Official estimates of tiger numbers are said to be an exaggeration
The group was formed following recent reports that tigers were disappearing at an alarming rate from the Sariska reserve in western Rajasthan state.
Poaching is believed to be the main reason for the falling numbers.
The task force is to come up with a plan to save the tigers. A detailed report is due within three months.
'Menace of poaching'
Tiger Task Force chairwoman Sunita Narain said the group had looked at ways of involving people living in and around tiger sanctuaries in tiger conservation.
Ms Narain said the group would consult experts and survey forest reserves in an attempt to understand why tiger numbers were plummeting.
"The menace of poaching is very virulent across Asia," she told journalists.
"You are seeing a decline in tiger populations in most countries, whether it is Laos, Myanmar [Burma] or Cambodia. Tigers are virtually near extinction in many of these countries."
Ms Narain said the main market for the poachers seemed to be Tibet and China, where tigers' body parts are used extensively in traditional medicines.
Conservationists believe the official figure of 3,500 tigers in India's reserves is an exaggeration.
The gravity of the situation was underlined by a recent appeal by the United Nations asking the Indian government to take steps to save tigers.