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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 February 2008, 06:19 GMT
India tiger population declines
File photograph of a dead tiger in India
There has been a sharp decline in the number of tigers in India
India's tiger population has fallen drastically during the past five years, according to a new government census.

The increasingly endangered animals' numbers have fallen to 1,411, down from 3,642 in the last major survey in 2002.

Wildlife activists blame poaching and urbanisation for the decline and say the authorities must do more.

Last year, federal authorities announced the creation of a special force to protect tigers. But it is unclear whether it has worked.

The latest census, released on Tuesday, said that there had been a decline in tiger population all over India.

The only exception was the southern state of Tamil Nadu where the animals' numbers had gone up to 76 from 60 five years ago.

'Time to act'

Counting could not be carried out in the states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand due to law and order problems, the report said.

And the exercise was still going on in Sundarbans in the eastern state of West Bengal, the report added.

Rajesh Gopal of India's Project Tiger said the census showed that "though the tiger has suffered due to direct poaching, loss of quality habitat and loss of its prey, there is still hope".

Wildlife experts say urgent efforts should be made to save the animals.

"It is now time to act and save tigers from human beings. We have to create inviolate areas for tigers and provide modern weapons to forest guards," conservationist Valmik Thapar told Hindustan Times newspaper.

Experts blame the government for failing to crack down on poachers and the illegal trade in tiger skins.

Tigers are poached for their body parts - skins are prized for fashion and tiger bones are used for oriental medicines.

Tiger pelts can fetch up to $12,500 in China.

According to reports, there were 40,000 tigers in India a century ago.

The country is home to 40% of the world's tigers, with 23 tiger reserves in 17 states.



SEE ALSO
Indian tiger skins 'sold abroad'
22 Sep 05 |  South Asia
India to probe wildlife poacher
01 Jul 05 |  South Asia
Indian agency to protect tigers
25 Jun 05 |  South Asia
India investigates tiger decline
29 Apr 05 |  South Asia

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