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Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Tuesday, 6 May 2008 17:15 UK

Joy over India tiger cubs births

Royal Bengal Tiger at Ranthambore, July 2002
Only 32 tigers were reported in the park's last census


Fourteen tiger cubs have been spotted in a reserve in north-western India, forestry officials say.

The sightings are a rare piece of good news in the fight to halt the steep decline in tiger numbers in India.

Forestry officials in Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan say the cubs are from several mothers and have been seen regularly in recent months.

Ranthambore had just 32 tigers at the last count. India is thought to have 1,500 tigers, half the world's total.

But conservationists say they face extinction unless urgent action is taken to save them.

'Positive development'

Ranthambore has seen tiger numbers fall from 46 in 2004.

Map of Rajasthan showing Ranthambore and Sariska sanctuaries

The park authorities are currently conducting a new tiger census and up-to-date figures - which will include the new cubs - are expected in June.

RS Shekhawat, deputy field director at Ranthambore, said the sightings of the cubs was "good news for all of us".

"Credit goes to both governments - state and federal, the forest authorities and also local people for this positive development," he told the BBC.

Ranthambore covers 392 sq.km. of dry deciduous forests sprawling over undulating terrain. The BBC's Narayan Bareth in Jaipur says forest officials want more space for the tigers.

"We are contemplating expanding the habitat area for the tiger population because the population is on the rise," Mr Shekhawat said.

Nearly 100 villages surround the park, and the more the tiger population grows the more they are likely to come into conflict with humans.

The Wildlife Trust of India's state co-ordinator, Mahendra Kachhawa, urged the authorities to tighten security at the park.

"You know the park is an easy target for the poachers," he told the BBC.

Tiger taskforce

Rajasthan's state government is under pressure from the Indian government to take steps against poachers.

It is fantastic news and new cubs means the habitat is good and conditions ideal in Ranthambore for breeding
Sujoy Banerjee,
WWF-India's Species Conservation Programme

In 2005 it was reported that tigers had been wiped out at another park in Rajasthan, the Sariska sanctuary. That prompted the setting up of a tiger taskforce in India.

Wildlife experts welcomed the latest news, saying they also had information about sightings of tiger cubs in other reserves.

"Ranthambore is back to its heyday of the 1980s, and the secret of success is in better management and a lot of protection, which was not there earlier," Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) told Reuters news agency.

"We at least know that tigers don't breed when they are disturbed. A lot of hard work has gone into Ranthambore and the results are just starting to show now."

Ranthambhore is a major tourist attraction, drawing about 200,000 people from India and abroad every year.

"We are so happy the 14 tiger cubs were spotted in the park. It will set an example for the other parks. It will boost the local economy," said Arvind Jain, a local hotelier.


SEE ALSO
India tiger population declines
13 Feb 08 |  South Asia
India tigers 'in rapid decline'
24 May 07 |  South Asia
Indian tiger skins 'sold abroad'
22 Sep 05 |  South Asia
Indian agency to protect tigers
25 Jun 05 |  South Asia
UN warns India over tiger numbers
12 Apr 05 |  South Asia

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