The number of tigers in the Sunderbans reserve forest in West Bengal has increased to 96 from 88, according to the 2019-20 census by the West Bengal Forest Department'.
"The forest has a total area of around 3700 sq km. There are two tiger zones in the area. One is Sundarban Tiger reserve which is about 2,585 sq km and the other one is 1,111 sq. km. We are happy to announce that our tiger census is showing 96 Royal Bengal Tigers in total," Rajib Banerjee, Forest Minister, West Bengal, said on Wednesday.
23 tigers were found in 24 Parganas (South) Division and 73 tigers were recorded inside the four divisions of the Sunderban Tiger Reserve.
"Out of 96 tigers, there are 23 males, 43 females and 30 cubs. In 2018- 19, it was 88 and now 96. It means the number has gone up by eight," the Minister added.
According to the minister, this is the first time in the history of the tiger census in Sunderbans that the number of tigers jumped by eight from previous such exercise.
Spread over India and Bangladesh, the Sunderbans delta is the only mangrove forest in the world inhabited by tigers.
The estimation exercise was carried out in two phases - the first period from December 16 to January 13, and the second phase from January 22 to February 19, The Hindu reported.
"For the first period, a total of 1,156 Cuddeback camera traps (578 pairs) were installed in the Sunderban Tiger Reserve and during the second period, 272 camera traps (136 pairs) were installed in the 24 Parganas (South) Division," the State Forest Department said.
The counting exercise is done in a lab in Dehradun and involves the comparison of the images of tigers based on their stripes.
"However, the figure is an estimated number based on our tiger census. There can be few more or less than 96. Due to the terrain of the Sunderbans which is crisscrossed by creeks, the headcount of every tiger is not possible," Sunderbans Tiger Project head Sudhir Chandra Das said.
Due to the difficult terrain of the Sunderbans, that constitutes dense mangrove forests, with creeks and rivulets, and floods twice a day during the high tides, estimation of the number of tigers in the area has always posed a challenge.
Meanwhile, park rangers in the Sundarbans mangrove forest on Thursday, May 7, reported an increase in citing of tigers due to the ongoing lockdown.
Before the lockdown, the sightings were twice per week before lockdown. However, during the lockdown period, it has increased to four to five times per week, officials said.