Slowly and Steadily, India’s Endangered Tiger Population Back on the Rise

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Raja, an eight-year-old rescued Royal Bengal Tiger, rests at a tiger rescue center north of Siliguri, India

February 21, 2010. REUTERS / Rupak De Chowdhuri

India’s big cats are making a comeback.

A census of the animals revealed that there are 300 more endangered cats in the wild from four years ago, bringing the number up to 1,706 tigers across the country. The latest count reflects at least 16 percent increase in the tiger’s numbers.

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The 2007 census initially caused concern because it showed a fall in population from the 2002 census. Half of the world’s tigers are said to live in India.

Officials, to determine the number of tigers remaining, used hidden cameras and DNA tests to more accurately track the beasts. Before, scientists resorted to pugmarks (footprints) to determine how many of the endangered animals were left.

India’s environment minister said, “The rise in numbers is the result of sustained efforts, but the shrinking of tiger corridors is alarming.” He urged India not to become complacent, since the gains could be so easily reversed.

Tiger corridors, routes used by the cats to move from reserve to reserve, have declined significantly in the past few years. India is trying to step up its preservation of these corridors, which are integral to the tiger’s survival.

India was estimated to have about 100,000 tigers just a century ago. (via AP)

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