Nepal's Tiger Numbers Remain Constant Despite Political Upheaval and Poaching, Census Reveals

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Population of 121 is still vulnerable to poaching, habitat loss and encroachment, WWF says

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In the bigger picture, the numbers from this survey are not strong enough to withstand an ever increasing demand for tiger parts and derivatives.

World Wildlife Fund stressed the need to renew tiger conservation efforts in response to the government of Nepal's announcement of an estimated 121 breeding tigers in four protected areas in the Terai Arc Landscape of Nepal.

"What we have today is a snapshot of tiger populations in one corner of the Eastern Himalayas, one of the last bastions of this endangered species," said Shubash Lohani of the Eastern Himalayas Program of WWF. "In the bigger picture, the numbers from this survey are not strong enough to withstand an ever increasing demand for tiger parts and derivatives."

Chitwan National Park is still a stronghold for tigers, with an estimated population of 91, thanks to intensive anti-poaching operations supported by WWF. Parsa Wildlife Reserve has an estimated four tigers, Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve is likely to have eight tigers and Bardia National Park has 18 according to Nepal's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.

The results are the culmination of a nine-month research project that surveyed tiger abundance and distribution in all of the protected areas concurrently for the first time. The study was jointly conducted by the government of Nepal, WWF and National Trust for Nature Conservation with support from Save the Tiger Fund and US Fish and Wildlife Service.

"We were encouraged to learn that wild tiger populations remain relatively robust in Chitwan National Park despite the toll taken by conflict and the increasing threat of illegal wildlife trade," said Dr Rinjan Shrestha of WWF Nepal, who was part of the national survey team. "Unfortunately, a closer look at the data from three other primary protected areas reveals declining numbers that will require concerted conservation efforts to these vulnerable populations."

WWF has committed to support the government of Nepal's Tiger Conservation Action Plan 2008-2012, which plans to increase the population of tigers by 10 percent within the first 5-year period.

Bengal tigers represent the largest number of the magnificent big cat in the wild. Their numbers are plummeting due to an onslaught of illegal wildlife trade, habitat loss and degradation, and human-tiger conflict. The Eastern Himalayas, stretches across key tiger protected areas in north and northeast India, the Terai belt of Nepal and parts of Bhutan. WWF has worked on tiger conservation in the Eastern Himalayas since the 1960s.

NOTE TO EDITORS:
More information about this release can be found at: http://www.worldwildlife.org

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