Species in crisis

By Jonathan Watts  /  The Guardian, LONDON

Fri, May 20, 2011 - Page 9

There are believed to be about 3,200 tigers left in the wild and more than 13,000 in captivity — half of which are in China. Assessing populations in the wild is notoriously difficult, given the remoteness of their habitats and the animals’ tendency to avoid human contact. It is believed numbers have fallen by 97 percent over the past century and the trend remains downwards, but several revisions have taken place in recent years.

In March, India unveiled a new census that put the total number of wild tigers in the country close to 1,550 — 10 percent more than the figure in 2008.

In Indonesia, camera traps have recently caught images of 12 Sumatran tigers, including a mother playing with cubs. The WWF estimates that there are only 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild. A recent study conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society said the population could be much larger than previously believed.

About 350 adult Siberian or Amur tigers — physically, the largest subspecies — are left in the wild, with 95 percent of them inhabiting the far eastern regions of Russia.

Thailand is thought to be home to 250 to 300 wild tigers, though camera traps have revealed that Thap Lan National Park has more of the animals than previously believed.

Bangladesh has between 400 and 450 wild tigers, mostly in the Sunderbans mangrove forests which overlap with India. Last year, they killed 44 people.