Dramatic decline of tigers from Nepalese wildlife reserve in The Himalayas

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Washington, July 3 : A recent survey has shown that there has been a dramatic decline of a least 30 percent in the Bengal tiger population from the Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve in Nepal, once a refuge that boasted among the highest densities of the endangered species in the Eastern Himalayas.

The survey conducted in April 2008, showed a population of between 6-14 tigers, down from 20-50 tigers in 2005.

Nepalese officials have identified poaching as perhaps the major cause of tigers disappearing from this protected area.

What is ironical is that the very equipment set up to capture tiger images has photographed armed poachers.

"The loss of tigers in Suklaphanta is undoubtedly linked to the powerful global mafia that controls illegal wildlife trade," said Jon Miceler, managing director of WWF's Eastern Himalayas Program.

"The evidence suggests that Nepal's endangered tigers are increasingly vulnerable to this despicable trade that has already emptied several Indian tiger reserves," he added.

"Clearly, this is symptomatic of the larger tiger crisis in the region. We need a stronger, more sustained response to this issue in order to protect the future of tigers in the wild," said Miceler.

Suklaphanta shares a porous international border with India, allowing for easy and untraceable transportation of wildlife contraband.

Unlike poaching of other species like rhinos where only the horns are removed, virtually no evidence remains at a tiger poaching site because all its parts are in high demand for illegal wildlife trade.

Most poached tigers end up in China and South East Asia where they are used in traditional Chinese medicine, prized as symbols of wealth and served as exotic food.

In May, two tiger skins and nearly 70 pounds of tiger bones were seized from the border town of Dhangadi. Just last month, two separate raids recovered tiger bones being smuggled by local middlemen through the reserve.

According to Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, director of WWF's Species Conservation Program, "With only 4,000 tigers remaining in the wild, every tiger lost to poaching pushes this magnificent animal closer to extinction."

"Tigers cannot be saved in small forest fragments when faced with a threat like illegal wildlife trade-this is a global problem that needs the concerted effort of governments, grassroots organizations and all concerned individuals," he added.

ANI

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