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Forest Dept blamed for fall in tiger numbers

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Oct 1 � The number of tigers in Assam has nosedived in recent times, and the Forest Department's claim of stable populations in certain places is false or fabricated. This was stated by Nature's Beckon, a conservation group, during a press conference held in the city today.

�Contrary to assertions made by the Forest Department, the present population of the tiger in Assam cannot be more than 70 in the wild� they face very grave threats," remarked Soumyadeep Datta of Nature's Beckon.

More worrying, he said, were findings which revealed that tiger numbers were on a sharp decline. In almost all the habitats their sightings have drastically come down. This he attributed to a number of reasons, one of which was the failure of the Forest Department to implement conservation programmes.

Official figures acquired by the conservation group reveals a picture that would be of serious concern to all stakeholders. In 1993, the number of tigers in NC Hills was 29, by the time of the 2000 census there were no tigers left. In Jorhat the population in 1993 was 19, which shrunk to three by 2000. Estimates indicated 26 tigers in Kochu gaon, which went down to 10 in 2000.

According to Nature's Beckon, around 84 tigers were lost in the last couple of years, a fact conveniently ignored by the Forest Department. The disappearance of the tigers was also due to corruption involving massive funds which were meant for tiger conservation, he reasoned.

Holding the Forest Department squarely responsible for the loss of tigers and degradation of their natural habitat, Datta appealed to forest officials to take an oath to work with integrity to protect wildlife today, as it marked the beginning of Wildlife Week.

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