Royal Bengal tiger numbers in Nepal leap to 198


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The Independent Online

The number of wild royal Bengal tigers in Nepal has increased to 198, a 63.6 per cent rise in five years, a survey of the big cats shows.

The findings are crucial for the protection of endangered tigers facing the threat of extinction from poachers, encroachment of habitat by villagers and loss of prey.

Conflicts between people and wild animals are frequent in Nepal, which has pledged to double the population of tigers by the year 2022 from an estimated 2010 level of 125.

"This is very encouraging," said Maheshwar Dhakal, an ecologist with Nepal's National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Department, adding that the Himalayan nation was on target to achieve its goal ahead of the deadline. "But the increased numbers have also added to our responsibilities and challenges for the conservation of tigers."

Conservation experts credit the increase to effective policing of national parks, stronger anti-poaching drives and better management of tiger habitats in Nepal, where forests cover 29 per cent of the land.

However, as the number of tigers has increased over the years, so have incidents of conflict with villagers. Seven people were killed in attacks by tigers around national parks last year compared with four in 2011, park officials said. Villagers are also seeking better protection.