Although Nepal had vowed to double the tiger population by 2022, illegal trade with China and India, uncontrolled poaching, habitat disturbance and conservation are the major concerns.

"Nepal's results are an important milestone to reaching the goal of doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022," said Megh Bahadur Pandey, the head of the department of national parks and wildlife conservation.

"Tigers are a part of Nepal's natural wealth, and we are committed to ensuring these magnificent wild cats have their prey, protection and space to thrive," he added.

 Tigers are found in the Terai arc stretching some 960 km across 15 protected area networks in Nepal and India.

Nepal and India embarked on the first ever joint tiger survey using a common methodology in January. In Nepal, the field survey was carried out between February and June followed by two months of data analysis to arrive at the final estimates. It was agreed by the two governments that each country could release its national estimates and a joint report will be released later.Nepal's analysis covered five protected areas and three corridors.

It revealed that tiger population had tripled at the Bardia National Park (BNP) from 18 in 2009 to 50, and doubled in Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, from eight in 2009 to 17. The BNP is one of the best wild reserves for the endangered big cats.

Tiger numbers at the Chitwan National Park, home to Nepal's largest number of wild tigers, and have also increased, from 91 in 2009 to 120. The results have shown a comeback of tigers in the recently declared Banke National Park with the presence of four tigers.

"While we celebrate the positive results from this tiger survey, WWF calls on the government of Nepal to redouble efforts to protect these conservation gains that could easily be lost as human-tiger conflict increases and illegal wildlife trade empties our forests," stated Anil Manandhar, country representative of WWF Nepal.

"Tigers are an iconic symbol of wild nature, and WWF will continue to work closely with the government, conservation partners and local communities in Nepal," he added.

Many wildlife experts have often raised concerns over methodologies used during previous tiger counts. The constant rise in tiger population after every census in resent years, they claimed, was not justifiable as the counts were carried out at different intervals instead of being done concurrently in all habitats. Officials claimed that this time scientific tools were used to bring accuracy in the census.

(Agencies)

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