KATHMANDU: The number of wild Royal Bengal tigers in Nepal has increased to 198, a 63.6 per cent rise in five years, a government survey of the big cats showed.
The findings are crucial for the protection of endangered tigers facing the threat of extinction from poachers for the lucrative trade in their parts, encroachment of habitat by villagers due to the rise in human settlements 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," Dhakal told Reuters after releasing the findings of the four-month survey late on Monday.
The study was supported by the conservation group WWF and the United States.
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 percent of the land.
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