Tiger Numbers Plummet in India
More than half vanish in 5 years
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 13, 2008 11:50 AM CST
This undated photo released by Corbett Tiger Reserve, shows a tiger at the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Corbett National Park, India. (AP Photo/Corbett Tiger Reserve,HO)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – At least half of India's Bengal tiger population has vanished in the last five years, according to the latest alarming census of the endangered predators. A Project Tiger conservationist blamed "poaching, and loss of quality habitat and prey," reports AFP. A 2002 survey estimated there were 3,700 tigers in India's reserves and forests, but the latest count found just 1,411.

"This is disastrous news, but comes as no surprise," said a conservationist. "Wildlife crime is so entrenched and we are not prepared for it." The Indian government is recruiting ex-soldiers for a tiger protection force, and experts say there is hope the big cats can be saved from annihilation. "The tiger population is capable of bouncing back," said one.