Nepal and India Count their Bengals in Tiger Census

Kristin Deasy
José Rentería Cobos photography | Flickr | Getty Images

Nepal and India kicked off a historic joint tiger census on Tuesday, sending out experts to count the number of endangered Royal Bengal tigers living in their shared border region.

The area in question is thought to be home to some 500 tigers, making it one of the largest concentrated populations of the big cats in the world, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

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The double survey is part of an ambitious tiger conservation project — Nepal promised the world it would double its Bengal population by 2022 in order to better protect the endangered species from poaching and loss of habitat. Step one is counting the present number of endangered animals in the zone.

This requires extensive technological cooperation between the two nations, as ecologist Maheshwar Dhakal of Nepal's National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Department explained to Reuters: "Simultaneous counting will help avoid the same tiger which crosses over from one side to the other from being counted twice as its motion will be captured by another camera on the other side."

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The count will encompass at least 12 wildlife preserves and other areas in the Terai Arc region shared by the two South Asian countries, according to the BBC.

Tens of thousands of Royal Bengal tigers used to populate the region, but there are only about 3,000 left today, according to wildlife sources.

"Cross-border cooperation like this simultaneous census may well be the key to more effective conservation," says GlobalPost's senior correspondent in India, Jason Overdorf.

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"Not only do poachers take advantage of India's porous borders with Nepal to smuggle body parts from tigers and other endangered species, but also some naturalists believe that the ultimate survival of the tiger and other large animals may depend on corridors that allow them to travel and interbreed."

Panthera's Alan Rabinowitz, for instance, is already working to connect the world's largest tiger reserve, which he helped create in Myanmar, with tiger populations in Bhutan, India, Nepal, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

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