India has only half as many tigers as it thought it had.
Valmik Thapar, the well-known tiger conservationist and member of the National Board of Wildlife, on Friday claimed the ministry of environment and forests had confirmed that only about 1,300-1,500 tigers have survived in India.
This is less than half the last official count of 3,000 tigers.
According to Thapar, the government had implicitly conceded the sharp fall in tiger population by including it as a discussion item on the agenda of the next meeting of the National Board of Wildlife, a body headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that is responsible for key decisions on wildlife protection.
Ministry officials, when contacted, confirmed that the number was quoted in the agenda of the upcoming Board meeting.
This will be the first official statement on tiger population from the ministry, which so far has claimed that the counting was still in progress.
The press briefing by Thapar was attended by officials of WWF, TRAFFIC, and Global Tiger Forum, all non-governmental organizations focussed on conservation.