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India likely to send tigers to Cambodia later this year

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NEW DELHI, May 24: India is likely to send four tigers to Cambodia by November-December to help reintroduce the big cats into its forests, sources said on Friday.

New Delhi signed a pact with Phnom Penh for the world’s first transnational tiger reintroduction in November 2022.

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Officials from Cambodia, the National Tiger Conservation Authority, and the ambassador of India to Cambodia, Devyani Khobragade, participated in an online meeting a few days ago. They discussed the proposal to send four tigers to Cambodia by November-December. However, a final decision is pending, a source said.

“There is a continuous dialogue with the officials of Cambodia regarding the proposal. The NTCA has requested them to send a detailed action plan. The same will be examined and placed before the technical committee,” NTCA member secretary Gobind Sagar Bharadwaj told PTI.

Appropriate decision will be taken by competent authority on the basis of the technical committee’s recommendations, he said.

Another source said the plan is to reintroduce four tigers – one male and three females – into the Cardamom hills in the southwestern region of Cambodia.

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According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), conservationists in Cambodia declared tigers “functionally extinct” in 2016.

Cambodia’s last tiger was seen on a camera trap in the eastern province of Mondulkiri in 2007.

In September 2017, the Cambodian government announced plans to reintroduce tigers into the country with the help of WWF.

Cambodia lost all its tigers due to poaching, habitat loss, and other factors. India is ensuring that all factors responsible are addressed and the conditions are conducive for the reintroduction of tigers, the first source said.

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Officials had earlier said the two countries will follow all the protocols of the International Union for Conservation of Nature for the tiger reintroduction program.

The number of tigers in India stood at 3,682 in 2022, according to the latest government data. This is more than 70 per cent of the global wild tiger population.

India launched Project Tiger on April 1, 1973, to promote tiger conservation. Initially, it covered nine tiger reserves spread over 18,278 sq km.

At present, India has 53 tiger reserves covering more than 75,000 sq km (approximately 2.4 percent of the country’s geographical area) of tiger habitat.

Countries with tiger populations – India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam – had in 2010 committed to doubling their number of big cats by 2022.

India doubled its tiger population in 2018, four years ahead of the target. (PTI)

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