The Wildlife Institute of India has been looking at the prey base inside the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve in India's eastern state of West Bengal after the treatment of a Bengal tiger at the Alipore Zoological Gardens for starvation, China's Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.
In a collaboration with the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Sunderbans reserve, the study found a very low prey density.
"Taking into account the entire 2,500 square kilometers (960 square miles) of STR area, the number of deer, considered the major prey for tigers, will be only a little over 30,000," researcher Y.V. Jhala said.
"This prey density is very low considering the huge area of Sunderbans."
Earlier studies suggested a total of 500 deer could provide sufficient food base to only one tiger, assuming the breeding rate of deer was always balanced by the killing rate of tigers.
By those figures, the poor density of deer, considered a hoofed prey for the big cats, could only support a population of 60 to 65 tigers in the Sunderbans, researchers said.
"If the study is to be believed, there is immediate need to increase the prey base by shifting additional prey animals from other sanctuaries to Sunderbans," Joydip Kundu, a member of the West Bengal wildlife advisory board, said.