NEW DELHI, April 8 (UPI) -- An official tiger "census" in India estimates the number of animals in the wild at about 3,700, but critics say that is more than double the real figure.
More than 30 years after the threat to tigers was first recognized and Project Tiger launched by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, conservationists claim tiger numbers are no higher now.
"We are currently at the same stage as we were in 1972, when Project Tiger began," said Neel Gogate, a local coordinator for WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund.
The government was forced to admit last year that 122 tigers had been killed by poachers between 1999 and 2003, reported the Independent Online.
Poachers are tempted by the tremendous reward, since a single tiger can bring $50,000 in the traditional Chinese medicine industry.
The local field director of Project Tiger, K Nayak, believes poaching is irresistible for poverty-stricken villagers who have been moved out of the core area of Kanha National Park.
He believes the answer is to give villagers different incentives. He wants a tax imposed on hoteliers who benefit from tourist business to help villagers.