They show the overwhelming majority of them have experienced alarming decline in numbers.China claimed to have 140 tigers when the figures were compiled seven years ago. At least 1,500 have been poached in the past 10 years and about 150, the population of two national parks are slaughtered every year.The slaughter is driven by the lucrative international poaching trade. A tiger skin, used as a rug or for clothing, fetches £10,000 and is particularly popular among Arab customers, while the head, used to mount as a trophy brings between £600 and £800; the bones, used in powder form for more than a hundred prescriptions of Chinese traditional medicine as well as wine, is about £3,000 per kg; the penis, used as virility pills is priced at £14,000 for a 100g box; teeth, made into jewellery or sold as amulets with supposedly special powers can be as much as £500 each and the fat, used to treat rheumatism and muscular ailments goes for £500 a kg.The Independent has obtained the latest figures for tigers in other countries, compiled by wildlife organisations. The government in Delhi had claimed its strenuous conservation efforts - launched with the much publicised Project Tiger -- had maintained tiger numbers at about 3,600. But an investigation ordered by the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, discovered every single tiger at the country's premier reserve, Sariska in Rajasthan, had been killed.The inquiry into the 765 sq km sanctuary was carried out by the Central Bureau of Investigation, a law agency modelled on the FBI. It concluded that official incompetence and corruption were among the main reasons why the slaughter of the 28 tigers had taken place and "what happened at Sariska is just a symptom of a larger disease afflicting tiger sanctuaries across the country".The list of disappearing tigers across the country include 24 from the Palamu reserve in Bihar, six big cats - tigers and leopards - at the Bandhavgarth national park in Madhya Pradesh and 21 from the Panna reserve in the same state.Now conservationists like Valmik Thapar, a member of the Prime Minister's Tiger Task Force, say the real numbers of tigers in the country is more likely to be about 2,000 and could be as low as 1,800.
The official world population now is between 5,000 and 7,000. But those figures were compiled seven years ago mainly from figures supplied by various governments that have since been largely discredited.The real figure, according to new research, could be as few as 3,000 and falling. Unless the trend is reversed, we may see the tigers in India, which has 60 per cent of the world population of the animal, disappear by 2020, with just a handful remaining in pockets in other countries.The new figures are based on shocking revelations from India. Poaching and official indifference have blighted the Sariska park in a story that's being repeated through the sub-continent.Sariska's deputy director, Braj Mohan Sharma, protests there is no collusion, only a lack of resources. "We haven't got the money, and the wardens cannot match the poachers Our wardens are unfit and aren't even armed.
There are only five or six guns between all of them and they cannot take on the gangs who are often heavily armed", he says, pointing out that the situation was not unique to Sariska - the entire staff at the Valmiki tiger reserve in Bihar had walked out because they had not been paid for 14 months.The deadly combination of corruption and hunting has so devastated the world's population of tigers that conservationists fear the predators are facing danger of imminent extinction.Just a 100 years ago, there were around 100,000 tigers worldwide. Once the hunting lodge of Maharaja Jai Singh of Alwar, the Sariska palace caters for the more luxury end of the market. Both places are busy.The lure of the grassy glades and woodland, offering the promise of cheetahs, antelope and leopards is as strong as ever. After dark, there is the chance of seeing porcupines nosing around the ruins of the Gahr temples.What you stand no chance of seeing, however, is a tiger.India's premier reserve, a haven for the great cat that, throughout history, has evoked admiration and fear, is empty. Backpackers are still beating a path to the Tiger Den guesthouse. A short dusty walk inside the Sariska Tiger Reserve, the Den can afford to overcharge a little, despite the modest accommodation, because there's no competition for the daily traffic of budget travellers. Deeper inside the reserve dominated by the sharp cliffs and narrow valleys of the Aravali mountains, a medieval castle stands sentinel on the hilltop.