The country has lost 83 tigers within eight months this year, higher than the last year’s total of 77, says the official website of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). Madhya Pradesh tops the chart in losing its big cats (21), followed by Karnataka (11) and Maharashtra (10).
About 3.72% of the total 2,226 tigers estimated during All India Tiger Estimation 2014 have been lost which was only 3.45% in 2015. This year, however, 18.7% (15) were reported due to skin seizure, 15.66% (13) due to natural reasons, 8.43% (7) due to infighting and 6.02% (5) due to poisoning and poaching. Details of 33% mortality incidents are still awaited.
“The figures are alarming enough to realise the growing threat to tiger population. Fifteen skin seizures and five poisoning and poaching incidents together account for 24% of the mortality this year,” Bilal Habib, tiger expert at Wildlife Institute of India (WII), told Hindustan Times.
Figures by Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation, say nearly 30% of tiger mortality in the country is due to poaching and seizure. “Even if the number of tigers is increasing that does not mean we can let our tigers get killed by wildlife criminals,” Tito Joseph, project manager of WPSI, said.
What’s interesting is big cat mortality was reported more in protected areas than in territorial forest divisions.
Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh lost seven of the 21 tigers in the state. Three of them died of poisoning. Kanha Tiger Reserve, too, lost seven tigers followed by three at Bandhavgarh. Of the 11 tiger deaths in Karnataka, seven are from Nagarhole tiger reserve and three at Bandipur Tiger Reserve. Maharashtra lost 10 tigers. That is four from Tadoba Andhari, 1 from Navegaon-Nagzira and two from Melghat.
Cramped spaces for tigers in reserves or even conflict are possible reasons behind this trend.
Of the 15 skin seizures this year, Uttarakhand leads reporting six seizures. Five skins were seized from Kotkadar which falls in the buffer of Corbett while one from Rajaji Tiger Reserve. Bihar reported seizures of two skins and one each in Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
“We are in the process of investigating several cases and therefore, it is too early to establish a percentage unless we have reasons of mortality of all tigers,” said HS Negi, inspector-general of forest, NTCA.