Four tiger cubs are suspected to have died of starvation in Maharashtra last year, the government informed an environmental activist, raising questions over the state’s conservation projects for the big cat.
An RTI application by activist and environmentalist Abhay Kolarkar also revealed that at least 22 tigers have died in the state since January, 2015. However, the government did not say whether any of the tigers were killed by poachers.
The “starvation deaths” of four cubs were reported from the Saoli forest range in Chandrapur in December. The spot was around 50 km away from the famous Tadoba Tiger Reserve in the region.
However, it was not known if the cubs died of starvation due to the death of their parents, which is often the most common cause of such incidents. Experts say, lack of a prey base to may lead to starvation deaths.
Kolarkar said as many as 13 tigers died last year. While 12 died of natural reasons, one tiger died in an accident.
The state forest department said that over 50 villagers, most of them tribals, were killed while around 800 villagers were injured following attack by tigers since January 2015. Most of these attacks occurred in Chandrapur district.
Wildlife expert Yogeshwar Dudhpachare, who has studied man-animal conflict in Chandrapur district, said that the face-offs have been increasing every year in the district. On an average 12 people are killed every year in big cat attacks since 2002.
Chandrapur is the abode of the tiger and recent studies have found that there are around 120 tigers in the district. A total of 69,826 families, living in 835 villages located in the fringe forest areas face severe man-animal conflict situation.
A 2014 tiger census through camera trapping had put the number of big cats in Maharashtra at 203 tigers.
Experts say, camera trapping is the most reliable method of tiger census used all over the world and it has been initiated successfully in the country to estimate and monitor the tiger population.
Among 203 big cats, 61 were spotted in Tadoba tiger reserve while 23 in Pench, 42 in Melghat, 7 in Navegaon-Nagzhira and three in Sahyadri Tiger Reserves in west Maharashtra.