The latest survey of the country’s tiger population shows big cat numbers have declined in north India, primarily due to poaching from across the border in Nepal and shrinking tiger habitats.
The survey, done every four years by the National Tiger Conservation Authority with Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India, shows tiger numbers in the Shivalik-Gangetic plains covering the three states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have come down to around 300 against about 320 four years ago.
“We are still verifying the ground data… the figure is not final,” an official told HT.
Forest department officials in Uttarakhand, who arrested over half a dozen tiger poachers in the past three years, said they saw an increase in the number of poachers from Nepal. Wildlife traffickers cross over to Nepal through the porous 1,751 km-long border India shares with the neighbouring country.
Officials said rising man-tiger conflict because of deteriorating habitat around the Corbett National Park was another area of concern.
“Habitat loss, leading to man-tiger conflict and increased pressure of poachers, have dented Corbett’s image,” a senior government official said, adding the national park may not see an increase in tiger numbers this time.
However, the most disturbing big cat story has emerged from Uttar Pradesh, where poor protection caused tiger numbers to fall, officials said. The number of tigers in the relatively new habitat in Pilibhit Tiger Reserve is said to have fallen to 23 in 2014 from 40 four years ago.
Dudwa Tiger Reserve officials said the tiger population in their forest was “stable”, even though the actual number may be seven to 10 tigers less than last time.
Tito Joseph of the Wildlife Protection Society of India that monitors tiger deaths in the country said there are several poacher gangs with links to Nepal.
“Najibabad in Uttar Pradesh, which is close to the Nepal border, has emerged as a major link to international wildlife traders,” he said.