Tiger in focus, but panthers perishing in state rapidly | india | Hindustan Times
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Tiger in focus, but panthers perishing in state rapidly

india Updated: Sep 16, 2012 10:59 IST
Rahul Noronha
Rahul Noronha
Hindustan Times
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There has been a sharp rise in panther mortality in Madhya Pradesh in the last five years. On one hand, the tiger-centric tourism and conservation policy have led to a blind eye being turned to the panther and on the other, the dwindling number of tigers have now made the panther a target for poaching gangs.

While a tiger may fetch a poacher Rs 30 lakh in the international marker, panther skin and merchandise too gets sold at high prices (almost half of the above), as per international poaching watchdogs.

Documents sourced through Right to Information (RTI) Act reveal that 155 panther deaths have been recorded in MP between 2002 and 2012. Of these, 98 panthers have been poached while the remaining died natural deaths, as per records of the state forest department. In 2011 alone a record 43 panther deaths were reported, out of which 21 poaching-related.

“There is an inverse correlation between tiger and panther populations. Panthers and tigers can coexist only in complex landscapes. Whenever there is an increase in tiger population due to enhanced protection, panthers get pushed to the peripheries, come close to human settlements and are killed owing to man-animal conflict,” says Dr K Ramesh, scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII). “Panthers are a much more versatile carnivore living willfully close to human settlements owing to the presence of small animals like pigs, goats and dogs that are its prey,” he adds.

Ramesh also says that the panther is perhaps facing a bigger crisis than the tiger, but a silent one. “It is in conflict with human beings all the time and unlike the tiger which has become a symbol for conservation, panther is not as much in the focus,” he adds.

“In the last few years, with protection measures sharpening around tigers, poachers have turned their attention towards panthers,” a the forest department official, adding that panther merchandise also fetches good returns for poachers in the international market.

“Tourism has focused solely on the tiger, leading to other species being ignored,” said Ajay Dubey of the voluntary agency Prayatna.

There are no estimates for panther population in the state given that the WII carries out a census of only the tiger and its prey base. The WII does have figures of panther population but has not covered all panther areas in the country.

Field director, Panna tiger reserve, R Sriniwas Murthy told HT that the panther is more of a survivor than the tiger. “ Given its survival skills, the panther faces a lesser risk than the tiger,” he said.

Panther mortality in Madhya Pradesh between 2002-2012

Year--- deaths attributed to poaching----------- Total Number of Panther deaths
2009- ----------------12--------------23
2012- ----------------03--------------06 (Till June)

Tiger mortality in Madhya Pradesh between 2002-2012
Year-----Natural Causes----Poaching---- Total Number of Deaths