The Maharashtra forest department and its wildlife wing have come under tight scrutiny, given their dismal show when it comes to conserving tigers. The latest figures released on Tuesday showed a 30% rise in the population of tigers nation-wide, while Maharashtra recorded a 12% increase.
According to figures released by the ministry for environment and forests, the population of big cats in Maharashtra stood at 190 from 169 in 2010. The state, particularly Vidarbha region, was touted as destination for tiger-centric tourism and Nagpur, the tiger capital of India. The official figures though have shattered the dreams of the region’s wildlife lovers.
It is ironic that in four years, the population of tigers in the state rose just by 21 despite spending crores and building several wildlife sanctuaries and tiger projects. In this period, the state even restricted industrial activities and gave liberal promotions to forest officers and created more posts for protection and conservation of wildlife.
Another point worth noting is that while the state did not match up with the national average when it came to the numbers, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) rated Tadoba, Pench and Melghat tiger projects as well-managed. In fact, Tadoba was probably the first tiger reserve in the country, where 32 cubs were spotted since January 2010 and most of them have survived.
Kishore Rithe of Satpuda Foundation and a former member of National Board for Wildlife pointed out that Maharashtra could not achieve the national average because of rampant poaching and lack of adequate wildlife management in the buffer zone and tiger corridors in the state.
A poacher, who was arrested near Melghat Tiger project in Amravati district last year, confessed to killing four tigers in 2014. “About 12 tigers were found dead in 2014 in different forests in Maharashtra and most of them were killed by poachers. Man-animal conflict is one of the major reasons for not achieving the national average,” he said.
According to Rithe, the Bahelias - a community of notorious poachers - killed 22 tigers in the region in past few years.
Karnataka, which ranked the highest with 408 tigers, had recorded the tiger population of 290 in 2006 and 300 in 2010. In Madhya Pradesh, the number of tigers in 2010 was 257 but now it has gone up to 308. The number of tigers has increased to 229 (a rise by 66) in Tamil Nadu since 2010.
GP Garad, the field director and chief conservator of forests, Tadoba tiger project, claimed there are around 75 tigers in his area. “This is one of the better-managed national parks in the country. This is the reason our reserves have been highly rated,” he added.
* Tadoba reserves has 75 to 80 tigers
* Tiger population in the country is estimated to be around 2,226, a rise of over 30% since the last count in 2010 when the figure was 1,706
* The total number of tigers in Maharashtra was estimated to be around 190, a rise of just 12% from its 2010 figure of 169
* According to rough estimates, out of 190 tigers in Maharashtra about 170-175 exist in the landscape of Tadoba, Pench, Melghat, Navegaon, Nagzhira and Sahayadri tiger reserves. The number of tigers is estimated around 75 to 80 at Tadoba reserves in Chandrapur
* The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) rated Tadoba, Melghat and Pench tiger projects from good to very good for protection, conservation and effective management of wildlife there while Sahyadri is from fair to good
* The Melghat tiger reserves has been awarded first prize among all tiger reserves in the country for village relocation from core area. The award was given to the field director of Melghat Dinesh Tyagi by Union minister of state for forests Prakash Jawdekar on Tuesday.