HT Editorial| Goa’s tiger tragedy was avoidable. Learn from it
India’s tiger population has increased. But safety remains a concernUpdated: Jan 09, 2020 20:15 IST
Wildlife officials at the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa, a 200-square kilometre enclave in the Western Ghats, on Wednesday, found the carcasses of an adult tigress and three cubs. According to them, the four were probably poisoned by two farmers, whose cattle were allegedly hunted by the cat family. Wildlife activists have claimed that the deaths could also be a case of poaching because the claws of one of the tigers were missing. The Centre has constituted a team to probe the deaths.
There are two reasons why the deaths could have been averted. One, Goa’s refusal to upgrade the sanctuary to a full-fledged tiger reserve (which could have provided it with stronger protection), following local and political opposition. And, second, a recent sequence of events should have alerted the officials of an impending man-animal conflict. On December 22, a cow was killed; a day later, the cat family was captured on a camera trap; and on December 30, a buffalo was killed. If the officials had planned a strategy to avoid any local backlash, the tigers could probably have been saved.
India’s tiger population has been increasing. The last tiger census report, released in July 2019, showed 2,967 tigers, up by a third when compared with the 2014 numbers. The killings in Goa are a reminder that while we celebrate the increasing numbers, there are enough reasons to keep the celebrations low-key. The big cats — as well as other animals — are facing existential challenges due to increasing man-animal conflict, lack of forest corridors through which they can move, and development projects such as mining and highways.