The worrying rise in the deaths of big cats
- The news reports said that out of the 126 deaths, 60 were due to poaching, accidents, and man-animal conflict outside the protected areas
As many as 126 tigers died in India in 2021, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) said last week. The maximum number of tiger deaths took place in Madhya Pradesh (44), followed by Maharashtra (26), and Karnataka (14). Responding to media reports on the deaths, the Centre said that the average number of tiger deaths per year is around 98 (2012-2021). The news reports said that out of the 126 deaths, 60 were due to poaching, accidents, and man-animal conflict outside the protected areas.
According to the fourth round of the assessment done in 2018, India’s estimated tiger population is 2,967, which marks an improvement over the 2014 estimate of 2,226 tigers. MP leads the states in tiger numbers (526). Karnataka was a close second with 524 tigers, while Uttarakhand had 444 tigers. While India’s tiger conservation efforts are noteworthy, many experts have claimed that the actual death count could be higher because many go unreported. According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India, there has been a 48% jump in tiger deaths in 2021 compared to 2020. In 2020, there were 111 tiger deaths, and in 2021, 164 tiger mortalities. Tiger deaths are a known problem because 35% of tiger ranges lie outside protected areas. There is immense development pressure on land, resulting in loss, fragmentation, and degradation of wildlife habitats.
This rising number is worrying. NTCA, as the government promised, must conduct a thorough investigation and make the results public. The Centre and state governments must take steps to secure wildlife habitats and corridors, and reduce man-animal conflict to ensure the safety of big cats.