Poaching, electrocution behind 31% tiger deaths in last 6 years
Poaching and electrocution were behind 31.5% (207) of the 656 tiger deaths reported in the country between 2012 and 2018, according to data released by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
Around 40% of India’s estimated 2,226 tigers (2014 census) lives outside the core areas of tiger habitats. These tigers are vulnerable to poaching and come into conflict with humans. The data shows a rise in tiger vulnerability with deaths reported 2016 onwards being in the three digits as compared to being in two digits between 2012 and 2015. New tiger numbers estimated to be released in a month will throw more light on this aspect.
Interestingly, NTCA was not able to establish the cause of death in 118 cases (18% of the total deaths), primarily because of the state forest departments not updating the cause with the authority.
According to the data, Madhya Pradesh, with 148 deaths, led 19 states where tiger deaths were reported, followed by Maharashtra (107), Karnataka (100) and Uttarakhand (82). In 2019, 41 tiger deaths, 37 mortalities and four poaching deaths (based on body parts seized from poachers), have been reported thus far.This year too, the most cases are in MP (13) and Maharashtra (7). Of the deaths due to poaching, 124 were counted on the basis of carcasses and the rest from body parts seized from poachers. Of the deaths due to poaching, 124 were counted on the basis of carcasses and the rest from body parts seized from poachers.
According to the 2014 census, Madhya Pradesh (308), has the third highest population of tigers after Karnataka (408) and Uttarakhand (340).
“Poaching cases for illegal wildlife trade is less and the data complements this but death from electrocution (mostly through fences) has been a major concern from 2016 onwards..., ” said Anup Nayak, additional director general, NTCA.
While 295 tigers died natural deaths (45% of the total), 36 were killed in road or rail accidents.
Conflict outside sanctuaries, national parks and bio reserves in several places including in the Vidarbha landscape is likely to increase further in the coming years, a six-year study by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun found in April 2019.
Bilal Habib, a scientist with the Wildlife Institute of India, said: “Protected areas (PAs) in central India have enough tigers and they cannot sustain more but tigers are still breeding so the surplus population is being pushed outside resulting in more conflict.”
Independent experts said that trade in tiger body parts has not declined. “As long as Chinese medicine continues to use tiger parts, high demand will continue with poaching gangs and dens functioning out of India,” said Tito Joseph, programme coordinator, Wildlife Protection Society of India.