Wildlife conservationists blame poaching for lack of rise in tiger numbers in Odisha
While several states, including Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Karnataka, have shown a considerable surge in tiger numbers in the All India Tiger Census 2018, wildlife conservationists in Odisha have slammed lack of growth of tigers in Odisha. The conservationists have demanded the government explain spending crores of Rupees in the name of tiger conservation in the state.
The final reports of the 2018 census conducted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority showed Odisha’s tigers numbers at 28, same as it was in the 2014 census.
Tiger population in Similipal-Satkosia block is severely depressed, the report said, adding that only one tiger was recorded in the north part of the Satkosia tiger reserve while in Similipal reserve, the presence of 8 adult tigers (7 female and only one 2 male) could be identified.
Wildlife conservationist Biswajit Mohanty there were 28 tigers in 2014 in Odisha. He said the census counts tiger cubs that are more than 1-year-old and they should have been part of the final count too. “Tigers are good breeders. The state should have added at least 12 to 15 more tigers during the last four years if not more. The reason it did not happen is only due to rampant poaching which is taking a heavy toll in tigers of Odisha,” said Mohanty.
Mohanty said, as per the state government’s own statistics, Odisha had reported 192 wild tigers including 60 cubs in 2002. “If the cubs are discounted then there were 132 wild tigers which has now fallen to only 28. Thus in 16 years, Odisha has lost 104 adult tigers in though at least Rs 60 crores has been spent on their protection and management by the state. Simlipal Tiger Reserve lost 75 wild tigers as per the state government census figures of 2006 and 2016. No accountability was fixed on the forest officials though we had spent crores on tiger protection till mid-2020,” Mohanty said.
Dismissing the state government’s earlier claims of at least 100 tigers in Similipal, wildlife activist Aditya Panda said there is no point living in a dream. “No one is going to be fooled by the claims of government experts that Similipal had more than 100 tigers. The state needs to come clean. It should now set a target for the next 10 years so that the numbers can be revived,” said Panda.
Commenting on the failed exercise of India’s first inter-state relocation to Satkosia that was abandoned in 2018 after the death of a relocated tiger from Madhya Pradesh, the tiger census report said the failure was due to the hostility among local communities and their intensive use of the tiger reserve resources for livelihoods. The tiger relocation exercise was suspended in November 2018 after a three-year-old tiger, that was shifted from Madhya Pradesh to Satkosia tiger reserve, died of the wounds it received from the snares laid by poachers earlier that year.
“As parts of the tiger reserve and corridors are shared with people, it is also important to strengthen the social carrying capacity. Community participation, alternative livelihoods, and law enforcement are required before tigers can be supplemented in Satkosia,” it said.
On Similipal tiger reserve, the census report said as it has a reasonably high prey base, it has the potential to sustain higher tiger densities. “However, consistently low density of tigers in the reserve over the years calls for active management intervention. The management has done a good job of relocating several human settlements from the Tiger Reserve and with good protection from poaching, the tiger population should recover in the near future,” the report said.
It, however, said that the current strength of the tiger population in the reserve was facing extinction and it may be prudent to supplement a few tigers from Bandhavgarh tiger reserve.