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| Last Updated:: 19/12/2016

98 tigers died in India in 2016, says National Tiger Conservation Authority











The euphoria over rise in world tiger population early this year may have been misplaced for India as the official data placed before Parliament shows that 98 tigers died in the country till November 16, 2016, a steep 25 per cent rise over last year when 78 deaths were reported.



The figures collected by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) also take the wind out of government efforts to encourage tiger foundations for sensitising the public and fighting poachers to save the big cats. The environment and forest ministry released Rs1.82-crore grant in 2016 for tiger conservation against Rs30 lakh the previous year.



"Poaching and poisoning continue to be tigers' worst enemies in the wild," environment minister Anil Madhav Dave told Mail Today, explaining the challenges before the government. "The villagers and some criminal social groups living in or at the fringes of tiger reserves get lured by the money thrown by poaching syndicates of south-east Asia, where there is a huge demand for tiger body parts, we are battling that to save our big cats."



Curiously, a high percentage of tiger deaths in the NTCA data remain unexplained, as the official records show "details awaited" or "cases under scrutiny" as the stated reason for the death. Environmentalists point out that in such cases, the deaths are considered as unnatural, with poaching as the most common motive.



The NTCA has also issued an advisory stating that all tiger deaths will be treated as poaching unless and until proven otherwise. Hence the number of poaching cases under such a condition is over 65% of the total tiger deaths reported in 2016.



Madhya Pradesh alone accounts for nearly 31 of the 98 deaths this year. The state reported four tiger deaths within a fortnight in November, with one death due to overdose of tranquiliser.








The central Indian state, whose tourism arrivals is soaring every year banks heavily on tiger population in its three famous reserves. However, tiger population in Madhya Pradesh has come down from 700 in 2000 to less than half, at 301 in 2016. The state now trails behind Karnataka and Uttarakhand in tiger population.



There are many anti-poaching measures initiated by NTCA which coordinate with state forest departments, but to little avail. In fact, poaching cases increased by more than 100 per cent this year. The figures attribute nearly 30 tiger deaths to poaching this year, which is more than double of last year's figure of 14. Top forest officials that Mail Today spoke with expressed helplessness in their fight against poachers and at times cited "political pressures'' leading to more frequent man-tiger conflict.



Some point fingers at archaic resources at hand, immobility against hi-tech and heavilyarmed poachers around Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Some poachers belong to criminal social groups like Pardis, Bahelias, Bawarias and Bongias and are very strongly networked in Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.








The support from local political leadership to these criminal groups and lack of coordination with local police and enforcement agencies in some critical tiger areas are also not ruled. The case of Sariska Tiger Reserve is apt, where there is no tiger now, officially, said officials on the condition of anonymity.



According to World Wildlife Fund, the world's total tiger population is estimated to be 3,890, of which India is home to 2,226 tigers big cats on official count.




The actual number could be higher as the surveys did not take place in many Naxal-dominated areas in states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Telangana. Conversely, the flip side could be that there may be some more tiger deaths going unreported in the nation's "red corridors".








Source: India Today