India takes pride in being home to nearly 60% of the world’s tiger population that lives in the wild, but 2016 has so far been a sad year for the endangered species. The number of tiger deaths reported in the country so far this year is just five short of the figure for all of 2015.
According to information provided by minister of state for environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) Anil Madhav Dave in reply to a query in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, 73 tiger deaths have been recorded in India till 20 July since the start of the year. That compares with a total of 78 in all of 2015.
Of the 73, seven were natural deaths, 21 because of poaching; 45 cases are still under scrutiny. In 2015, of the 78 deaths, 28 were due to natural reasons, 14 poaching and 36 cases are still under scrutiny.
Dave said several initiatives have been taken by the Indian government through the National Tiger Conservation Authority for conservation and protection of tigers and other wild animals.
Dave outlined steps like tougher punishment for offences in the core area of a tiger reserve. He also cited a bilateral agreement with Nepal on controlling trans-boundary illegal trade in wildlife and conservation and a protocol on tiger conservation with China.
The environment minister also said a Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) had been made operational in Karnataka (Bandipur), Maharashtra (Pench and Tadoba-Andhari) and Odisha (Similipal) to protect the endangered species.
“In-principle approval has been accorded for creation of the said force in Nawegoan-Nagzira, Melghat (Maharashtra), Kawal and Amrabad Tiger Reserves (Telangana),” Dave said. In January 2015, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government released the tiger census 2014, pegging their population at 2,226, a jump of 30% since 2010, when it was 1,706.
Later, a report released in April 2016 highlighted that after a century of steady decline, the global tiger count had shown an increase for the first time. About 100,000 tigers roamed the forests of the world in 1900, but their numbers dwindled steadily, hitting a low of 3,200 in 2010 when the last estimates were compiled. But a new count showed that the number of tigers in the wild is at 3,890 in 2016, with India being home to 2,226, or more than half of them.
At present, India has nearly 60% of the world’s tiger population. Launched in 1973 to check the dwindling population of tigers, India’s Project Tiger today includes 49 tiger reserves that span about 2.12% of country’s geographical area.
K. Ullas Karanth, one of India’s best-known tiger conservationists, whose research on using camera traps to estimate the tiger population was incorporated by the government, said only a fraction of tigers that die in the country are detected.
“A lot of tigers die and many are born. Real concern is suppression of data. I would have been more concerned had the numbers fallen. There is a huge pressure on authorities to now record and report tiger deaths,” Karanth added.