On the scent of dead big cats

July 30, 2017 12:00 am | Updated 04:24 am IST - Kolkata

NTCA data show 46% of the tiger deaths so far this year took place outside the reserves

Despite the success of tiger conservation in the country over the past decade, protection of the big cat remains a concern, data of tiger deaths and seizure of body parts show.

Till July 29, International Tiger Day, in 2017, 62 tigers died of natural or unnatural causes and 14 cases of seizure of body parts had been reported from across the country, show the official database of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

Twenty-nine, or 46%, of the deaths occurred outside tiger reserves. The remaining 33 deaths are inside the reserves. In 2016, of the 100 deaths, 37 occurred outside the reserves. An increase in the deaths recorded outside the reserves poses a question on the tiger conservation.

Admitting that more tiger deaths in 2017 have occurred outside the reserves, Nishant Verma, Deputy Inspector-General of the NCTA, told The Hindu that there was a need for “intensifying the protection mechanism outside tiger reserves”.

Mr. Verma said that when the population increased, chances of a spill-over effect were likely. Other than poaching for gains, tigers were killed in retaliation for attack on humans.

Different causes

The NTCA database provides the cause of deaths in just 13 of the 62 cases. Of the 13, six have been attributed due to natural causes and seven to unnatural causes — two electrocutions, two accidents and one each of of poaching, snares and traps and tiger infighting.

In a recent interview with The Hindu, K. Ullas Karanth, renowned tiger expert, said conservation authorities detected only a fraction of tiger deaths.

Giving a rough estimate of 3,000 tigers in the country, he said there should be about 750 deaths and births every year. “The real concern is whether these deaths are due to poaching and if they are being killed inside protected zones where the breeding is taking place,” he said. “The deaths reflect on the tiger dynamics which is typical of a highly productive tiger habitat where a high number of births and deaths take place.

But if the target killings exceed natural deaths, it is a cause of concern,” Rajesh Gopal, secretary-general, Global Tiger Forum, and former member secretary of NTCA, said. The 62 deaths in the first seven months of the year come to an average of nine a month. Compared with the 2016 figure of 100 deaths, the figure is marginally higher.

Most in Karnataka

A State-wise analysis of the deaths indicate that Karnataka has recorded the highest 14 deaths. Madhya Pradesh follows with 13, and Maharashtra and Uttarakhand with 12, which, Mr. Gopal said, are the States with high tiger dynamics.

Data of seizure of tiger body parts reveal that of the 14 cases, five were reported inside the reserves and nine from outside. Compared with 2016, where 22 cases were recorded, the figure is marginally high. Assam has recorded the highest number of seizures — three outside the reserves and two inside. This is followed by Maharashtra where four incidents of seizures were recorded.

In 2016, the highest number of six seizures were reported from Uttarakhand.

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