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Smaller numbers for big cats



THE INDIAN EXPRESS
Neha Shukla, 30th August 2009

LUCKNOW: The new tiger census will begin this October. But, a noticeable number of the big cats from the reported count of 2008 census will be missing from the exercise. Reason being that they have either been poached, died in an accident, or fell prey to ailments.

The 28 tiger deaths reported in 2008 and 67 mortalities reported since January this year, perhaps, indicate a jinxed existence for the treasured felines, in the country. Despite the allotment of sizable funds for the tigers' cause and Central authorities co-ordinating their protection plans, tiger conservation efforts have not lived up to expectations in the country.

Out of 67 tiger deaths reported this year, 24 were due to poaching and seizures. The remaining deaths were caused either by accidents or natural reasons. "It is difficult to talk about the exact reason as in most of the cases post-mortem reports are awaited", said Tito Joseph from Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). The figures are compiled by WPSI, the agency that has been working with many state forest departments for tiger conservation.

The mortalities have been reported from across the states, including Uttar Pradesh. UP has lost five of its tigers in 2009. Among these was a young tigress which wandered out of Pilibhit and was shot dead by the forest department in Faizabad. The state also reported two cases of poaching.

According to simple mathematics, 67 tiger deaths in eight months make it to eight tiger deaths each month. It is also worth mentioning that these mortalities are the ones reported by the states and the enforcement agencies. There is no mention of the deaths that go unnoticed. "We record the data when we are informed that a tiger body has been found", said Joseph.

While natural and accidental deaths get usually reported, poachers might not leave any proof of the tiger being killed at the spot. A glaring example was that of the Panna Tiger Reserve which lost all its 24 tigers over a period of five to six years. The lid was blown off only when all its tigers were killed.

The things are not all hunky dory for other tiger reserves too. The ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) has already sounded an alert for seven reserves -- Buxa reserve in West Bengal, Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh, Manas in Assam, Valmiki in Bihar, Simlipal in Orissa, Indravati in Chhattisgarh and Palamu in Jharkhand. There have either been no or very few tiger spottings in these reserves.

According to the February 2008 census, there were 1,411 tigers in 28 tiger reserves of the country. But since then, 95 tigers have already been reported dead -- 28 in 2008 and 67 in 2009. Since there is no database currently being maintained by the government, the available figures are the only reference available for enforcement agencies and the states. The database by the wildlife crime control bureau is under construction.


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TIGER DEATHS IN 2014
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