67 tiger deaths reported in first half of 2017
New Delhi: An average of 11 tigers died every month in the first half of 2017 in India, a number that indicates the country could lose more of its national animals this year than it did in 2016, which saw 122 tiger deaths, the most in a decade.
Growth of illegal international trade in tiger parts is resulting in a growth in poaching in India, home to around 60% of the world’s tigers that live in the wild.
This year, a total of 67 tiger deaths have been recorded thus far. Of this, nine are presumed deaths on the basis of body parts seized (although it is possible the animals were killed earlier). In many of the remaining cases, the cause of death is yet to be established.
Of the 122 tiger deaths registered in 2016 , 22 were presumed deaths on the basis of body parts seized. In the other 100 cases, the cause of death ranged from natural death in old age to drowning, electrocution, fighting, road/rail accidents, and poisoning for revenge (by humans). Two tigers, both presumed man-eaters were shot by officials.
India is home to 2,226 tigers which is about 60% of the world’s wild tiger population of about 3,890. The number marks the success of India’s efforts to protect its national animal. A decade back, pressure on their habitat and poaching had seen their population reach a low of 1,411 (in 2006).
But the increase in their number also seems to be driving an increase in attacks on them.
Experts say the high demand for body parts of tigers is resulting in more deaths.
“There is tremendous pressure on wild tigers for poaching due to surge in demands of their body parts and skin in countries such as China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Cambodia. This phenomenon is driving poaching of tigers in the South Asian countries,” said S.P. Yadav, assistant secretary general at the Global Tiger Forum, an inter-governmental organization dedicated to tiger conservation.
Other experts point to the continuous battle between development and conservation, and vanishing tiger corridors for the high number of tiger deaths.
A senior official of the Union environment ministry said the number looks high because of the increase in the number of tigers in India.
Still, “the government does not take anything lightly; all protocols are followed and every tiger death is investigated to see if it’s a case of poaching or revenge killing,” this person added, asking not to be identified.
To check dwindling population of tigers, the Indian government launched Project Tiger in 1973.
India now has 50 tiger reserves that cover 2.12% of the country’s total geographical area.