Number of tigers up, but rise in poaching, man-animal conflicts cause for concern: Experts

New Delhi: Though India’s tiger conservation efforts have yielded favourable results, the rise in poaching and man-animal conflict due to shrinking prey base is a cause for concern, experts said on Friday.
According to the 2018 tiger census, India has a tiger population of 2,967. There were 1,411 tigers in 2006.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) says India has lost 1,059 tigers since 2012 with Madhya Pradesh, which is known as the “tiger state” of the country, recording the highest number of deaths of the striped felines.
NTCA data showed 75 tigers have died this year so far, while 127 had died last year, the highest in the 2012-2022 period.
As many as 106 tiger deaths occurred in 2020; 96 in 2019; 101 in 2018; 117 in 2017; 121 in 2016; 82 in 2015; 78 in 2014; 68 in 2013; and 88 in 2012.
According to the data, 197 tigers died due to poaching in the 2012-2021 period.
Union Minister of State for Environment Ashwini Kumar Choubey in Lok Sabha on Monday said that 125 people have been killed in “tiger attacks” in the last three years, including 61 in Maharashtra and 25 in Uttar Pradesh.
Tito Joseph, programme manager, Wildlife Protection Society of India, said though the mortality rate is not a matter of concern, authorities should be worried about the deaths due to poaching and human-tiger conflict.
“The government is putting in a lot of effort in tiger conversation and the number of tiger reserves has increased to 52 (from nine in 1973). But, states should focus more on areas where poaching is high and involve local people,” he said.
“The number of deaths is not a cause for concern. It would have been a reason to worry had tiger births gone below the mortality rate,” Qamar Qureshi, scientist, Wildlife Institute of India, said.
He said the quality of forests outside protected areas has reduced and they have very little wildlife for consumption of the big cats. Therefore, tigers venture into human-dominated areas and prey on livestock, leading to man-animal conflict.
Scientist and conservationist Faiyaz Khudsar said the situation has improved since Panna (Madhya Pradesh) and Sariska (Rajasthan) tiger reserves lost their entire tiger population between 2006 and 2009.
“However, tigers outside the protected areas are a serious problem. The forests in buffer areas are not of high quality and the prey base is very low. Therefore, tigers go and prey on cattle which creates a big problem (man-animal conflict),” he said.
Interestingly, in core areas, too, prey base is declining due to the conversion of grasslands into woodlands, he said.
Ecological losses due to road, railway, mining and irrigation projects also have a huge toll on tigers and their prey, Khudsar said.

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