Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Madhya Pradesh has reported the highest number of tiger deaths between 2012 to 2019 and in this year alone, 36 of the big cats lost their lives in the state.
The increasing number of tiger deaths in almost all the reserves in Madhya Pradesh is not only putting a risk on the 'tiger state', which it won against Karnataka in 2018, but it has also raised an alarm for forest departments to take more protective measures.
Madhya Pradesh won the 'tiger state' status in the All India Tiger Estimated Report 2018 by a difference of just two big cats - 526 to Karnataka's 524.
But the state has lost over 200 tigers between 2012 and 2019 (36 till November 13, 2021), followed by 141 in Maharashtra and 123 in Karnataka during the same period.
The Kanha Tiger Reserve, which is popularly known as Kanha-Kisli National Park located in peripheries of two districts Mandla and Balaghat, has reported 43 tiger deaths between 2012 and 2019, the highest in the country.
Bandhavgarh National Park, another major tiger reserve located in Umaria district (the border between Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh), has reported 38 tiger deaths in the same period.
Pench National Park or Pench Wildlife Sanctuary, which is located between two Sioni and Chhindwara districts, has lost 17 tigers, while Satpura Tiger Reserve in Hoshangabad district and Sanjay-Dubri in Sidhi district have lost three and four, respectively, according to the National Tiger Conservation Authority's report.
However, the officials in the reserves were of the view that the tiger population has continued to grow and it never decreased despite the deaths.
These dispersing tigers often ended up falling victim to wire traps, poachers and human-animal conflicts. Surprisingly, in the past fortnight, two tigers were reported dead which were fitted with radio-collared mechanism.
"Security system of tigers at each reserve need to be strengthen with modern mechanism. Death of the two radio-collared tigers in have created another challenge because the mechanism was considered to be secured in terms of locating movement and other activities of tigers. Increasing population and territorial fights among them are another big concern which needs more attention," said a senior wildlife official at the Kanha National Park.
Meanwhile, wildlife activists told IANS said that situation is unlikely to improve until a Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) is formed and deployed in reserves.
In 2000 when the number of tigers were on a decline due to human interferences, increasing incidents of poaching and trafficking, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had recommended states having tiger reserves to set up STPF.
Following the recommendation, Odisha, Karnataka and Maharashtra ormed STPFs. However, Madhya Pradesh is yet to set-up such a force.
In 2014, the Madhya Pradesh High Court on the basis of a plea filed by wildlife activist Ajay Dube had directed the state government to set up an STPF.
The court had directed the state forest department to submit a reply on the matter.
"The state government replied that it is working on the process. Soon, I am going to request the High Court to seek a reply on development," Dube said.
"The forest department is reluctant to set up an STPF because they are also involved in the nexus of tiger poaching and trafficking. They are well aware that once the STPF is deployed in forest areas, their illegal activities will be stopped," he added.
According to the NTCA's data, out of 857 tigers died in India between 2012 and 2020, 55.8 per cent (478) have have died inside reserves, 31.6 per cent (271) were outside these boundaries, and 12.6 per cent (108) were seizures.
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