Maharashtra recorded 21 tiger deaths this year, highest in a decade. The state also ranked second highest in tiger deaths in India in 2017 after Madhya Pradesh, which recorded 25 deaths, revealed a year-end report by New Delhi based non-profit Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI).
India recorded 109 tiger deaths in 2017 according to WPSI (till December 22), and 132 deaths in 2016.
Data from National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) recorded 23 tiger deaths in Maharashtra and a total of 111 tiger deaths this year, so far.
Last year, Maharashtra had recorded 16 tiger deaths. Between 2008 and 2015 tiger deaths ranged from four to 14.
“While we need not be worried about overall mortalities as there are natural causes involved, deaths due to poaching and body-parts seizures is a major concern with a large number of cases reported from Maharashtra,” said Tito Joseph, programme coordinator, WPSI.
“Poaching cases are taking place under organised groups, to sell body parts internationally. They need to be probed, both by central and state government.”
The last official census of tigers across the state from 2016 revealed 202 tigers. However, forest department officials told HT that the number may have increased to 206-210 this year. “There has been a marginal increase in birth rate of tigers, which is pushing numbers up in Maharashtra,” said Swapnil Deshbhratar, officer on special duty (wildlife wing), Mantralaya, state forest department.
Joseph added that the other issue is man-animal conflict that poses a threat to both tiger and human population in core forest areas with six tiger deaths this year, due to electrocution from fences set up by farmers. Cases have been reported from Chandrapur, Nagpur, Wardha, and Bhramapuri, including death of iconic tiger Jai’s son Srinivas in Nagbhid range in April.
“We have tied up with the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) to track areas where electric fences may pose a danger to tigers in reserved forest areas,”said Deshbhratar