Activists concerned on rising tiger deaths in MP; government says nothing to worry

Published: Jan 28, 2018, 15:22 IST | PTI

Wildlife activists have expressed concern over what they claim rising number of tiger deaths in Madhya Pradesh, but government officials said the felin's population is on the upswing and poaching incidents are taken seriously

Wildlife activists have expressed concern over what they claim rising number of tiger deaths in Madhya Pradesh, but government officials said the felin's
population is on the upswing and poaching incidents are taken seriously. The activists said Madhya Pradesh has recorded the highest number of tiger deaths among the states, while forest department officials insisted there was no negligence on their part in conserving the national animal.

Representational picture

One of the activists, Ajay Dubey, has now decided to approach the MP High Court seeking a direction for a probe into the tiger deaths reported in the last two years. Notably, the state lost 32 striped cats due to poaching and other reasons in the last 13 months, as per sources. These included six since January 1, 2018.

According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) data, of the 98 tiger deaths in India in 2017, 26 were reported from Madhya Pradesh. In 2016, 33 tigers died in the state, as per the MP forest department data. "We are going to move the high court for a probe into the tiger deaths since 2016. MP recorded the highest number of tiger deaths in 2016, 2017 and now six have died in January alone," Dubey said.

He said a radio-collared tigress was allegedly poached in the Satpura Tiger Reserve in Hoshangabad recently. The feline was found dead near a rest house on January 18. The forest officials came to know about it three days after it was killed, Dubey claimed. "Is this how they are keeping a track of the big cats having radio collars which emit signals of their movement?" he asked. He said "criminal negligence" of authorities was responsible for the steady rise in tiger deaths in MP, which houses half a dozen reserves for the striped animal. However, the Satpura Tiger Reserve's field director, L Krishnamurthy, said the death of the tigress, aged around 7, was being probed and it was too early to say it was poached. "We are worried about the feline's death," he said, adding the tigress' radio collar was non-functional since the last one-and-a-half year.

The carcass did not bear any internal or external injury mark, the official said. A feline in the wild of Seoni district, which houses the Pench Tiger Reserve, was found dead on January 13. The tigress was allegedly poisoned to death and its claws and other external body parts, which fetch a huge price in the international markets, were found missing. "Five persons had been arrested in connection with the poaching," a forest official said. A retired official of the MP animal husbandry department maintained the tiger deaths need to be investigated thoroughly. "Something is seriously wrong with tiger conservation in the state."

However, Madhya Pradesh's principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Jitendra Agrawal said they take prompt action when poaching incidents come to light. "The state does not conceal the death of a tiger. Every death is reported. "We (MP) had 257 big cats in 2010. The number went up to 308, according to the last tiger count of the country," he said. "From the tiger census, it is clear that their number is swelling in the state," Agrawal said.

Asked about the large number of tiger deaths in MP, Agrawal said farmers were putting electric fences around their fields to protect crops and this was hurting the conservation of the striped animal. "Electric fencing resulting in the death of wild animals invites jail term of more than two years," he noted. Agrawal said the tiger population has rapidly increased in MP and the felines are venturing out of the protected areas and dying due to different reasons. "Wait for the next tiger count in January 2019, Agrawal said, exuding confidence that there would be a "huge" rise in their number in MP in the census. He said the HC has set up three designated wildlife courts to fast-track the cases of poaching. "We are prompt in bringing such cases before the court and back them with solid evidence to ensure the offenders are punished," he added.

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