What is causing tiger deaths in India? Probe report reveals startling details

May 14, 2018, 20:02 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

A three-member team appointed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority prepares a report titled 'Missing tigers of UKWS and NNTR' after visiting wildlife sanctuaries, post the disappearance of tiger Jai from Nagpur forest

Apart from Jai, female tiger Alpha (also known as T1) are also missing. Pics/Aditya Agarwal, Deepak chaddha
Apart from Jai, female tiger Alpha (also known as T1) is also missing. Pics/Aditya Agarwal, Deepak chaddha

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) appointed a three-member expert committee to visit wildlife sanctuaries after the disappearance of tiger Jai. The expert committee has turned the spotlight on the menace of electric fences and given a remedy for it.

To stop the deaths of wild animals caused by these illegal electric fences installed by farmers to protect their crops, NTCA has suggested suitably compensating farmers for crop losses they've incurred on account of the animals.

The team made this suggestion in a report they submitted after visiting the Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary (UKWS) and Navegaon Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR) after tiger Jai went missing. The report titled 'Missing tigers of UKWS and NNTR' was prepared by NTCA's inspector general of forests, PS Somashekhar, joint director of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau Vivek Kishor and professor of Wildlife Institute of India Qamar Qureshi on July 20, 2017. The team had visited the sanctuaries between January 21 and 22, 2017.

Male tiger Dendu (also known as T1) has also been missing. Pic/Deepak Chaddha
Male tiger Dendu (also known as T1) has also been missing. Pic/Deepak Chaddha

Extensive usage
"During the field visits, the team also observed the farmers extensively used electric fence for protecting their crops from wild animals. In the past, there have been three cases of electrocution," states the portion of the report about missing tigers of NNTR.

The report further states, "Considering the information available to the team and the absence of concrete evidence, it is difficult to conclude about the fate of disappeared tigers... in all likelihood, these animals may have succumbed to either poisoning, electrocution, and even poaching... Further, there is an urgent need to wean away farmers from using electric wires for crop protection and/or through schemes like crop insurance and crop compensation."

There are farmers who put illegal electric fencing around their farms to prevent any damage to their crops from wild animals
There are farmers who put illegal electric fencing around their farms to prevent any damage to their crops from wild animals

Death by electrocution
Deaths of tigers and leopards from electrocution have been a matter of concern. There are farmers who put illegal electric fencing around their farms to prevent any damage to their crops from wild animals.

Over the years, it has been observed that this electric fencing acts as a death trap for wild animals like tigers, sambars, wild boars, chitals and gaurs. According to reports, between October 2016 and October 2017, a total of 10 tigers and three leopards died of electrocution in central India.

In April 2017, it was found that Jai's son Srinivas, who had gone missing, had got electrocuted and his body was recovered near the Nagbhid forest area. The forest department had arrested a farmer, Mahadev Baburao Erpate for his death. In November 2017, a radio-collared tigress from Brahmpuri Forest Division near Nagpur died after getting electrocuted in an electric fence in Gadchiroli district.

Concluding the report, the team has stressed on creating more awareness to stop farmers from building electric fences. "Presence of villages/human habitation and agricultural fields around protected areas and in corridors increases the human-wildlife conflict to an alarming level. Awareness generation programs are required to educate the local farmers not to indulge in such activities (electrocution, snares, etc.) which would cause damage to the wildlife."

 

Also read: Missing tiger Jai still a mystery for forest department


What's in a name?
In the report, the team made another interesting suggestion: to discontinue the practice of naming tigers, as some of them then end up gaining undue prominence and publicity over other animals. A forest department official said, "Naming the individual tigers is wrong as it unnecessarily gives more importance to the individual tigers, and they end up facing greater threat from poachers, as the location and name of the tigers gets shared on social networking sites."

Missing tigers of NNTR
Apart from Jai, a few other tigers are also reportedly missing from NNTR, namely male tiger Rashtrapathi, who disappeared in 2013), male tiger Dendu, also known as T1 and tigress Alpha and her two cubs, who disappeared in the latter half of 2015.

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