74 tigers died between January 1 and June 26 this year in India

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At least 74 tigers died between January 1 and June 26 this year in India. Worryingly, there is also a spike in poaching-related fatalities as 2016 reaches its halfway mark, statistics collated from different parts of India by a well-known wildlife NGO shows. Among these, 14 tigers were electrocuted, poisoned or simply killed by poachers, and much of the carcass was recovered. Police and wildlife authorities also seized skins, bones, claws, skeletons, canines and paws of another 16 tigers during this period, taking the tally to 30, as per figures provided by Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). It is possible that some of them might have been killed earlier but the deaths are accounted for only after the seizures. Another 26 tigers were “found dead”, a category that includes mortality due to disease, old age or unexplained circumstances. Statistics shows the remaining 18 were victims of infighting (12), tiger-human conflict (2), road or train accidents (3) and fights with other animals (1). comparison, 26 tigers fell victim to poachers in the entire year of 2015, according to WPSI. Besides, there were 65 deaths due to other reasons as specified above, taking the overall tally to 91 last year. However, tigernet.nic.in, a database on mortality of tigers and other key wildlife species across India, offers a different figure. The website puts the figure of tiger deaths so far this year at 52, with another 15 when seized body parts are taken into account. The database is a collaborative effort of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and TRAFFIC-India, a wildlife trade monitoring network. According to the national census in 2014, the number of tigers in India is 2,226 (minimum 1,945, maximum 2491). A state-wise look at the 2016 figures indicates that the maximum number of deaths (19) occurred in Madhya Pradesh. Maharashtra and Uttarakhand take the second spot with nine fatalities each. Madhya Pradesh also has the highest number of recorded deaths on account of poaching: six. WPSI records show that in the past three and a half years, tiger poaching and seizure of body parts have been reported from 15 states: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. Among them, the majority of cases are from Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Wildlife experts feel intelligence-led enforcement operations are key to thwarting poaching. “We are lacking on this front. Most of the time our frontline staff in protected areas are not even aware of the modus operandi of poachers. International cooperation is necessary to break the criminal nexus and reduce the demand of end-products in China and south-east Asian countries,” Tito Joseph of Wildlife Protection Society of India said.
Loss of habitat is another issue that ails tiger conservation.The big cat’s habitat is now limited to “7% of its original range”, said conservation biologist Raghu Chundawat. “Poaching of the tiger is not the only reason for this (deaths). There are several issues and all these can be referred to as loss of the quality of tiger habitat. This can also include loss of prey , forest cover, connectivity etc,” he added.

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