‘Tiger State’ deputy records 27 big cat deaths in 2022, highest in nation

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Madhya Pradesh, known as India’s ‘tiger state’, has also earned the dubious distinction of accounting for the highest number of deaths of these majestic striped felines.

As of July 15 this year, of the total number of 74 tiger deaths recorded in the country, MP alone accounted for 27 – the highest of any state during this period, data released by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) on its website revealed.

The centrally located state is followed on this front by Maharashtra, which recorded 15 deaths during the period. Karnataka comes next with 11 dead, Assam five, Kerala and Rajasthan four each, Uttar Pradesh with three, Andhra Pradesh two, Bihar, Odisha and Chhattisgarh one each, among other states, according to NTCA figures.

According to officials, territorial fighting, old age, disease, poaching and electrocution are some of the main reasons for their death. Madhya Pradesh had regained the coveted label of being the country’s ‘tiger state’ in the 2018 census.

According to the All-India Tiger Estimate Report 2018, the state was home to 526 tigers, the highest of any state in the country. There are six tiger reserves in the state namely Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench, Satpura, Panna and Sanjay Dubri.

Of the 27 tiger deaths this year, nine were male and eight were female. In other cases, the sex of the animals was not mentioned in the data. The deceased included adults, subadults and cubs. Tigers live, breed and hunt in forests and they are at the top of the food chain. As apex predators, their presence indicates a healthy, larger ecosystem.

Expressing concern over the increasing number of tiger deaths, wildlife enthusiasts and Right to Information (RTI) campaigner Ajay Dube told PTI: “In Panna, no tigers were found about 10 years. After that, the NTCA advised states to set up their own special tiger protection forces (STPFs) to protect big cats, especially from poachers.

The Center has made budgetary provisions to support the STPF, but the MP government has so far failed to build up any such force due to its own interests, he alleged. If established, this force will control, besides poaching, other activities such as illegal mining and felling of trees in forest areas, he said. Dube also said that states like Karnataka, Odisha and Maharashtra have established STPFs and their results are visible because Karnataka, despite having a large tiger population, has a lower big cat mortality rate than the Madhya Pradesh.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Wildlife (PCCF), JS Chauhan, said: “The higher number of tiger mortalities is due to the fact that Madhya Pradesh has the highest population of big cats in the country. For this reason, the number of their deaths is naturally so high.

“Territorial fights between tigers cannot be avoided as it is a natural process for them. Old age is another issue,” he said. The Forest Department can only try to prevent poaching and it always tries to do so, he said. On the issue of the formation of the STPF, he said that Madhya Pradesh was the first state to give it its approval but it has yet to be formed one way or the other. On the plus side, Chauhan pegged the number of tiger births in the state this year at around 120, though the exact number could not be confirmed.

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