Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest tiger mortality in the country for a second successive year in 2017, with 25 out of the 95 big cat deaths reported in the country taking place in the central state, data showed.
According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the maximum number of deaths — nearly a quarter of those in the entire country — were reported in Madhya Pradesh followed by 17 in Maharashtra and 15 each in Karnataka and Uttarakhand. With eight tiger deaths, Assam was next on the list followed by Uttar Pradesh with seven. Three deaths occurred in Tamil Nadu, two in Kerala and one each in Rajasthan, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
In 2016 too, Madhya Pradesh had the dubious distinction of recording the highest number of tiger deaths in the country — 30 out of 97.
According to state officials, the tigers died due to various reasons ranging from poaching and infighting to infection and collision with train.
The high tiger mortality in the state has become a cause of worry for wildlife enthusiasts and officials. Once known as the tiger state, Madhya Pradesh lost the tag to Karnataka in 2010 following a census conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India.
According to the tiger census conducted in 2015, the big cat numbers had increased in Madhya Pradesh from 257 in 2010 to 308 in 2015.
However, since January 2016, 55 tigers have died in the state.
While tiger deaths continue to plague the state, wildlife officials said all was not gloomy. Ritesh Sirothia, in-charge Special Task Force (wildlife crime), said although the state recorded a high number of tiger deaths in 2017 the figures were less than what was registered in 2016.
He also said authorities were able to crackdown on poachers and cited the four-year jail term awarded to five traffickers, including one operating on the global stage, in October to cement his claim.
“The forest department also succeeded in nabbing poachers active in Kanha area by arresting five of them in a Bollywood style operation,” he said.
Explaing the details of the operation carried out by wildlife authorities, Sirothia said: “ The officials lured them by posing as a ‘Panda” (priest), who wanted to buy tiger body parts from them for tantric rituals. Also, tigers from Panna Tiger Reserve, where their population had drastically fallen by 2009, showed a spillover effect by moving towards Uttar Pradesh’s Chitrakoot forests and setting up their territories there. This has brought cheer among tiger lovers and wildlife officials”.