Trapped in shrinking wild, tigers perish in mysterious deaths

The reason behind the deaths of tigers are unknown for half of the cases, while 24 out of the 95 were poached

Karnataka forest department has recently found a tiger carcass in the Nagarahole tiger reserve area, which they claim is the same tiger which had killed three humans Representational image: iStock

India, the largest host to tigers, has a population of three thousand of these wild cats. However, the death of tigers due to unknown reasons is increasingly becoming an issue in the country.

According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the country reported 95 tiger deaths in 2019. The reason behind the deaths are unknown for half of these cases, while 24 out of the 95 were poached. The remaining 22 tigers died due to various other reasons.

A similar pattern has been observed over the last three years. India reported 312 tiger deaths between 2016 and 2019. Out of these deaths, 82 of these cases are under scrutiny since the reasons behind these deaths are unknown. Also, 101 tigers were poached in this period.

Over the last 20 years, India reported 1,238 tiger deaths in all the tiger reserves across the country. One-fourth of these deaths were reported just over the last three years.


Government efforts for tiger conservation

According to the Tiger Census released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2019, India is home to 2,967 tigers. This was part of the fourth phase of the All India Tiger Estimation exercise conduction by the central government.

The rise in the number of tigers over the last few years is a result of the constant conservation efforts by the government. The government has spent ₹323 crore in 2018-19 and ₹282 crores in 2019-20 under this scheme. The budgetary allocation for the current year stands at ₹300 crore.

Adding to that, around ₹180 crore has been spent on the development of wildlife habitat, which includes tiger reserves.

Shrinking area for tiger reserves

India currently has 50 designated tiger reserves. Another problem faced with regard to the conservation of tigers is the shrinking space of the reserves. Though the number of tigers has increased immensely, their habitat has shrunk over the years. According to a report by Down To Earth, the area of the reserves has shrunk by 179 square kilometers while the tiger population has increased by four times the initial number.

The northeastern hills and Brahmaputra plains have been the worst hit, with approximately 43 per cent decrease in the area of the reserve. The region had an area of 5,821 square kilometers of tiger occupancy in 2014, which shrunk to 3,312 square kilometers in 2018. These reserves house more than 219 tigers.

The Shivalik-Gangetic plains, which include reserves in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, saw a 16 per cent shrink in the areas. Tiger occupancy area in this region was 8,346 square kilometers, with a drop of 1,671 square kilometers, when compared with the 2014 figures.

The total area under tiger reserves in India is 88,895 square kilometers, according to the latest figures.

The top three states with the highest number of tigers are – Madhya Pradesh, that has 526 tigers; Karnataka with 524 tigers, followed by Uttarakhand with 442 of them.

Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh each have six tiger reserves.