Madhya Pradesh which held the distinction for the highest numbers of tigers has reported 26 deaths of the striped cats, according to the figures of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). Last year the state had lost 28 tigers.
The highest number of tigers (3,421) were found in Madhya Pradesh, followed by Karnataka at 1,783 and Maharashtra 1,690.
However, the Tiger State could not contain the tiger mortalities this year as well as was the case in the last few years.
In a concerning sign, among the 26 deaths, the state lost 21 tigers inside the tiger reserves, protected areas notified for conservation of tigers and only five tigers died outside the protected territories.
MP had been under the scanner for high numbers of tiger mortalities in last few years. A report from Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change released in June this year, the country lost 750 tigers since year 2012 and there were few surprises as MP topped the ignominious list by reporting 173 casualties in the period.
The number of deaths recorded in 2019 are more than double as compared to 2018, when MP lost 13 tigers.
Madhya Pradesh was the biggest home to Royal Bengal Tigers by 20th century, but later Karnataka got the title of 'Tiger State' in 2010. The tiger count had shrunk to mere 257 by this year in the central Indian state. The state regained the coveted tag in year 2018 (526) but was only two more than Karnataka which narrowly lost the crown to the central Indian state.
Forest minister Vijay Shah in a recent interview had said that death rate of the tigers was lesser than the birth rate of big cats in last few years.
“Saying that MP has 124 tiger cubs which were not counted so the state will have in excess of 600 tigers during the next census,” the minister had claimed.
A senior wildlife activist working in Madhya Pradesh claimed that mortalities can’t be dubbed as abnormally high as we are facing a surge in big cat numbers in the state. The activist however cautioned governments over growing pressure on forests especially due to land rights being given to locals.
“You can’t talk about growing tiger numbers and settling locals in their habitations in large numbers,” said the activist calling for checking growing human intrusion into the forest areas for reducing big cat-human clashes.
India has 7,910 leopards as per the estimates of 2014 which increased to 12,852 in 2018, a report recently released by the Ministry of Environment and Forest says.