INDIA LOSES 50 TIGERS IN SIX MONTHS - 6th August 2013

Bagish K Jha, TNN
INDORE: Even as India is striving hard to save the big cats, the country has lost fifty tigers so far this year against 72 tiger deaths in 2012.

Heading the list is Karnataka with the loss of 13 tigers till now, followed by eight in Maharashtra, seven in Uttarakhand and five in Madhya Pradesh. Out of the five tiger deaths in Madhya Pradesh, two are from Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, two from Pench Tiger Reserve and one from Katni forest division.

Representing the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), S.P. Yadav said on Wednesday that every tiger in the country is under threat from poaching. Under the new protocol issued by NTCA on tiger mortality, the cause of every tiger death will be considered as due to poaching, until the time state government proves it otherwise with proper evidence.

Earlier there was trend among states to hide the exact cause of the death. Now rules have been changed so as to highlight the actual cause of tiger deaths. The NTCA directions will bring in more transparency in the post-mortem process.

Yadav stressed that poaching in India takes place to feed markets in China. Burma and Nepal have emerged as new routes for smuggling tiger body parts, however, government is taking several steps to check poaching. Focus is on tiger conservation using satellites and use of more advanced and sophisticated electronic and digital systems.
Right now, India has around 1,500 tigers and NTCA is maintaining a photographic record of every tiger in the country, which has been given unique identification markings based on their stripes. Each tiger's markings are unique, like a fingerprint, and a new computer-driven technique can match images of live animals with illegally traded skins, identifying when and where poachers made their kills. Recently, three tiger skins were seized in Nepal and on the basis of this unique identification, one tiger was found to be from Madhya Pradesh, said Yadav.

When tigers and humans clash, the results are violent and usually fatal. Lives on both sides are lost. Exploding human populations and ever-shrinking forests means the pressure is rising. With so few of these big cats left, finding solutions to human-tiger conflict has become one of the most urgent issues facing conservation today. Yadav said, India has 60 per cent of the total tiger population of the world. The country's existing habitat has a capacity to sustain maximum of 2,400 tigers, at present the country has 1,500 tigers), if the number of tigers exceeds this, more challenges are expected.

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