By Dharmendra Khandal
The year is about to say goodbye and it’s time for all of us to reflect on what we have achieved in terms of our goals. As far as I am concerned, reviewing the results of what we have done towards the conservation of our most charismatic species — tigers — is extremely important. Experts say this year tiger poaching has been the highest in the past seven years, reaching almost 40 in number.
Death records of tigers are kept by an NGO called Wildlife Protection Society of India (WSPI). According to WSPI, the number of tiger deaths this year is 78 and of which only 38 deaths occurred due to natural reasons. The official website of national tiger conservation authority (NTCA) indicates that only five tigers’ body parts have been recovered. Other data by NTCA is actually ambiguous, which points out that the number of total tiger deaths is 62 and five of them were results of poaching. However, if one reads carefully, one finds that the website mentions only five poached tigers’ body parts have been recovered, implying the other tigers’ body parts could not be traced. A wildlife crime expert says after poaching, poachers collect bones and skin of the carcass, while the rest of the meat and flesh is thrown in the jungle for scavengers, so it’s impossible to trace it. After a few days or weeks, they export the dried skin and bones to China or other countries. It is not always possible to trace these evidences. So saying that they recovered only five tigers’ body parts cannot be counted as actual data related to poaching incidences this year.
Data of poached tigers should be analysed on the basis of the poacher’s confession to the legal authority. Their presence in sensitive areas, call data records, phone surveillance records and undisclosed money found with traders are evidences that should be considered in order to calculate the tiger loss in a particular time period. Absence of particular tigers who are young and have a defined territory is also important evidence at times. In October, wildlife crime control bureau (WCCB) caught two Delhi-based wildlife traders —Suraj Pal alias chacha and Naresh Lala — with tiger bones weighing 18 kg and Rs 50 lakh from them. These people are considered to have traded 20 tigers from Maharashtra region alone.
India boasts of 42 tiger reserves. Many of these wildlife complexes operate without tigers or the overall situation of these reserves are really bad in terms of tiger numbers because of various reasons like extremism or terrorism. While some of the reserves are doing very well and their population is also growing or is at least stable, the lack of inviolate space is a big challenge for these areas. Tiger is a prolific breeder and becomes ready to reproduce at a young age; a female tiger attains adulthood at the three to four years and starts producing cubs. In its whole life span — 15 years on an average — it produces up to an average of nine to 12 cubs, usually four to five per litter. More....