By Vijay Pinjarkar
NAGPUR: Tigers seem to be fast disappearing from several habitats in Maharashtra. Preliminary findings of the 2014 tiger census and figures obtained through RTI of last year's state-level count reveal that more than more than 40 tigers have gone missing across three sanctuaries in the state as compared with 2010 estimates.
The alarming drop in numbers cannot be explained by natural variation in the tiger populations, and points to the handiwork of poachers, sources said.
The 2013 state census reveals there are just five tigers left in the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve in western Maharashtra. That's a drop of 16 tigers in three years. Similarly, the initial 2014 count revealed to TOI by sources shows a tiger population of six in the Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve, a sharp fall of 14 from the 2010 census estimates of 20 in this 657-sq-km forest in eastern Maharashtra.
While the 2010 estimate put the number of tigers in Bor National Sanctuary in the state's Wardha district at 12, the 2014 preliminary estimation says there are only four, sources said. Some other tiger habitats in the state too do not seem to be doing well. Two years ago, officials claimed to have 11 tigers in Umred-Karhandla wildlife sanctuary near Tadoba. That now has only four. "There may not be much difference in numbers from these initial estimates and the final report," a source told TOI.
"If these figures are to be believed, there seems to be a serious problem in several tiger reserves in the state, including Navegaon-Nagzira. A few tigers may have migrated elsewhere from Nagzira, but typically they migrate only if their own area is crowded," says RTI activist Abhay Kolarkar, whose query led the state authorities to reveal tiger figures from the 2013 state census.
"Arrested poachers from the Baheliya community have indicated that at least 20-25 tiger skins from the region have been trafficked in last few years. Poaching still seems rampant in this area," says Kolarkar.
The RTI reply admits that a tiger was poached near Ranbodi in Umred-Karhandla. Over 30 poachers have been arrested for tiger poaching, it says. The department admits that in 2013 alone, three tigers were poached but it has registered at least 15 offences of tiger poaching.
The only good news in the numbers pertains to Tadoba-Andhari and Pench-Mansinghdeo. The 2014 estimations show Tadoba tiger numbers have risen by 10 to 60 and Pench by 4 to 23 since last year.