By Chetan Chauhan
Tigers are not safe even in their most protected haven - the tiger reserves.
The latest data shows that the number of tiger deaths within the reserves has increased in the first 11 months of this year, as compared to the last two years. And the government officials attribute the increase in deaths to multiple reasons; poaching, infighting between tigers and human-tiger conflict.
Even though the overall tiger deaths till November 19, 2014 had fallen as compared to previous years, the number of deaths inside the reserves had witnessed an increase. As many as 39 tigers died in 2014 as compared to 36 in 2013 and 38 in 2012.
In percentage terms, the tiger deaths within the reserves were about 63% in first eleven months of 2014 as compared to 52% in 2013 and 42% in 2012. The official records showed that a high number of cases inside the reserves were still under investigation for the cause of death.
"Action taken on individual cases is not collated at the Centre government level as the day to day management including field protection is vested with the state governments," the environment ministry told Parliament in a written reply last week.
The increase in tiger deaths in protected areas has taken place despite the National Tiger Conservation Authority providing funds to the state governments for setting up special tiger protection forces for each reserve. The NTCA officials, however, said that the states have been slow in responding and only about a dozen tiger reserves have set up the special force.
Officials say that tiger deaths reported from many of the reserves such as Corbett National Park and Kaziranga National Park were because of high density of the felines. Tigers, being territorial animals, kill the older or weaker big cats to claim his territory, an official said, without ruling out the possibility of some of the animals been targeted by poachers.
Poachers arrested in Uttarakhand had admitted to killing a tiger inside the protected area in Pilibhit tiger reserve and escaping with the body parts without any hindrance.
As Indian tiger reserves are spread in an area of over 68,000 square kilometres, guarding every nook and corner of the dense forest is not possible. The NTCA is considering usage of satellite imagery to protect and track radio-collared tigers.