By Vijay Pinjarkar
Even as the nation prepares for the third tiger census, which will be held in January-February 2014, poaching of the big cat has broken a seven-year record.
According to figures with the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), a leading NGO working for wildlife enforcement, in 2013 39 tigers have died due to poaching. In 2006, the figure was 37. These are official figures. The number could well be around 51 if confessions of poachers arrested by Maharashtra officials are taken into account. The poaching figure is even higher than last year's 31 but lower than 2005 when 46 poaching cases were registered.
In September, an arrested tiger skin trader told TOI that different traders trafficked over 20 tiger skins from Nagpur region alone. This may take the number of tigers poached to 59, a fact which Maharashtra forest officials are loathe to accept.
In 2006 the tiger estimate in the country was 1,114 which went up to 1,706 in 2010. The next census results would be declared around November next year.
The overall deaths, including poaching cases, this year is 76 as per WPSI. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), which is the supreme tiger authority, puts the figure at 64.
"Our data is based on field inputs and is correct," said Tito Joseph, programme manager of WPSI, Delhi. HS Negi, inspector general (IG) with NTCA, agrees that WPSI data and "our figures on tiger deaths generally don't differ". Both, NTCA and WPSI had recorded 89 tiger deaths in 2012.
"There can be difference in data as states learn about tiger deaths quite late and they also don't supply the data on time," an NTCA official told TOI on anonymity. This can be gauged from the fact that NTCA figures of 5 tiger part seizures in 2013, skips Maharashtra, despite seizure in 3 tiger poaching cases.
This year's figures created a new record after two tiger skins and skeletons were seized in a joint operation by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), UP Police and forest department on Monday. The two tigers were killed just 2km away from Corbett Tiger Reserve in Amangad range and 12 poachers have been arrested.
As per the confession statements of arrested poachers lodged in jail in Nagpur, 12 tigers have been poached in Vidarbha since early this year. Sarju, a top trader nabbed from Delhi in September, alone trafficked at least 11 tiger skins from Bhandarbodi and Amdi Fata (Ramtek) near Nagpur, but only 5 tiger skins have been brought on record by state forest officials. More....