By Amit S. Upadhye
The state may boast of having the largest tiger population in the country, but 23 of the big cats have died over the last two years in its sanctuaries or nearby, making Karnataka’s loss of tigers the second highest after Madhya Pradesh , according to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
Of the tigers who died at least 16 are said to have been fallen into the hands of poachers or succumbed to “unknown reasons.” While eight tigers died or were poached in the tiger reserves, six were found dead outside them. Although as many as 14 tigers died in 2012 alone, the state has done little to curb wildlife poaching, say animal conservationists.
“Two tigers were poisoned recently, but the investigating agencies apprehended only the owner of the cattle that the big cats had killed. No arrests were made in other tiger poaching cases reported in Chikmagalur and Mysore districts,” they lament.
Praveen Bharghav, trustee, Wildlife First, blames lack of follow- up in investigation of tiger poaching cases for many of the culprits going scot-free. "There are different levels of investigation when it comes to poaching.
The department must ensure some kind of communication so that everybody is aware of the developments in the case. We need to take tiger poaching investigations to their logical conclusion,” he stresses.
NTCA officials find the state forest department's decision to involve multiples agencies in tiger death investigations difficult to comprehend. The authority recently objected to a tiger poisoning case in Nagarhole being handed for investigation to the newly formed Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) as its main job is to secure forests from armed poachers Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife), G S Prabhu , when contacted, said an officer of Chief Conservator of Forests rank had been put in charge of checking pending poaching cases. "We have a large population of tigers and our reserves are well protected. There have been no organised attempts in our forests to hunt tigers or other wildlife," he claimed.