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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

51 tigers died in 2011: Report

Avijit Ghosh & Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Dec 7, 2011, 03.39AM IST NEW DELHI: Fifty-one tigers have died in different states of India between January and Dec 5, 2011, according to statistics collated by a prominent wildlife NGO. A tigress shot dead outside Kaziranga Park in Assam on Monday is the latest in that list. Figures provided by Wildlife Protection Society of India show that 14 tigers perished in Uttarakhand, the highest in a single state. Karnataka takes the second place with six deaths while Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh account for five each. Poaching, road accident, infighting and fight with other animals are some of the reasons for the deaths. Some tigers died of natural causes and diseases too. A few were killed by villagers, police and the forest department. "Tiger poachers are still active. On Dec 2, forest department officials recovered a tiger trap placed by poachers in the Nagarjunasagar Srisailam tiger reserve of Andhra Pradesh," says Tito Joseph, programme manager, WPSI. Skins, bones, skulls and claws of the royal big cat have also been seized in Manipur, Orissa, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand this year. A tigress was found dead without claws, canines and whiskers in Chhattisgarh's Bhoramdeo Wildlife Sanctuary on Nov 15. "A labourer engaged in patrolling had committed the act. He has been arrested and jailed. He confessed that he had poisoned a cow killed by the tigress. The big cat came back for the kill and died of poisoning. He then took out the claws and other parts of its body," Ram Prakash, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Chhattisgarh told TOI over phone. There were three more tiger deaths in November. On Nov 3, a tigress was accidentally electrocuted by a cable connection connected to an electric motor pump in vihirgaon village in Maharashtra's Chandrapur district. In another case on Nov 20, tiger died after getting trapped in a wire set up by villagers near Tipeswar Wildlife Sanctuary, Yavatmal, Mahrashtra. "The tiger got entangled and was strangulated after it tried to break free. A local farmer has been arrested," says AK Saxena, Additional PCCF Wildlife, Maharashtra. On Nov 20, an injured 14-year-old tiger known as B2 was tranquilized and rescued by forest department in Madhya Pradesh's Bandhavgarh reserve. But the tiger died some time after the capture, WPSI sources say. The tiger census figures released officially in Jan 2008, showed a mere 1,411 tigers alive as compared to 3,508 in 1997, a drastic drop of 60%. According to fresh government estimates in March 2011, the number now is anywhere between 1,571 and 1,875; the average working out to 1,706. WPSI figures show 58 tiger deaths in 2010: poaching and seizure (30). Other reasons make up for the remaining 28. Samir Sinha, head of TRAFFIC-India that monitors illegal wildlife trade, said the loss of every tiger should be cause for worry. "We must also be prepared to accept that any population will have a certain level of mortality. More than the numbers, it's the nature and cause of death that's the concern," he says. Conservationists say while the death of every tiger counts, there's a positive side to the story. There are reports of 20 new cubs from Tadoba-Andhari, Pench (MP) and Bandhavgarh tiger reserves in Central India. Extrapolate these figures to other tiger habitats, and the rise in numbers could be significant. However, only when the cubs survive the first two years do they get into the official census figures. WPSI officials say that the main problem with tiger protection today is lack of intelligence-led enforcement leading a failure in breaching organised poaching gangs. There's also a need to improve co-operation from local people in tiger conservation and perk up management effectiveness, says Joseph.

14 rounds from AK-47 fired at tiger: probe panel

OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT The carcass of the tigress. Telegraph picture Jorhat, Dec. 6: The National Tiger Conservation Authority has found that Assam police personnel fired at least 14 shots from two AK-47 rifles to kill the tigress at Basagaon near Kaziranga National Park yesterday. A two-member committee, comprising Firoz Ahmed and Jyoti Das, formed by the tiger conservation authority to probe the incident, completed its inquiry today and will submit the report soon. The panel has also found that negligence on part of the forest department and “pro-activeness” on part of the Assam Police led to the death of the animal, listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The forest department, on its part, has also ordered an inquiry into the killing. The tigress had strayed from Kaziranga National Park into a village in Basagaon yesterday. It snatched a pig from a house and was eating it with its cub inside a bamboo grove, when a large crowd began gathering in the area, forcing the forest department to call the police to control the people. The tiger came out of the hiding and came face-to-face with the police team and a reporter of a local TV channel, who was filming the incident. Probably in panic, the tigress pounced at the reporter, prompting a police constable to leap to the journalist’s rescue. As the policeman struggled with the tiger, gun shots rang out. The cub could not be traced; it could have scampered back to the park. A forest official said the nine-month-old cub had been sighted by several villagers yesterday. “Although there were signs of suckling on the carcass, the cub is old enough to fend for itself,” he said. Sources close to probe panel told The Telegraph that had the forest department personnel taken necessary steps, the incident could have been avoided. “There were police personnel, instead of forest personnel, at the site. Forest personnel should have taken the initiative to protect the tiger by not allowing people to come so close to the animal,” the source said. The probe report also stated that it was proactive action on part of the Assam police personnel deputed in the area which led to the killing of the tiger. “Panic gripped the police personnel as soon as the tiger came out of its hiding and they opened fire immediately,” the report said. The post-mortem conducted on the carcass found two bullets and at least 14 bullet injury marks. The veterinarian who conducted the autopsy said the bullets would be sent to the forensic laboratory. Assam forest minister Rakibul Hussain said a high-level inquiry would be conducted under the supervision of O.P. Pandey, additional principal chief conservator of forest, and C.R. Bhobora, deputy conservator of forests, from tomorrow. The team has been asked to submit its report within 15 days.