Experts unfazed by rise in number of big cat deaths

Experts unfazed by rise in number of big cat deaths

Bosky Khanna / DNATuesday, November 24, 2009 10:54 IST

Bangalore: In the last census of the tiger population in the country, done in February 2008, there was much the state’s conservationists could pat their backs about — Karnataka ranked second after Madhya Pradesh in the size of its tiger population, with an average of 290 tigers.

On Monday, however, Union minister for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh, in a reply in the Rajya Sabha, released figures that could shake the state’s complacence. Compared to last year, twice as many tigers have died this year, across the country. While Madhya Pradesh reported the largest number of tiger deaths, Karnataka had the third-largest numbers of tigers dying in a year.

While Madhya Pradesh reported 13 tiger deaths in the year, Assam had 10. Nine tigers died in Karnataka last year. These figures are cause for concern — the average population of tigers in the country stands at 1,411.

Experts, however, say that these figures are not cause for undue concern.Senior conservation scientist, Wildlife Conservation Society, and director,Centre for Wildlife Studies, K Ullas Karanth said only a small part of the total reality is revealed through such figures — despite the deaths reported, there is little cause for concern if there are healthy tigers that are breeding in the country. Deaths are only natural, he says.

Principal secretary, environment, forests and ecology, Meera Saxena said that the deaths reported were mainly of old tigers or of tigers that died fighting. There was only one incident of poaching reported. She added that specifically for Karnataka, the figures would need to be read more carefully and the cause of death of the nine studied. She added that the measures for keeping the big cats safe from poachers are already being strengthened, as the tiger protection force is being augmented.

Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), BK Singh, said that the number of deaths is not so worrisome, when seen as a proportion of the tiger population in the state. He added that the indications are that there is also a fairly healthy tiger population in the state, and that these are breeding in the wild.

Meanwhile, the tiger population in the country is now almost entirely limited to reserves and protected areas. There are 17 states in the country that have tigers.


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