- Last month, conservationists and wildlife lovers rejoiced when a tiger was discovered in Gujarat’s Mahisagar district. It was after more than 30 years that a tiger was found in the state.
- But the excitement was short-lived as the tiger was found dead few days ago within 15 days of his presence being confirmed. The officials have ruled out poaching as the reason behind its death and are trying to ascertain the exact cause.
- The incident once again highlights the dangers faced by tigers that are outside tiger reserves.
- As a prelude to the World Wildlife Day on 3 March 2019, we bring you this story that unfortunately did not have a fairy tale ending.
In the second week of February 2019, the presence of a tiger was confirmed in the Mahisagar area of Gujarat but the happiness was short lived as the big cat was found dead few days ago which is within a month of its discovery in the area.
According to news reports, the presence of tiger was confirmed in Gujarat’s Mahisagar area on February 12 which shares the border with Rajasthan and is quite close to Madhya Pradesh in the first week of February 2019 when a school teacher near Boriya village in Mahisagar district saw the tiger crossing the road.
He clicked the picture, shared it and it quickly became viral following which Gujarat’s forest department used camera traps to ascertain the big cat’s presence. The camera trap captured photos and videos of the tiger establishing his presence. The news of the presence of the big cat in the area was significant as it was nearly after three decades (after the mid-1980s) that tigers were spotted in Gujarat making it the only state to have three big cats – lions, tigers, and leopards.
Thus even as conversations were on about how the tiger came, about the duration of its presence and the way ahead for its protection, the tiger was found dead on February 26.
The tiger’s carcass was found in Mahisagar’s forests only 10-12 kilometres away from place its presence was confirmed in the camera trap.
Poaching is not the reason
“It is true that the tiger has been found dead. Its post-mortem has been done but its death is neither due to poaching nor due to infighting. Everything – his skins, claws and teeth – were found intact. Prima facie it doesn’t look to be a case of poaching,” the deputy conservator of forests (Mahisagar) of Gujarat’s forest department R.M. Parmar told Mongabay-India.
Parmar revealed that they are sending a sample (of the carcass) to a laboratory in Hyderabad and stated that they would be able to ascertain the “exact reason of his death only once the report comes.”
Tiger is India’s national animal and is found in 18 states across India. However, Gujarat, which is the only home to Asiatic lions in India, had not seen the tiger for over three decades. It is the only state in western India which does not have tigers.
Though the presence of the tiger, which has now been found dead, was confirmed only earlier this month, Parmar said, “we can confirm that this tiger was here from past six months.”
The tiger that has been found dead had come into Gujarat after travelling for hundreds of kilometres from Ratapani sanctuary situated near Bhopal, which is the capital of the neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh.
Important to address human-tiger conflict
After the tiger was found in Gujarat, officials of the Madhya Pradesh government had written to Gujarat to take care of the animal and keep a tab on its movements.
Though the exact reason for the tiger’s death is yet to be ascertained environmentalists are sus.pecting it to be a case of poisoning of the animal.
“Both states, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, are responsible for the death of tiger in Lunavada, Gujarat because they failed to provide protection to the tiger that was moving near villages. There is no prey base in Lunavada (Mahisagar),” Ajay Dubey, a wildlife activist who works with a non-governmental organisation ‘Prayatna’, told Mongabay-India.
“Despite the serious problem of conflict, the lack of coordination between states is the root cause of death,” he added.
In the past two decades, the issue of human-wildlife conflict has gained the attention of policymakers and conservationists. There has been a significant number of deaths of animals like tigers and elephants as well as humans in such conflicts.
According to the data of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), which is India’s nodal body for work related to welfare and protection of tigers, in 2018, India recorded 100 tiger deaths. It was for the third straight year that the number of tiger deaths in India touched the 100-figure mark. The reasons for their deaths ranged from natural deaths, electrocution, poisoning to poaching and in-fighting.
According to information provided by Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), while replying to a query in parliament, at least 137 people have been killed in a human-tiger conflict between 2015-2018 (till December 31, 2018).
To protect tigers, India had started focused efforts in the 1970s when project tiger was launched. In the past 15 years, India has seen a rise in their numbers from 1,411 in 2006 to 2,226 tigers as per the 2014 estimation. India’s tiger population is about 60 percent of the global tiger population of 3,890 tigers.
The latest assessment is expected to be released in the next few months and the population is expected to register an increase but problems like human-wildlife conflict, habitat fragmentation and poaching continue to pose danger to their survival. Right now, India has 50 tiger reserves in 18 states accounting for nearly 2.21 percent of country’s total geographical area.
What does not help the case is that a significant population of Indian tigers live outside the tiger reserve which threatens their security. The latest incident of MP’s tiger found dead in Gujarat once again highlights the dangers that tigers face outside the tiger reserves including human-wildlife conflict.
Meanwhile, the authorities claimed that everything is being done as per the protocols. “The NTCA is involved in investigating the exact reason of death of the tiger in Gujarat. We have proper protocols to follow in such cases. We are doing our best to minimise the cases of human-tiger conflicts,” said NTCA sources.
Banner image: The tiger, which was found in Gujarat, was found dead within 15 days of his presence being confirmed. Photo provided by Gujarat’s forest department.