While a controversy rages over lapses in the killing of a man-eating tigress at Yavatmal by a private hunter hired by the forest department, there is more bad news in store for tigers and animal lovers. A three-year-old tiger was poached via electrocution near the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) at Chandrapur.
The core and buffer areas of the TATR have over 80 of the estimated 203 tigers in Maharashtra, making it the most tiger-dense landscape in the state with the neighboring Brahmapuri forest division. According to National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) data, a total of 16 tigers have died in Maharashtra this year. This death takes the number to 17. In addition, three cubs were mowed down by a train last month at Chandrapur.
Praveen N.R, Conservator of Forests and Field Director, TATR, told DNA that a three-year-old tiger had been killed via electrocution at Moharli. “The tiger had been radio-collared and his movements were being tracked. We were unable to track his location since Saturday morning. In the evening we came to know about his death,” he said. The TATR had radio-collared three tigers to track their movements.
Shatanik Bhagwat, divisional forest officer (DFO), said they had taken two suspects into custody. The Tadoba core and buffer areas have around 88 tigers, including adults and sub-adults.
Praveen said while they gave solar fences to farmers on the periphery of forests to prevent herbivores from entering their farms and destroying crops, some illegally took power supply from direct lines to electrify their fences.
Officials admit that there are instances where live wires are placed around farms for poaching animals, including herbivores for bush meat. This leads to animals, including tigers dying after coming into contact with them. In 2017, Srinivas, the son of Maharashtra’s iconic tiger Jai, was electrocuted to death in the Nagbhid range.
According to the tiger census, results for which were released in 2014, India has 2,226 tigers, up from 1,706 in 2010. Maharashtra has around 190 such big cats, more than the figure of 169 in 2010. This increased to 203 in the phase-IV camera trapping exercise in 2014-15. Maharashtra has six tiger reserves, namely Tadoba Andhari, Pench, Bor, Sahyadri, Melghat and Navegaon Nagzira and a healthy number of tigers outside protected areas (PA) as well.
According to the NTCA’s data, of the 16 deaths in 2018, one each happened due to poaching and natural causes while the causes of the other 14 are being determined. In 2017, the number of tiger deaths stood at 21 and the numbers were 15 in 2016, 12 in 2015, seven in 2014 and 10 in 2013.