No less than 750 tigers have died in the country since 2012 due to poaching and other natural and unnatural or unfounded causes, with Madhya Pradesh reporting the highest casualties at 173, says a recent official data. Of these total tiger mortalities, a whopping 168 were due to poaching, with MP registering 38 such cases.
Maharashtra reported second highest deaths, losing 125 big cats during this period, followed by 111 in Karnataka. Both Maharashtra and Karnataka lost 28 tigers each due to poaching, while 17 poaching-related deaths were reported from Assam. Several other states also reported poaching.
This trend indicates that despite greater surveillance and monitoring, poaching still continues unabated in all parts of the country. The law has provision for most stringent of punishments for poaching and wildlife crime, yet due to the low rate of conviction and legal loopholes, most major cartels go scot free and they continue to spread their nefarious net across forests.
Wildlife activists want a stricter vigil of wildlife resources and stronger clampdown on poachers. However, since poaching is a lucrative trade with transnational networks, it is not easy to track and nab the masterminds. These kingpins have often connections with politicos and mafia gangs, who secretively abet the crime for their vested interests. This cripples the police and other law enforcement agencies, leaving them with little maneuvering space to stem the menace. The ill-equipped forest guards are woefully inadequate, both in numbers and in technique or training to effectively take on the poachers.
We have less than 2,900 tigers in the wild today – a gain of just about 1,500 tigers from the 2012 figures. Though the credit goes to sustained conservation efforts in the country and the hard work of many activists and environmentalists over the years to raise the numbers, in a vast country like India, this figure is not very encouraging.
The gains achieved in conservation and protection are largely offset by the numerous deaths caused due to poaching and related crimes. Unless these are stopped or reduced drastically through better surveillance and policing paraphernalia, we will again have alarmingly dwindling numbers in the coming years.
The crux is to sustain the momentum and get the tiger numbers growing exponentially over the next several years so that the unnatural shortfall caused due to unprecedented hunting and poaching in the 60s and 70s, is compensated to some extent. And unless we put a brake on wildlife crimes, any major success in stacking up the numbers will be a far cry.
The growing influence and expansion of human life on wildlife is already a warning bell for animals and they are already on the brink. Man-animal conflicts are rising and driven by the craze for supreme material ascendency, humanity is rapidly impinging upon wildlife space, whatever little is left of it. Several species have gone extinct over the last few decades and many are about to go extinct due to excessive human intrusion. Poaching is the last nail in the coffin.