Centre convenes meetings to discuss tiger deaths

Centre convenes meetings to discuss tiger deaths

"The first meeting will be held tomorrow with directors from tiger reserves from Northern India such as Corbett, Dudhwa and Kaziranga," said a senior official from National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) which is holding the meet on behalf of the Centre.

He said meetings will be held with other directors of tiger reserves in Central and Southern India in a phased manner by October 6.

Though the government maintains that at least 52 tigers have died so far this year across the country, the NGOs estimate the toll to be 66 and have attributed the deaths to shrinking habitats, poaching and man-animal conflicts.

While the officials says the 15 deaths were due to poaching, the NGO Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) led by wildlife expert Belinda Wright puts the number at 23.

"Of 52 tiger deaths, 15 were due to poaching. Ten poaching cases took place outside protected areas (PAs) due to poisoning. This indicate that the PAs are still safe for the cats," the NTCA official said.

Though the NGOs and government may differ on the number of deaths, both agree that other big cats perished due to factors such as old age, territorial fights, tiger-human conflict, accident and diseases.

Degradation of tiger habitats and failure of the authorities to make the core areas inviolate from human disturbance are another prime reason for the tigers to turn to live stock on the fringes or become man-eaters.

Statistics collected from different parts of India by the WPSI says that between January and August this year, at least 66 tigers have lost their lives.

It added that the country lost 832 tiger to poachers between 1994 and 2007 despite the government spending crores of money in saving them from extinction through Tiger Project.

National tiger census figures released in Jan 2008 showed 1,411 tigers were living as compared to 3,508 in 1997, a drastic drop of 60 per cent.