Dying wildlife

While Karnataka can take pride in the fact that it is home to the largest number of tigers in the country – the recent National Tiger Census revealed that the state has 350 tigers – it doesn’t seem to be doing a good job in protecting its wild cats.

Around 35 tigers are said to have died over the past three years due to natural and unnatural causes. Forest officials are yet to establish the reasons behind several of these deaths. Understanding the cause of the death of tigers is important, as any strategy to protect them will be based on the nature of threats they face. Many of the tiger deaths occurred outside forest areas. It is likely that when tigers stray out of the forests into surrounding fields and villages, they are being killed by frightened villagers. There is the problem too of poaching that continues unabated across the country despite a slew of measures taken to halt this abhorrent practice. Such poaching often takes place with the help of forest officials and politicians. 

Officials focus on forest areas but it is in the surrounding areas that the fate of the tiger has become precarious. Improved staffing and equipping of the forest department and better co-ordination between various departments is needed. Punishment of poachers is imperative but this isn’t happening; just one person was convicted for tiger poaching in Karnataka over the past three years. Besides tigers, elephants too are getting killed in large numbers. Elephants often go on a rampage and destroy crops. To prevent this, farmers electrify fences. These are electrocuting elephants and killing them. The problem of elephant poaching too is said to be on the rise in forests along the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border. Officials are said to have recovered several tusks from poachers recently. 

In contrast to the forests where they are hunted and killed, tigers and leopards in the Bannerghatta Biological Park and Rescue Centre seem to be doing well of late. In fact, their rising numbers has forced the Central Zoo Authority of India to order zoos across the country to stop breeding leopards, hybrid lions and tigers. While the rise in numbers of zoo tigers and leopards is heartening, it is the tiger in the wild that needs our attention. The government must halt mining activity and preserve green cover if it is serious about protecting the tiger.

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