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OpinionsSave the Maharashtra Tiger, 41 killed in 10 months alone

Save the Maharashtra Tiger, 41 killed in 10 months alone


By Arun Kumar Shrivastav

Maharashtra boasts a seemingly healthy tiger population, but the numbers hide a troubling reality: a significant number of these magnificent creatures are dying, with a third of the deaths attributed to unnatural causes. Since 2018, Maharashtra has lost 151 tigers. Poaching and electrocution were responsible for 42 tiger deaths. Drowning incidents and rail/road accidents killed another 16. Tiger habitats should be kept free of road/rail intrusions.


As of October 2023, Maharashtra recorded 41 tiger deaths, including from accidents and poisoning. In 2022, the toll was 29, with 18 dying from natural causes, four to accidents, four to electrocution, and three to poaching. The 2022 ‘Tiger Census' revealed Maharashtra had an estimated 444 tigers in its six tiger reserves: TadobaAndhari, Pench, NavegaonNagzira, Bor, Melghat, and Sahyadri.


Poaching remains the most serious threat to tigers. And poacher gangs have become increasingly brazen. Only enhanced surveillance and protection in buffer areas, besides translocation corridors to safeguard dispersing tigers during their territorial expansion, will help fight poachers.


Some tigers inadvertently become victims of electrified fences which farmers erect to protect their crops from herbivores. The story is that farmers often steal power to electrify farm fences. They do this electrification themselves or by untested hands, shoddy unsafe work, indeed, for which tigers pay the price with their precious lives.


Electrocuting tigers is also the favoured method of poachers, who also use live traps to ensnare tigers. Tigers keep falling victim to electrocution and illegal hunting posing a significant threat to wildlife conservation efforts. In 2011, the Wildlife Trust of (WTI) introduced anti-snare walks (ASWs) to detect and remove snares in and around wildlife protected areas.


At a recent orientation training conducted by WTI for the forest and electricity department officials, SM Dathrak, the Range Forest Officer of North Deori, stressed the importance of ASWs. There's the recent incident of the deaths of three leopards – a mother and two cubs – from electrocution, which prompted residents to be more careful when erecting electrified fencing.


In the Vidharba region of Central India, which is a critical corridor for tiger movement but faces high anthropogenic pressure, tigers and other wildlife are at risk due to encounters with humans. In the past decade, the region has seen tiger and leopard deaths from snares and traps, along with electrocution from live wires.


The WTI conducted orientation workshops across eight Territorial Divisions of the Nagzira-Navegaon Tiger Reserve (NNTR) ranges. These workshops involved forest officials and collaboration with Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) officials to reduce electrocution and snaring in the landscape. The focus extended beyond core areas to buffer zones where tigers frequently roam.


Practical sessions included forest officials walking along electric lines and forest- boundaries to identify snaring incidents and record ASW tracks and data using an Anti-Snare Walk mobile application. Presentations covered wildlife in India, the Wildlife (Protection) Act, and documentation of evidence during encounters.


Efforts like these demonstrate a commitment to safeguarding tigers and other wildlife in Maharashtra, where conservationists, government agencies, and local communities work together to protect these majestic creatures and their habitats.


As per media reports, Sudhir Mungantiwar, Maharashtra's Minister for Forests, emphasizes the importance of launching public awareness programs to inform locals about tiger presence. In the TadobaAndhari Tiger Reserve, the forest department employs AI-based e-surveillance to capture thermal images of tigers and alert local villagers. Mungantiwar underscores the priority of reducing tiger electrocution to zero. A senior forest department official acknowledges that tiger deaths in Maharashtra are linked to population growth. He asserts that unnatural deaths are a consequence of saturation in tiger landscapes and expanding urbanization, leading to increased man-animal conflicts. Many of Maharashtra's tigers reside in landscapes with human settlements, mining activities, and other human interventions. (IPA Service)


The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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