The number of tigers in Maharashtra are increasing, says the latest census. The numbers are either stable or rising in other states too. But wildlife experts still see red over conservation efforts, which are hampered by rampant poaching and construction of infrastructural projects in forest areas.
While the source population has been better protected in most states including Maharashtra since 2006, the offspring dispersing to areas beyond the core sanctuary fall prey to poaching and human development, said experts.
The latest tiger census data released in 2011 shows that the average number of tigers in Maharashtra grew from 103 in 2006 to 168 in 2011. Other states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Assam and the Western Ghats region too saw a rise in the tiger population , reveals new surveys conducted by using camera traps. “This is primarily due to some measures taken by the various states governments. For instance, Maharashtra has declared five new tiger sanctuaries in last three years and brought 620 sq km area under legal cover.
These new sanctuaries are in strategic locations for the breeding and safe dispersal of tigers. “No other states have declared so many sanctuaries for the tigers.
The government has also relocated over 17 villages from core areas of tiger sanctuaries. ,” said Kishor Rithe, member, national board of wildlife. Rithe, however, points out that these figures are only a mirage as bigger perils still threaten the survival of tigers.
According to experts, poaching is a crime more ignored and undetected. Independent estimates show that only 2-3% poaching cases are detected, of which only a miniscule reach the conviction stage. The new population of tigers which move out of the core area to look for its own territory is always at peril in the corridors which are monitored more closely by poachers than by the forest officials. “There is a complete lack of intelligence network to prevent poaching.
The poachers are more aware of the movement of tigers and the exact time when they would appear at a specific water-hole than the forest officials,” said Nitin Desai of Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI).There are very few safe corridors which link reserves in Tadoba, Pench and Mehghat to other states.
CM Prithviraj Chavan is all set to announce a CBI inquiry into tiger poaching cases unearthed in Vidarbha between October 2012 and May 2013.
Gang of tiger poachers arrested in June first week by the forest and police officials in Mansar near Nagpur have confessed that their separate teams killed at least 11 tigers in the eight months. However, forest officials have recorded killing of only five tigers. All the tiger skins were sold to Sarju Bagdi, a tiger skin and body parts trader from Haryana/ Delhi in April and June by the poachers. First deal for six skins was struck in April in Bhandarbodi near Ramtek while another five skins were sold in June near Amdi.
The number may be even more if the 16 poachers whose names were revealed by poachers Chika and Mamru are nabbed. The 11 tigers were killed in Vidarbha and Madhya Pradesh.