Alarming rise in tiger, leopard deaths in country in first Six Months of 2021

Wild tiger skins confiscated from poaching gangs
Haul of Tiger Skins Retrieved from Poachers

NAGPUR: With 94 tiger and 310 leopard deaths in the last six months, an alarm is being raised over the rise in numbers. During the same period last year, 56 tiger deaths were recorded as per the data recorded by the official website of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

A review of half-yearly data compiled by Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), an NGO working to combat wildlife trade and law enforcement, shows the increase in deaths is shocking as overall tiger deaths in 2020 were 109 while those of leopards 653.

“With six months still to go, the number of deaths may further go up,” says Nitin Desai, Central India director of WPSI. The figure of 94 tiger deaths in the last six months is quite high. However, NTCA’s official website has pegged the number at 68. “This must be because the website has not been updated since April 12, 2021,” said an NTCA official.

There have been several tiger and leopard deaths since then. On June 19, three tiger deaths were reported in Assam, Karnataka, and MP, but these deaths don’t reflect on the NTCA website.
Of the 94 tiger deaths from January 1 to June 30, 2021, some 40 were found dead, 25 poaching cases, 19 died in territorial fights, 6 killed in road accidents, 2 died during rescue or treatment, and 1 each being shot dead and killed in fight with other animals.

Once again, Madhya Pradesh with 26 tiger deaths topped the chart in the country followed by Maharashtra (25). Karnataka recorded 11 deaths, Uttar Pradesh (9) and Uttarakhand (8). These are the top five states that reported most of the tiger deaths. Maharashtra forest officials claimed 23 tigers have died in the last six months. However, WPSI data also includes the recently cracked wildlife crime cases in which tiger body parts were seized from some accused in Chandrapur district.

Similarly, 310 leopard deaths have been reported in the last six months. Maharashtra tops the chart in the country with 95 leopard deaths, with 50% of them dying in road accidents. MP is the second highest with 41 deaths, followed by Uttarakhand (38), Rajasthan (24), and Jammu & Kashmir (20).

Of the 310 leopard deaths, 102 were poaching cases, found dead 95, road hits 47, killed by villagers 22, infighting 25, shot dead 5, electrocution 2, killed by other animals 8, rescue operations 4.
Desai says, “There should be clarity on ‘found dead’ category, which amounts to a high number of deaths. Reasons for these deaths have not been mentioned as these cases may be pending for forensic tests and investigations.”

“Many inferences can be taken from the data. Deaths due to infighting means tigers are crying for space. Many deaths in road hits indicate that roads are being widened near forested areas without taking any mitigation measures. We have to create space for big cats by reducing human intrusions on their land,” said wildlife conservationist Prafulla Bhamburkar.

Death Toll
2020: 58 tigers
2021: 94 tigers

Madhya Pradesh: 26
Maharashtra: 25
Karnataka 11
Uttar Pradesh: 9
Uttarakhand: 8

Maharashtra: 95
Madhya Pradesh: 41
Uttarakhand: 38
Rajasthan: 24
J&K: 20
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