India lost 550 tigers to poachers and natural causes in last five years

Government regularly reviews the anti-poaching measures as part of its policy to protect the animal

The body of the man-eating tigress named T1 being taken into a post mortem room in the Indian state of Maharashtra in 2018. AFP
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India has lost more than 550 tigers to poachers and natural causes in the last five years, the government said.

Tiger is a protected and endangered animal in India. Its conservation has been a top priority for the government in the past decades as the country is home to about 3,000 big cats, two-thirds of the world's tigers living in the wild, according to a 2019 census.

Ashwini Kumar Choubey, a junior minister for environment, forest and climate change, on Thursday told parliament that 551 tigers died in the last five years, including 114 hunted by poachers.

“One hundred and twenty-eight tigers died due to natural causes while 114 fell prey to poachers. Nineteen tigers died due to unnatural causes but weren’t poached and the deaths of 290 tigers were still under investigation,” Mr Choubey said.

All the tigers that died were adults.

New Delhi has invested heavily in increased vigilance and conservation measures of the cats under Project Tiger which aims to increase their population in the wild to 4,000 by the next decade.

In 2021, the Environment Ministry allocated 3 billion rupees ($38 million) for the project to improve safety measures and stricter wildlife policies. The use of technology such as remote camera traps help to monitor and surveil the tigers and gather their profile and photographic data. In some cases, villagers are relocated from catchment areas.

The number of tiger reserves in the country has grown to 52.

India has also built the world’s largest underpass in Madhya Pradesh — a state with about 550 of the country's tigers — to help the big cats safely cross a major motorway.

Mr Choubey said the government regularly reviews the anti-poaching measures as part of its policy to protect the animal.

“Funding support is provided to tiger reserves for establishing and maintenance of patrolling camps, watch towers that are crucial for strengthening anti-poaching efforts.”

Despite the government's efforts, tigers are still an endangered species because of the threat of poaching and their shrinking habitats that cause human-animal conflicts.

Tigers have killed more than 100 people in India over the past three years, Mr Choubey told.

Experts attribute the conflict to shrinking habitats due to developmental projects, overpopulation in reserves and human settlements near protected areas, resulting in the tigers straying in search of food.

A 75-year-old Indian farmer was killed by a tiger last month, barely 12 hours after his grandson was also mauled to death by a tiger in southern Karnataka state.

Updated: March 17, 2023, 9:24 AM