Poaching of animals: India

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Tigers and leopards

Poaching in India, world: 2000-18

Vijay Pinjarkar, August 22, 2019: The Times of India

Number of tiger related seizures by country, 2000-18
From: Vijay Pinjarkar, August 22, 2019: The Times of India
Tiger population estimates for the 13 tiger range countries, 2000-18
From: Vijay Pinjarkar, August 22, 2019: The Times of India

Nearly 2,000 tigers poached in last 19 years, India tops with 626: Report

NAGPUR: At the rate of 104 a year, 1,977 tigers were killed for their body parts between 2000 and 2018 across 32 countries and global territories. Another 382 were seized live.

This was revealed in a report released by TRAFFIC International in Cambridge (UK) on Tuesday. TRAFFIC is a leading NGO working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

India, which accounts for 2,967 tigers or 75.09% of the estimated global population of 3,951, tallies the highest with 626 (26.5%) poached tigers in 463 seizure cases. Here, according to experts, there is no instance of live wildcats being seized. Thailand follows at No. 2 with 369 (15.6%) poached tigers from 49 cases. Indonesia is at No. 3 with 266 (11.3%) from 119 cases.

The deaths occurred from a total of 1,142 seizure incidents, with 95.1% (or 1,086 incidents) occurring in 13 Asian tiger-range countries (TRCs) accounting for a minimum of 2,241 seizures. On an average, 60 seizures were recorded annually, accounting for almost 124 tigers seized each year.

TRAFFIC’s report — ‘Skin And Bones Unresolved: An Analysis of Tiger Seizures from 2000-2018’ by Ramacandra Wong & Kanitha Krishnasamy is quite alarming. It is an analysis of tiger seizures in 19 years in TRCs and includes all the four cycles of tiger estimation exercise that was conducted from 2006-2018 in India.

The current report is the fourth iteration of TRAFFIC’s analysis on the illegal trade in tigers. Previous analysis reviewed seizures from the 2000-2010, 2000-2012 and 2000-2015 periods. This analysis involved largely TRCs. Information gathered from outside TRCs has also been included this time to provide a more comprehensive picture of the illegal trade in tigers.

“Beyond highlighting the statistics, the report provides insights into trends and the most current and urgent threats facing tigers. Nineteen years is a considerable time frame for data aggregation and, admittedly, numerous changes have occurred in the wildlife protection and management regimes, including tiger habitats in a number of TRCs,” the report stated.

With the data set spanning almost two decades, various considerations emerge involving TRCs and issues concerning the protection of wild tigers as well as those arising from captive facilities involved in illegal tiger trade.

The highest number of tigers seized in a single year took place in 2016 with 288 seized from 70 seizure incidents. The high number was contributed largely by a single seizure at Thailand’s Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple involving 187 tigers (representing 65% of the tigers seized that year).

Given that seizure data represents only a fraction of illegal trade, the loss and potential decline in wild tiger populations is suspected to be much greater than reported.

“We have done these analyses four times now and year on year, it is more bad news for tigers. The poaching and illegal trade has been a decade-long unresolved problem that has piled the pressure on wild tiger strongholds,” said Krishnasamy, TRAFFIC’s director for Southeast Asia.

“This pernicious trafficking evidenced by the continuously high number of seizures of skins and animals, both dead and alive, and bones is testament to the ongoing demand for tiger parts. The time for talking is over, words must be turned into action to prevent further tiger loss,” said Krishnasamy.

TRAFFIC has called for continued intelligence-led law enforcement, leading to strong and deterrent convictions remains critical. Information sharing between countries, particularly in cross-border incidents, is absolutely pivotal in any effort to crack down on international smuggling operations. The analysis showed changes in the types of commodities seized over the years.

Conviction for tiger-related seizures in India

The largest number of arrests involving these tiger-related seizures were in India — 38.4% — also, the country is among those with the fewest convictions. A total of 1,167 people were arrested across the world in connection with illicit trade in tigers and tiger parts between 2000-2018, according to TRAFFIC, a global NGO that monitors trade in wildlife parts and which has come out with a report on trafficking in tigers and tiger parts.

What kills most tigers: 2009-16

Priyangi Agarwal, January 1, 2019: The Times of India

2009-16: the main causes of the death of tigers
From: Priyangi Agarwal, January 1, 2019: The Times of India

A study by Association of Indian Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians (AIZWV), which has been compiling a database on wild mammalian species with reference to morbidity and mortality, stated that in most cases of tiger deaths reported from 2009 to 2016, the specific reason could not be ascertained.

According to the association, of the 28 tiger deaths that occurred in Uttar Pradesh from 2009 to 2016, nine were unspecified. Similarly, 30 out of 86 tiger deaths in Karnataka, 22 out of 73 in Maharashtra, 31 out of 137 in Madhya Pradesh, 20 out of 40 in Tamil Nadu, 11 out of 30 in Kerala, nine out of 83 in Uttarakhand and three out of 15 in Rajasthan were due to unspecified reasons.

BM Arora, president of AIZWV told TOI, “We have prepared the report on tiger deaths in forest areas of eight states after collecting data from National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and through RTI applications. After analysing the data, we found that in most of the states, the specific reason behind a majority of tiger deaths could not be ascertained. In a few cases, the reason is based on opinion or circumstances but the forest department in every state should focus on a holistic mortality investigation. It is necessary to know the accurate reason of death to identify the pattern and work on minimising mortality.”

The association said autopsies of animals should be done near forests. “Veterinarians are unable to diagnose the cause of death if the carcass is decomposed. Timely detection of carcass is necessary. Even post-mortem should be done immediately as much time is wasted in transporting the carcass from inside the forest to elsewhere and completion of formalities. In a few cases, carcasses are sent for autopsy 150 km or more from the forest area,” said Arora.

The association said they are compiling and analysing data of other states too and once they get inputs from the entire country, they will send their report to the ministry of environment and forests with their recommendations.

Poaching: 2012-2014

Poaching, state-wise: 2012-2014

The Times of India, May 15 2015

In 2012-14, poaching has resulted in the deaths of 74 tigers in the country. The data for poaching, including seizure of tiger organs, shows that 23 tigers, or about 31% of the total, were killed inside tiger reserves while 51 were killed outside these reserves. A state-wise analysis of the data shows that the highest number of tigers were killed in Maharashtra followed by Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, each of these states witnessing over 10 deaths in these three years

Source: Ministry Of Environment, Forest And Climate Change, * including Telangana.


India lost 750 tigers in last 8 yrs, 168 due to poaching, June 5, 2020: The Times of India

As many as 750 tigers have died in the country in the last eight years due to poaching and other causes, with Madhya Pradesh reporting the highest casualties at 173, according to an official data.

Of these total tiger mortalities, 369 were due to natural causes, 168 due to poaching, 70 deaths are under scrutiny and 42 due to unnatural reasons, including accident or conflicts events, it said.

There was also seizure of 101 big cats during the eight year period between 2012 and 2019 by different authorities across the country, the National Tiger Conservation Authority said in reply to an RTI query filed by this PTI correspondent.

In MP during this period, 38 died due to poaching, 94 natural deaths, 19 under scrutiny, six due to the unnatural causes and 16 seizures, the data said. Maharashtra has reported second highest deaths, as it lost 125 big cats during this period. PTI

Poaching doubles in 2016

`29 tigers killed by poachers in 2016' Nov 23 2016 : The Times of India

Twenty-nine tigers were killed by poachers this year compared to 14 such deaths in 2015, environment minister Anil Madhav Dave told Lok Sabha on Tuesday . He added that 98 tiger deaths were reported in the country till November 16 2016.

Twenty-nine tigers out of the 98 died due to poaching and 32 due to natural causes.The remaining 37 cases are under scrutiny to ascertain the cause behind the death, Dave said. Last year, 78 tiger deaths were reported in India.Fourteen of them were killed by poachers.

Besides legal steps under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 which lays down punishment for hunting in tiger reserves, the minister cited the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) which takes measures to protect tigers. He said financial and technical help was provided to states under various centrally-sponsored schemes.

Predators attacked, 2012-15

India Today

February 19, 2015

Man-eater killed by a joint Kerala-Tamil Nadu Special Task Force in the Gudalur forests along the Nilgiris-Wayanad border after attempts to tranquilise and relocate it for eight days failed. The tiger claimed two victims. National Tiger Conservation Authority norms were allegedly overlooked.

December 29, 2014

A relocated man-eater was killed in Khanapur Taluka of Belgaum, Karnataka, by the state Anti-Naxal Force after it mauled a pregnant woman in the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary in Chikkamagaluru district.

August 20, 2014

Tiger shot dead in Chichpalli range of Chandrapur, Maharashtra, by sharpshooters. Seven people had been mauled to death by tigers in six months in Pombhurna village. There was dispute over whether the right man-eater was killed.

December 6, 2013bb

Man-eater was tranquilised and caged in Bandipur, Karnataka, by veterinarians tracking it. It had claimed three lives in surrounding villages. It has been relocated to the Mysore zoo.

5. December 2, 2012

Tiger was shot dead in a coffee plantation in Moolamkavu, Wayanad, by Special Task Force officers. Its victims were a dozen cattle. Maneka Gandhi claimed that the shooting was a "cause to wind up the Wildlife Department" as the tiger was not a man-eater.

2015 (Jan-July): Tiger deaths

The Times of India, Aug 12 2015

Neha Madaan

India loses 41 tigers in 7 mths

Poisoning by villagers, poachers' traps claiming big cats' lives

Tiger deaths persisted in the country despite the Union and state governments' efforts towards conservation. The country lost close to 41 tigers from January until August 9 this year, similar to the count in the same period in 2014, reveals data from National Tiger Conservation Authority and TRAFFIC-India, the wildlife trade monitoring network. The data revealed tigers are dying not just from natural causes, but are also being shot to death by authorities in case of man-animal conflicts.

According to the data, till August 9, 2014, Maharashtra reported three tiger deaths.Among these, one tiger was shot dead by sharp shooters of the Chandrapur police. The count of dead tigers in the state has reached five this year.

Vikas Kharge, secretary Revenue and Forest Department (Forests), told TOI that choosing actor Amitabh Bachchan as the ambassador for its tiger conservation projects is likely to have a positive outcome. “We are yet to finalize the modalities. He is a tiger lov er and his involvement in the project will have a unique appeal for the masses,“ he said.

Kharge added that incidents of tiger poaching have declined in Maharashtra due to an increase in the number of protection measures undertaken. “A special tiger protection force, comprising a team of 120 personnel, has been employed in each of the four reserves of the state. For locals' involvement in saving tigers, we have set up village eco-development committees for community participation in conservation of forest and tigers,“ he said.

States that have reported the maximum number of tiger deaths include Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

In 2014, another cause of death cited was poaching by poisoning using organophosphorous compounds. Other causes included cardio-respiratory failure and retaliatory killing by electrocution near Dhamokar at Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, MP.

2016: Jan-June

The Times of India Jun 29, 2016

Avijit Ghosh

MP Fares The Worst With 19 Fatalities

At least 74 tigers died between January 1 and June 26 this year in India. Worryingly, there is also a spike in poaching-related fatalities as 2016 reaches its halfway mark, statistics collated from different parts of India by a well-known wildlife NGO shows. Among these, 14 tigers were electrocuted, poisoned or simply killed by poachers, and much of the carcass was recovered. Police and wildlife authorities also seized skins, bones, claws, skeletons, canines and paws of another 16 tigers during this period, taking the tally to 30, as per figures provided by Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). It is possible that some of them might have been killed earlier but the deaths are accounted for only after the seizures.

Another 26 tigers were “found dead“, a category that includes mortality due to disease, old age or unexplained circumstances. Statistics shows the remaining 18 were victims of infighting (12), tiger-human conflict (2), road or train accidents (3) and fights with other animals (1).

In comparison, 26 tigers fell victim to poachers in the entire year of 2015, according to WPSI. Besides, there were 65 deaths due to other reasons as specified above, taking the overall tally to 91 last year.

However, tigernet.nic.in, a database on mortality of tigers and other key wildlife species across India, offers a different figure. The website puts the figure of tiger deaths so far this year at 52, with another 15 when seized body parts are taken into account. The database is a collaborative effort of the Natio nal Tiger Conservation Authority and TRAFFIC-India, a wildlife trade monitoring network. According to the national census in 2014, the number of tigers in India is 2,226 (minimum 1,945, maximum 2491).

A state-wise look at the 2016 figures indicates that the maxi mum number of deaths (19) occurred in Madhya Pradesh.Maharashtra and Uttarakhand take the second spot with nine fatalities each. Madhya Pradesh also has the highest number of recorded deaths on account of poaching: six.

WPSI records show that in the past three and a half years, tiger poaching and seizure of body parts have been reported from 15 states: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

Among them, the majority of cases are from Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Wildlife experts feel intelligence-led enforcement operations are key to thwarting poaching. “We are lacking on this front. Most of the time our frontline staff in protected areas are not even aware of the modus operandi of poachers. International cooperation is necessary to break the criminal nexus and reduce the demand of end-products in China and south-east Asian countries,“ Tito Joseph of Wildlife Protection Society of India said.

Loss of habitat is another issue that ails tiger conservation.The big cat's habitat is now limited to “7% of its original range“, said conservation biologist Raghu Chundawat. “Poaching of the tiger is not the only reason for this (deaths). There are several issues and all these can be referred to as loss of the quality of tiger habitat. This can also include loss of prey , forest cover, connectivity etc,“ he added.

2016/ MP: 33 tigers killed

33 tigers killed in MP in 2016, Dec 30, 2016: The Times of India

 An adult tigress was mowed to death by a speeding train in Madhya Pradesh's Hoshangabad district. The accident took place just 32km from the proposed Ratapani tiger reserve. With this, a total of 33 tigers have been killed in MP in 2016.

“It's very unfortunate. We had been requesting railways to slow down trains while passing through forest areas. I have asked officers to examine if there is a provision for taking legal action in such cases,“ said state's chief wildlife warden Jitendra Agrawal.

The Ratapani Sanctuary, spread over an areas of 435 sq km, was established in 1976. In 2008, the National Tiger Conservation Authority gave its inprinciple approval for the creation of a tiger reserve in the area, but the state government has not yet sent its final proposal to the Centre.

Wildlife activist Ajay Dubey said, “Railway ministry has to help resolve the problem to stop such incidents,“ Dubey said.

2016: 122 tiger deaths

Vineet Upadhyay, 122 tiger deaths in 2016, House told, March 6, 2018: The Times of India’'

As many as 122 tigers died of various reasons across the country in 2016, with 32 of the fatalities occurring in Madhya Pradesh, Rajya Sabha was told.

The deaths were attributed to factors like, disease, fights with other big cats, natural death and poaching, among others, Union minister Mahesh Sharma said.

2017, Feb.: Uttarakhand

Vineet Upadhyay, Uttarakhand sees second tiger death in two days, Feb 23, 2017: The Times of India

The body of an adult male tiger was found in Chhoi village of Ramnagar in Terai West forest division of Kumaon on Wednesday , the second instance of a big cat death in the state within two days. On Tuesday , a tiger estimated to be 10 years old, was found dead in the Chidiyapur range of Haridwar forest division. Wildlife activists alleged that the animal was poisoned by the Gujjar community living in the buffer zone of the range although forest officials claimed that the death was because of septicemia -a bacterial infection of the blood. Next day's death meanwhile was attributed to be a fall out of a territorial dispute between two tigers. “The findings of the post-mortem re port clearly indicate injuries inflicted in a territorial fight,“ said Subhash Chandra, divisional forest officer, Terai West. He added that the mating season for tigers was going on, and a fight may have broken out between the two tigers over a female. Eyewitnesses said that injury marks of claws were found all over the half-decomposed body of the dead big cat and teeth marks could also be observed near its neck and forelimbs.

Since the beginning of this year, deaths of four adult tigers (including Wednesday's fatality) have been reported in separate incidents in the state.

2017: Poaching plays havoc in M.P.

Rahul Noronha , Big cats peril “India Today” 1/1/2018

Four tiger deaths in just 45 days could seriously imperil Madhya Pradesh's push to regain its place as India's 'tiger state'. The fresh big cat mortalities, from unnatural causes, have taken the total number of deaths in 2017 to an unacceptable 25. Fifteen of these deaths were recorded in forest areas in and around the Bandhavgarh National Park.

In the latest instance, on December 11, an adult tigress was found dead near Kachodar in Umaria district. A day later, one of her cubs was discovered, similarly electrocuted by traps laid by poachers. That both carcasses were found three days after the death points to lackadaisical monitoring wildlife officials responsible for tracking the felines in Bandhavgarh clearly had no idea this had happened. In two earlier instances in November, an adult male tiger was found dead near Shahdol after being poisoned while another tiger was found dead after being electrocuted in Dhorai in Umaria district.

Alarmed by the sudden spike in 'unnatural' tiger deaths, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has issued a notice to the MP forest department seeking an explanation. And while the state authority is yet to respond, it has provoked an only too familiar blame game in the state.

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) aren't being followed, says a senior forest official requesting anonymity. "Once you know there is a tiger in the area, there must be enhanced patrolling to check for electrical wire traps, especially in an area notorious for such things," the officer said. According to him, there's no system in place to sensitise the local population because there are few trained wildlife officers in the field. "They are either at headquarters or posted outside the forest department," he said.

Wildlife activist Ajay Dubey also points to the "shortage of boots on the ground because lower level staff is engaged in VIP duties at tiger reserves". Dubey rejects explanations trotted out by forest officials that the traps weren't meant for the tigers. "What kind of an excuse is that?" he asks. "A local, invariably a tribal, is arrested while there is no let-up in the incidents."

Until 2006, Madhya Pradesh was the leading tiger state', with a population of 300 of the big cats. But with rising mortality, it lost the top spot to states like Karnataka and Uttarakhand. Having now run a sustained repopulation campaign, MP is looking toregain its preeminent tiger status after the National Wildlife Census is conducted in 2018. But it will have to find a way to put an end to the poaching.


See graphic:

Tiger deaths, 2019-21


Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN, January 1, 2020: The Times of India

NAGPUR: The country lost 110 tigers in 2019, a third of them to poaching. The year also saw the death of 491 leopards, according to figures compiled by NGO Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). As many as 38 tigers were lost to poaching, up from 34 in 2018.

While there was a slight dip in leopard deaths from 500 in 2018, what remained a big cause of concern was the high number of leopard fatalities in road and rail accidents, which could be as high as a third of all deaths, said WPSI, which has been compiling data on big cat deaths for years.

In case of tigers, there was a marginal rise in the number of deaths compared to 2018, when 104 tiger deaths were recorded.

“No general inference can be drawn from these figures. Every landscape has its own set of pressures and problems, but leopards are getting killed in road and rail accidents, which is worrisome. It is the result of not just increasing traffic volumes but also increased speed due to widening of roads,” said Nitin Desai, WPSI’s Central India director.

Madhya Pradesh continued to top the list of highest tiger deaths with 29 in 2019, followed by Maharashtra with 22. In 2018, MP had reported 23 tiger deaths followed by 19 in Maharashtra.

Of the 110 deaths in 2019, 38 were attributed to body parts seizures and poaching, 26 were found dead, 36 died in fight with other tigers, three due to road/rail accidents and six during rescue.

“On the one hand, it shows good detection rate and higher enforcement activity but on the other it also shows increasing demand for tiger body parts. Improving intelligence-led enforcement, addressing impact of linear intrusions and conflict management can help keep viable populations of tigers,” Joseph said.

However, the official database of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the country’s apex tiger conservation body, differed with the figures. NTCA recorded 92 tiger deaths in 2019 and 102 in 2018.

Tito Joseph, programme coordinator of WPSI, said poaching and seizure of body parts of tigers had slightly increased in 2019. He said the difference in number in NTCA’s data may be due to non-inclusion of tiger deaths inferred from seizure of body parts. “We calculated the number of tigers depending on seizures, which may not necessarily belong to one tiger only,” Joseph said.

For example, in Maharashtra the official figures record deaths of 18 tigers but it doesn’t include three tigers poached in Tumsar range in July 2019. The arrested accused have confessed that they killed three tigers there. This may be the case elsewhere as well.

“Some mortalities were not communicated by the states to us… As far as the Tumsar tigers are concerned, the number has been split in MP and Maharashtra as some body parts were seized in MP,” an NTCA official said.

As per the latest tiger estimation by NTCA-Wildlife Institute of India, there are 2,967 tigers in India. In Maharashtra, the number increased from 190 in 2014 to 312 in 2018. With 526 tigers, MP is at the top but deaths due to poaching remain a cause of concern in both states.

There was a marginal drop in number of leopard deaths in 2019. Though NTCA doesn’t have a database on leopard deaths, WPSI data shows that 500 leopards had died across the country in 2018, which included 169 due to poaching. There was no let-up in poaching of leopards in 2019, as 127 of the 491 deaths were attributed to poaching.

In 2019, Maharashtra accounted for 97 leopard deaths, with as many as 31 in road and rail accidents.

Encroachments disrupt gene flow of tigers in NE/ 2020

Prabin Kalita, Report: Encroachments disrupting gene flow of tigers in the northeast, July 29, 2020: The Times of India

The national tiger census report for 2018-19 has estimated a truncated figure of 219 tigers in the Brahmaputra flood plain and northeast hills due to “poor sampling” and has red-flagged the process of humans cutting off the gene flow of the big cats from the source at Kaziranga, which is crucial for conservation.

The report states, “Tiger occupancy was recorded from an area of 3,312km of forests.”

It underlines that the Brahmaputra flood plains support a high density of tigers and is connected to Orang Tiger Reserve on the west, Nameri, and Pakke tiger reserves in the north through the island systems of Brahmaputra. “The river islands play a vital habitat link to maintain gene flow between plains and hill populations of tigers (in Arunachal Pradesh). But, these islands being fertile for agriculture and pasture for livestock are encroached being a hindrance for animal movement. Kaziranga population has almost lost the connectivity to the north bank of the Brahmaputra.”


35 deaths in MP till Nov

Nov 8, 2021: The Times of India

Barely a week after tiger Heera was killed near Panna Reserve, another tiger was found dead in Bandhavgarh. This takes the tiger toll in MP to 35 this year. The carcass was spotted during routine patrolling near Pathor range of the tiger reserve, said forest officials. Wildlife experts reached the spot and concluded that the tiger — aged around 5 years — was killed in a territorial fight with another. TNN

See also

Elephants: India

Leopards: India

Tigers: India

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