According to the official website of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Madhya Pradesh has lost 16 tigers in the past year. Seven of these deaths were reported to have happened in the Pench Tiger Reserve, where a tigress and her two cubs were poisoned in the Satosha area last month. Three people were arrested in connection with the poisoning.
Forest officials are saying that most of the reported deaths occurred from natural causes. The state’s Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Shahbaz Ahmad said, “The state government and forest department are doing their best to protect the tigers.”
He added that cases of electrocution and poisoning of tigers which had come to light are being dealt with severely. Ahmed says that efforts are being made to deal with human-animal conflict around Madhya Pradesh’s tiger reserves.
However, non-profit workers are accusing the state government of not doing enough to protect tigers.
Ajay Dubey, who runs the organisation Prayatna, said, “Madhya Pradesh, which was once tagged as a tiger state, has slipped to the number three slot in the country in big cats count primarily due to the state government’s failure to protect the majestic beasts. Even after eight years, the Special Tiger Protection Force has not been formed in MP.” Ahmed said that the formation of the force is being considered by the state government.
“The conviction rate in tiger poaching is below 10% in the state. The intelligence gathering regarding poaching is zero. No preventive arrest in regard to tiger poaching has been made in recent memory,” he added.
According to the NTCA website, tiger deaths were also reported from Kanha Tiger Reserve, Bandhavgarh Reserve, Panna Tiger Reserve, Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary, Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve, a forest in Chhindwara district, Umaria-Shahdol district highway and Dewas. The details of the circumstances of these tiger deaths are still awaited.
In August last year, the central government green-lighted the expansion of the NH7 through the Kanha-Pench tiger corridor, a move that was decried by wildlife protection activists. In December, the Centre reduced a substantial amount of the funding for Project Tiger, saying that it would no longer fully fund the conservation programme and urged state governments to pay 40% of the recurring expenditure.