In 8 months of the year 2017, Uttarakhand has already heard news of 12 tiger deaths. What are the odds, as the state has been gloating over the increase of tiger population from last two to three years. Now, it will be unwise to blindly blame poaching, as most of the deaths, according experts were due to severe injuries after territorial fight, accidents, poisoning or varied other reasons. However, what surprises us the most is the fact that there have been noticeable numbers of death in the state’s biggest and most popular national park, Corbett. So, even if for a brief moment, we ignore the natural deaths in the forest areas of Uttarakhand, we fail to turn a blind eye towards death reasons in Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve & National Park, because indeed the condition that led to something so unfortunate could have been manoeuvred to save lives of these big cats.
In February 2017, Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) Authority issued shoot-at-sight orders to prevent killing of tigers by the hands of poachers. But do you think that is enough to save an endangered species like tiger? It is quite comprehensible that a natural tiger death, for that matter, accidents are taken lightly in the state, however, the fact remains that increasing vigilance could solve the problem to an extent. The fact file below will convince you that few accidents and natural death could have been less in number, if at all proper measures were taken:
These are some of the deaths for which the reason could be determined; there are still plenty of deaths for which prototype answer of natural death was given. However, in one of the strangest incidences where a tiger died of injuries due to botched rescue attempt by an earthmover, reason, he (tiger) was killing people and other tigers, one can sense sheer imprudence. There could have been of course better ways to handle a situation like such. Although, this remains one of its kind incident, but since the beginning of the year 2017, separate incidents in the state have been reported where the tigers died due to the following reasons:
In the above mentioned incident, the tiger that got killed by the earthmover is said to have killed two other tigers for dominance in a territory. Though fighting for territory is quite common in tigers, the question of the hour is why there are so many occurrences of territorial fights in the state. Is there a space crunch in Uttarakhand for tigers? That’s another unanswered question. We agree that the tiger population in Uttarakhand is on the rise, but in order to maintain a perfect balance, effective measures have to be brewed. Also, vigilance that has constantly been the focus in this write up has to be given some thought. The injuries that the tiger suffer during the territorial fight can be life threatening, and thus, often have to be attended immediately. Sometimes in a fight, the tiger seem to lose incisor teeth, which leave it devoid of hunting ability, and thus, some of them also die of starvation.
While poaching is considered the biggest crime, and is seen as the major reason behind the dwindling tiger population, poisoning goes unnoticed. But it is something we cannot turn blind eye to. On February 21, in Chidiyapur Range of Haridwar Division, a tiger was killed, though Septicemia, a bacterial infection of the blood was determined as the reason of death, a large number of wildlife activists believe that it was poisoned by the local community inhabiting the area, as the tiger is said to have killed some of the people. Why are no cases like these reported or for that matter probed? There is no denying in the fact that there always remain a conflict between communities living near the forest area and wild animals. So, what is to be done to resolve this equation?
Last year in 2016, 15 animals died including a tiger in road accidents on Haridwar Highway, their fault was that they were trying to cross the roads to enter Rajaji Tiger Reserve. All the vehicles involved in the incident are reported to be speeding. Again, another impetuous act, speeding in the highway that traverse the forest area beckons unavoidable accidents, and killing of wild animals. Had the roads been under strict surveillance, it could have saved of such horrific accidents.
The All India Tiger Estimation 2014 reports confirm that Uttarakhand is home to 340 tigers of which around 220 are in Corbett Tiger Reserve. Some of the key forest divisions adjoining Corbett such as Terai East, Terai West, Terai Central, Ramnagar, Haldwani and Lansdowne also have a healthy number of tigers. With such clear insights, what is stopping the state to take proper measures to safeguard the lives of tigers? We understand that death is inevitable, and the old goes to make place for the new, however, a lot of tiger deaths can be delayed if only conservation is practiced in the right manner. The above discussed issues and several others need to be resolved; vigilance has to be given priority; and awareness/consciousness has to be created in the people above the importance of the life of tigers and for that matter, wildlife. Conservation is not the sole responsibility of forest department; we have a large role to play in it too. As a responsible tourist, we can all report any illegal and faulty act encountered; keeping eyes and ears open while travelling shall also reap some good results and talking more and more about tiger issues can also create effective buzz.