Over 30 tigers dead in more than 4-month: Govt

New Delhi: Notwithstanding efforts by the government to conserve tigers, as many as 32 big cats have died in the country in the last over four months, even as the latest official data showed an increasing trend in the national animals population estimates. Expressing concern over the endangered status of the tiger all over the world, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan today said as many as 32 tigers have died this year out of which 18 were natural deaths.

"A total of 32 tigers have died this year. 18 were natural deaths and we are constantly looking into the reasons for it," Natarajan told reporters on the sidelines of First Stocktaking Meeting of Global Tiger Recovery Programs (GTRP). She was asked about the number of national animals which died or were killed by poachers this year. Meanwhile, in written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, the Minister informed a total of 14 tigers were poached till May 2012.

"Poaching is one of the reasons. Other reasons such as man-animal conflict, we are already addressing those issues," she told reporters. Informing the House on the increasing trend of tiger population, she said, "The tiger population has shown an increasing trend with a population estimate of 1706, as compared to the last country level estimation in 2006, with an estimate of 1411."

Delivering her key note address in the first stocktaking meeting of GRTP, Natarajan also spoke about the new forest reserves being established by the government to ensure a safe habitat for the tiger. "We are in the process of establishing more tiger reserves. Based on 2010 assessment, a new tiger reserve-Kawal Tiger Reserve at Andhra Pradesh- has been constituted. Further, in-principle approval has been accorded for declaring the Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu as a tiger reserve," she said.

To boost its effort for tiger conservation, government has also launched the fourth phase of `Reserve Level Monitoring` to study their population and habitat of the big cats on an annual basis. Reiterating India`s commitment to save its national animal, Natarajan said almost one per cent of country`s geographical area is conserved for tigers as their core/critical habitat. "India`s commitment for saving the tiger is well known.

Wild tigers thrive in 17 of our states. We have the maximum number of tigers. Project Tiger was launched in 1973 with nine tiger reserves. Today, the coverage has increased to 41 reserves spread over all the 17 States," she said. Natarajan said that factors like poaching and illegal trade are the factors due to which tigers are in the list of endangered species.

"Status of wild tiger continues to remain endangered the world over. Threats to wild tiger and its habitat are due to several factors like poaching, illegal trade catering to demand for body parts and derivatives of tiger, loss of habitat due to extractive industries, infrastructure and revenge killings," she said. She favoured adaptive management to tackle country and area-specific issues related to tiger conservation.

Sharpening its focus on Project Tiger, last year the government had increased its allocation up to Rs 1216.86 crore, "especially to support the States for securing inviolate space for tigers," Natarajan said. The tiger reserves have also been directed to raise Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) and several new technologies are being used to safeguard the animal. During the three-day meeting, India will sign resolutions and agreements with Russia, Bangladesh and Nepal to deal with the issue of conservation of endangered species.