The cause for 55 per cent of tiger deaths remains unknown
IN AUGUST this year, when the National Tiger Conservation Authority (ntca) released tiger mortality figures for the first eight months of the year, the 42 tiger deaths made headlines. But tiger experts say the figure is no cause for worry.“Going by India’s tiger population, 42 deaths this year is not something one needs to panic about,”says conservation zoologist K Ullas Karanth. However, experts say the real worry is that in a large number of cases,the cause of death has not been ascertained, and understanding the reason for tiger deaths is crucial in drawing out effective conservation plans.
Since 2010, 339 tiger deaths have been recorded in the country. According to government data, precise reasons for the deaths have not been ascertained for nearly two-thirds of these cases (see ‘Off the mark!’ p15). Of the tiger mortalities registered this year alone,reasons for deaths are not known for 55 per cent of the cases. Experts say that the current predicament is due to the shortage of animal forensic laboratories.
In 2012, ntca had issued an advisory asking state forest departments to treat every death of the big cat as a case of poaching, unless proven otherwise.The advisory was issued to ensure that officials do not attribute each and every mortality to “natural causes”. According to a standard operating procedure issued by the ntca, every tiger death has to be investigated. The procedure requires officials to promptly recover the tiger carcass,collect evidence and photograph the scene.The carcass then has to be sent for post-mortem and visceral samples need to be sent to recognised laboratories for dna profiling and histopathological tests. Before disposing off the carcass, the post-mortem report has to be
The National Tiger Conservation Authority in 2012 issued an advisory asking state forest departments to treat every death of the big cat as a case of
poaching, unless proven otherwise