India recorded 98 tiger deaths and 17 cases of seized bones, skins, and claws, resulting in an estimated total loss of 115 tigers in 2017.
While some of them died due to natural causes, several were electrocuted, victims of poisoning, poaching, and road or rail accidents, or were caught in traps, according to data for the year from Tigernet, the official database of India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority. The state of Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of casualties, accounting for nearly a quarter of all tiger deaths.
Though the count has declined marginally over 2016, when 100 deaths and 22 seizures were recorded, it still reflects the continuing difficulty of keeping tigers safe in India where habitat loss and poaching remain serious threats.
The 2014 tiger census showed that India was home to an estimated 2,226 of these animals, accounting for 70% of the world’s tiger population. The number reflected a surprising increase from previous years, and this was attributed to the establishment of tiger reserves and the efforts of the various state forest departments. However, conservation experts have doubted the census findings, questioning the methodology used.
This year, the government is embarking on another survey using a new application to improve data collection. It will involve forest officials and wildlife biologists using a “double sampling” approach, covering some 400,000 square kilometres of forest area across 18 states. Its accuracy remains to be seen, though.
State forest department is in the process of making preliminary preparations for a tiger census this year. The National Tiger Conservation Authority conducts census throughout India every four years.
While conducting the census, incidents of tiger sightings by people are taken into consideration. Importance is given to pug marks, excreta, remnants of prey among others. After recording all pieces of evidence, camera traps are installed to capture their movements.