Hyderabad: India, it appears, is not as safe a country for its big cats, particularly leopards and tigers, with increasing numbers of their ilk falling prey to human activities, including poaching.
On an average, India is losing one tiger every three days and more than a leopard each day. As per the last all-India tiger census in 2014, the country had 2,226 tigers. The country is estimated to have between 12,000 and 14,000 leopards.
This year, data from Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and Wildlife Protection Society of India shows that the country has already lost a whopping 452 leopards for various reasons, including poaching, road and train kills and to other reasons such as electrocution as well as natural causes.
And with respect to tigers, nearly a 100 have been killed so far, including the latest victim from Tadoba Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra where a tiger was found dead on Sunday after being electrocuted. As per WPSI, the country lost at least 116 tigers in 2017 and till about the end of November this year, 96 tigers were dead.
Deaths of big cats, be it tigers or leopards, have risen over the past few years with 79 tiger deaths reported in 2014 and 81 the next year. In 2016, India lost 122 tigers while in 2017, as many as 115 were killed or found dead. This year, at least 97 tigers in the country have lost their lives so far. Poaching in the last ten years accounted for 384 tiger deaths.
With not enough labs equipped to conduct forensic analysis into deaths of these animals, more than 3,000 court cases pertaining to tiger poaching alone are pending in the country.
The story has been much worse for the much more versatile leopard which, according to wildlife experts, adapts far more easily to the creeping urbanisation and loss of habitat than tigers can. In 2016, there were 436 cases of leopard deaths followed by 431 in 2017. This year, the number already touched 426 by November and the final tally is expected to get much worse.