In total, 418 wild Bengal tigers are known to have died since 2014, or eight tigers on average each month.
More than two-thirds of the world’s last few thousand wild tigers live in India and the country’s Bengal tigers are doing comparatively well. Note the word “comparatively,” though.
Each year around 100 wild tigers are known to die in the country from a variety of causes, which range from natural causes to being killed by poachers or electrocuted by fences erected by wary farmers. Forty-nine of the tigers that perished last year were found dead outside tiger reserves, which indicates the striped predators face grave dangers once they leave the relative safety of protected areas.
In total, 418 wild Bengal tigers are known to have died since 2014, or eight tigers on average every month. In 2016 and 2017, respectively, 122 and 115 wild tigers died in India, although the death toll was somewhat less severe last year at 100.
“India, right now, is home to about 70 percent of the global tiger population, which stands at 3,890 individuals currently. The numbers are on a rise in India due to its long history of conserving the species,” Firstpost, an Indian newspaper, explains.
“At present, India has 50 tiger reserves in 18 states which account for about 2.21 percent of the country’s geographical area. As per the 2014 tiger population estimation, there are 2,226 tigers in India,” it elucidates. “According to the 2010 and 2006 estimation, the number was 1,706 and 1,411 respectively, indicating a rise in number of tigers over the years.”
Yet the country’s wild tigers, which are widely celebrated as national icons and feature prominently in local lore, continue to be beleaguered in their shrinking habitats. The predators often get killed by people in so-called revenge killings or poached for their body parts by wildlife smugglers.
Nor is it always easy to gauge the extent of tiger poaching, which means that many other tiger deaths may remain unknown and so go unrecorded in India. “Tiger poaching is virtually an invisible kind of crime,” Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, secretary general of the conservationist group Aarayank, told The Times of India. “Rhino poachers take the animal’s horns and leave behind the carcass. But since tiger poachers make off with the entire animal, hey do not leave behind any trace.”
Often, the only way to know when a tiger has been killed by poachers is during the seizures of illegally obtained tiger parts from wildlife traffickers. By then, it is too late for the animal.
“Ineffective management of tiger conservation areas leads to tiger extinction,” warns S.P. Yadav, an expert at the international conservationist group Global Tiger Forum. “To halt and reverse the decline of wild tigers, effective management is thus the single most important action,” he adds. “To achieve this, long-term investment in tiger conservation areas is absolutely essential.”