New Delhi: In a startling revelation that points out how unsafe is the national animal in its habitat, nearly 200 tigers were killed by poachers in and around various forest reserves in the country in the last 12 years.

Apart from falling prey to poaching, 250 wild cats died of natural causes including old age, infighting, starvation, road and rail accidents, electrocution and weakness during this period.

According to an RTI reply from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, 447 wild cats were reportedly found dead between 1999 and March 2011 in and around a number of natural habitats for tigers, of which 197 were poached.

Poaching prime extinction cause

The ministry also noted that poaching was the major cause behind disappearance of tigers from Sariska and Panna reserves.

"The cases of local extinction of tigers were reported in Sariska, Rajasthan (2005) and Panna, Madhya Pradesh (2008). As reported, poachings of tigers was the major cause of their extinction," National Tiger Conservation Authority under the MoEF said in the reply to an RTI query filed by a news agency.

A highest of 36 each tigers were poached in 2001 and 2002, followed by 24 each in 1999 and in 2010, it said. Two tigers were found to be killed in poaching between January and
March 17 this year, the reply said.

Whereas 20 wild cats were killed in 2003, 17 in 2009, 10 in 2007, nine each in 2000 and 2008, and five fell prey to hunters in 2006, it said.

Altogether, a highest of 66 wild cats died in 2009, 59 in 2002, 52 in 2010, 44 in 2001, 33 in 1999, 31 in 2008 and 30 in 2007, the reply said. According to the ministry, 22 each were killed in 2004 and 2006, 10 in 2000 and 17 each in 2005 and 2011 (up to March).

One out of 3 tigers poisoned

It said three each death of tigers was reported due to poisoning in 2009 and 2010 outside various reserves.

Surprisingly, postmortem reports were still awaited in the deaths of at least four tigers one each from – Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary and Niligiri Division in Chennai (2003), Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh (2003), Valmiki Tiger reserve in Bihar (2008) and  Manambolly Range in Tamil Nadu in 2010.

Also, the reason behind the death of one tigress in Panna Tiger Reserve on May 23, 2008 could not be ascertained as "carcass was not fit for diagnosis due to decomposition, (and) report of forensic laboratory is awaited", the RTI reply said.

The MoEF said various legal, administrative and financial steps were being taken to check poaching and support conservation of wild animals. "Enhancement of punishment in cases of offence relating to a tiger reserve or its core area," the reply said.