New Delhi: Over 335 tigers have lost their lives in and outside various reserves of the country in the last decade, an RTI query has revealed. Out of a total of 337 big cats which died due to poaching, infighting, accidents and old age among others, a highest of 58 were found dead in 2009, followed by 56 in 2011, 36 in 2008 and 28 each in 2007 and 2002, the RTI reply said.
A total of 17 tigers, including cubs, were found dead in 2005, 16 each in 2003 and between January and March this year, and 14 in 2006, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) said in reply to the RTI query by PTI.
According to the data, as many as 68 tigers were victims of poaching during the period. Besides, others had died of natural causes including old age, starvation, road and rail accidents, electrocution and weakness. Interestingly, there were about a dozen incidents in which the cause of tiger deaths "could not be ascertained".
A highest of 14 tigers were poached in 2010, 13 in 2009, 11 in 2011, nine in 2002, six each in 2007 and 2008, five in 2006, three in January and March this year and one in 2004. Surprisingly, postmortem reports in two tiger deaths reported in 2003 were still awaited, it said. The NTCA was also asked to give details of the tiger deaths reported between 2002 and 2012 from various reserves along with reasons.
According to guidelines of Ministry of Environment and Forest, all tiger carcasses should be preserved in a deep freezer till an independent team analyses the cause of death and every incident of tiger mortality should be thoroughly examined by the team. Also, every incident of tiger mortality should be brought to the notice of the MoEF.
Due to possible ramification of the cases, the NTCA has asked CBI to probe five cases -- including extinction of tigers from Sariska, Rajasthan (2005), poaching in Panna reserves in Madhya Pradesh (2004, 2007 and 2009), seizure of tiger body parts in Katerniaghat Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh (2005), seizure of tiger and panther skin from different parts of Kerala (2005) and seizure of tiger body parts in Karnataka (2006), it said.
Tiger population in the country was estimated to be 1,706 as per the 2010 data. The government has released 145 crore to 17 states under the Centrally-sponsored scheme of Project Tiger aiming at conservation of the big cats.
A Central committee was also examining comments received from stake holders on draft guidelines on eco-tourism in and around protected areas including tiger reserves, the reply added.