NEW DELHI – Six months after India boasted that its tiger population was growing fast, conservationists on Wednesday said 41 big cats had already died this year and worried that the country was not doing enough to save them.
Despite awareness campaigns, India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority and the wildlife group TRAFFIC say only seven of the cats died from natural causes, one was killed by authorities and the rest were illegally poached between January and August.
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In January, Indian environment authorities had claimed conservation efforts were working as the number of tigers in the country had risen to 2,226 in 2014, up from 1,706 counted in 2010.
Experts say the partial death toll proves India was not doing enough to protect the endangered predators, noting 66 tigers died during all of 2014.
Of those which died naturally this year, two were killed in tiger battles, which experts say are becoming more frequent as the big cats vie for territory while their habitats shrink.
Wildlife experts say tigers are facing increasing threats to their roaming territory as their traditional forests were being cleared to make way for huge power projects, roads and human habitats.
“We are losing buffer areas around the tiger reserves every day and this is worrisome,” said Shekhar Niraj, the head of TRAFFIC-India.
Coupled with the decline in deer, wild boar and other smaller animals that tigers prey on, the loss of buffer areas outside tiger reserves was increasingly driving the cats to move outside their established territory into human settlements, Niraj said.