Madhya Pradesh has lost nearly 16 tigers, including seven in Pench reserve, due to poaching and others reasons in the last one year.
While an NGO blamed the state government for it, forest officials contended that most of the deaths were natural.
“MP, which was once tagged as tiger state, has slipped to number three slot in the country in big cats count primarily due to the state government’s failure to protect the majestic beasts,” Ajay Dubey, who runs NGO Prayatna for protecting the feline, told PTI on Thursday.
“Even after eight years, the Special Tiger Protection Force has not been formed in MP,” he said.
“The conviction rate in tiger poaching is below 10 per cent in MP. The intelligence gathering regarding poaching is zero. No preventive arrest in regard to tiger poaching has been made in recent memory,” he contended.
However, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Shahbaz Ahmad said, “The state government and forest department are doing their best to protect tigers. The killing of tigers is just negligible.”
Maximum deaths of the big cats reported in the state were natural, he said.
Ahmad said a few cases of electrocution and poisoning of tigers had come to light which were being dealt with severely.
In some cases, people had laid traps to kill herbivores where the striped animals walked-in, he said.
Efforts were also on to overcome man-animal conflict around the tiger reserves, he said.
On the formation of Special Tiger Protection Force, Ahmad said it is under consideration of the state government.
As per National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) official website, MP lost 16 tigers in the last 12 months.
Seven deaths were reported from Pench Tiger Reserve, where a tigress along with its two cubs were poisoned in Satosha area last month, a senior official said, adding three persons were arrested in this connection.
In September last year also, the Pench Tiger Reserve authorities arrested four poachers and recovered body parts of a big cat they had killed.
“These poachers are being prosecuted,” Pench Reserve’s Director Shubranjan Sen told PTI.
Besides, tiger deaths were also reported from Kanha Tiger Reserve, Bandhavgarh Reserve, Panna Tiger Reserve, Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary, Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve, a forest in Chhindwara district, Umaria-Shahdol district highway and Dewas, as per the NTCA website.
The details of most of the deaths was awaited by NTCA, the website said.