160 tigers short, Uttar Pradesh blames census technique!
The number of tigers in Uttar Pradesh has plummeted from 273 to 109 in four years, but the state wildlife authorities are blaming a change in the census technique for the drastic decline.
Faced with the disappearance of over 160 tigers, they say the system of using pugmarks to establish the tiger count was prevalent till 2005 after which the camera-trap method has been in use.
Describing the new method as 'more scientific', state chief wildlife conservator B.K. Patnaik did not rule out the possibility of the earlier tiger population figures being 'unrealistic' and 'inflated'.
'Pugmarks were often debatable, but invariably the benefit of doubt went in favour of enhancing the numbers. On the contrary, a camera photo can clearly distinguish between one tiger and another on account of distinct stripes,' Patnaik told IANS.
'Uttar Pradesh alone cannot be blamed for the low tiger count - the new system has brought the numbers down right across the country.'
'Even the latest report of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has put India's total tiger count at 1,411 - less than half the figure from the census carried out in 2005,' Patnaik said.
As per the WII report published last month, Madhya Pradesh has the highest tiger population of 300, followed by 290 in Karnataka, 178 in Uttarakhand, 109 in Uttar Pradesh, 103 in Maharashtra, 76 in Tamil Nadu and 70 in Assam.
While Uttar Pradesh's statistics show a decline in the tiger population over the past 10-15 years, the fall has never been as sharp as between 2005 and now.
Most wildlife experts attribute the declining numbers to a 'lack of official will and determination to curb unabated poaching on account of the thriving illegal trade in tiger skins, bones and claws in the international market.'
Kaushlendra Singh, a member of the Uttarakhand State Wildlife Board, did not deny the possibility of a change in the census method affecting the tiger count - but he was not ready to believe that the difference could be of the order being portrayed by the official machinery.
Singh told IANS: 'Not many officials are interested in protecting wildlife, they are engaged in blatantly squandering away forest wealth instead.'
According to him, 'The failure of enforcement authorities and courts to bring poachers to book had led to increased killings of the national animal with impunity.'