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India records the highest number of tiger deaths in a decade

India has recorded the highest number of tiger deaths since it began monitoring them; alarming news as they are in danger of extinction.

India is a region that, due to its geographic and ecosystemic characteristics, is home to the largest number of tigers in the world. This nation is home to about 75% of the world's tigers, making it key to the conservation of the largest feline species. Unfortunately, 2021 was not a positive year, as India recorded the highest number of tiger deaths in a decade.

The tiger is the world's largest feline species, the only one capable of reaching a size comparable to felid fossils from remote times in the past. There are six subspecies in total, of which the Bengal tiger is the most abundant. It inhabits the dense forests of Asia, in countries such as Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma, and Nepal, although the largest populations are located in India. They are currently endangered for various reasons, such as poaching and habitat loss. Therefore, India's measures are of vital importance for the subsistence of the species.

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Tiger deaths show alarming numbers

India's National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), which is responsible for taking action to safeguard the species, reported that tiger deaths in 2021 surpassed the numbers since such data collection began. According to the agency, 126 tigers died during 2021, a number that surpasses the previous record of 2016 when 121 felines died.

The states with the highest deaths were Madhya Pradesh with 42 deaths, Maharashtra with 26, and Karnataka with 15 deaths. But it is not the first time that these regions appear in the records. The NTCA reported that the three Indian states have totaled the highest number of tiger deaths since monitoring began in 2012. In total, they have accounted for 267, 167, and 138 deaths respectively, alarming figures.

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Causes of deaths

There are several causes that NTCA has identified as threats to tigers. Natural death is reportedly the leading cause of cat deaths, followed by poaching and habitat loss. The latter is closely related to human-nature conflicts over encroaching ecosystems.

"Tigers roam large jungle areas and find it impossible to migrate to other forests without crossing human habitations, which increases the chances of conflict," said Kartick Satyanarayan, founder of Wildlife SOS, a non-profit nature conservation organization. 

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Urban sprawl is undoubtedly a major issue, as it has segregated the tigers' natural habitat. As a result, many of the cat populations have been relegated to small natural areas. According to figures, that have been on the rise since an agreement was signed in 2010 (with 12 other nations, including Russia, to increase the number of tigers), there are currently around 3,000 tigers in the wild. And although this is an improvement compared to the 1,400 specimens in 2006 when the alarm bells went off, there is still a long way to go. Greater measures are needed to prevent the species from collapsing or else tigers will live only in captivity, and the jungle will lose the world's largest feline. 

Text courtesy of Ecoosfera
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
Photos from Pexels: Thomas B. / Waldemar Brandt / Deep Rajwar

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