The impact of Covid has also affected the world of wildlife in India An especially high price during the epidemic period has been paid by tigers in the country.
According to a recent report of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) 287 tigers have died since the onset of Covid in early 2020 till 31 May 2022. And tiger deaths, over the past three years, are the highest ever recorded in any previous three year period. From the year 2012 to 31 May 2022, there have been 1038 tiger deaths across the country.
The reasons for the deaths of tigers vary. Of these, 30 percent of deaths are due to hunting. Taking advantage of the lockdown and laxity in the security of the forest during the Covid epidemic, hunters have entered the forest and killed tigers.
Another 10 percent of the deaths are accounted for by neither hunting nor natural deaths, but due to fighting between tigers. Usually in such fights the tigers get hurt and die due to their injuries. Another 60% of tigers have died due to age. No tiger has died due to the Covid infection itself.
According to the NTCA report, 106 tigers died in the year 2020 alone. The first Covid patient in India was detected on 30 January 2020. Within two months of this, the nationwide lockdown for 21 days was started on 25 March. Even after this, the lockdown period was being extended constantly. As citizens lived in fear of Covid during much of that year, the security of forested areas was badly affected. The forest department became dysfunctional and the security of the tigers was affected.
During 2021 also citizens had to go through strict restrictions on their movements. This year too not much attention was paid to the protection of forests and tiger reserves. As a result 127 tigers died by the end of the year. In 2022 while the Covid situation improved due to widespread vaccination the lack of attention to the protection of forests continued. Despite the country returning to normalcy, NTCA figures show that 54 tigers had died till May 30.
In India, the state of Madhya Pradesh is ahead in comparison to others in both the number of tiger deaths and the number of tigers. According to the NTCA report, 202 tigers have died in MP. These deaths occurred between 2012 and 2020, which is the highest number of tiger deaths in any state. Not only this, according to the assessment report of the year 2018, there are 526 tigers in MP. Due to this it is also called Tiger State inside the country.
Tigers have a long history in India. There was once dense forests on much of the land here and there were thousands of tigers. There was a time when there was a cheetah population too, which no longer exists. According to the 2018 report of the NTCA India is the country with the largest population of tigers in the world, with 2967 tigers recorded here.
Till 2001, there were 3652 tigers in all the states, but in five years it decreased so fast that in the year 2006 their number was reduced to 1411. In the year 2011, this number had increased marginally to 1706 and in the tiger census report released in 2019, their number has increased to 2967.
Wildlife expert RK Dixit says that the tiger is not only the national animal of the country, but is a symbol of national honor. There is a need for more serious action to prevent tiger deaths. He estimates more such deaths in the future as the forest area is decreasing steadily in the country.
A minimum area of 16 to 28 square kilometers is required for a tiger. Some tigers can even roam up to 50 square kilometres. Now tigers do not have this freedom to roam, because the density of tigers is increasing very fast in the forests and each of them becomes a rival to the other – leading to fights over territory.
For tigers to hunt for food, the presence of abundant herbivorous wildlife is also necessary, which is negligible in some forests. This forces them to reach villages and farmlands for hunting. Due to this the possibilities of the tigers themselves being hunted down by humans in future are increasing. It is necessary to provide them with open forest areas to live in an undisturbed manner.
Pooja Yadav is a journalist based in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh