Data released by Tigernet, an official database of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, show that 76 big cats have been killed across the country between January and October this year, the highest mortality rate since 2010. Madhya Pradesh, followed by Karnataka, reported the maximum number of deaths during the period. The authority is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
The increased mortality rate indicates a spike in poaching. Of the 76 deaths, forest officials are investigating 41 cases. The remaining have been attributed to poaching, poisoning, electrocution, road accidents and natural causes. "The situation this year seems far more grim as there has been an almost 10% increase in tiger mortalities and an over 150% increase in seizures since last year," Shekhar Kumar Niraj, head of TRAFFIC-India told The Times of India. Forest officials have reported 20 incidents when tiger body parts were seized during the period.
Simultaneously, there has been an increase in tiger count in the Sunderbans region of West Bengal, reported The Times of India. Officials conducted a camera-trap exercise and found nine big cats more than accounted. With this, the total count in the Sunderbans has risen to 85, but state foresters believe that the number could be more. The camera-trap exercise was initiated in December last year and completed in April 2016.