Nine tigers die at Kaziranga in three months

February 8th, 2009 - 2:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Feb 8 (IANS) Nine big cats have died at Assam’s Kaziranga National Park in the past three months, but wildlife authorities in the state say the tigers were not victims of poachers.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, had warned about poachers on the prowl and asked for strict vigil to ensure tigers are not hunted down.

“There have been intelligence inputs that tiger killers are on the prowl,” the NTCA said.

Assam wildlife authorities confirmed the tiger deaths, although they rejected NTCA’s fears that the fatalities were due to poaching.

“Of the nine tiger deaths at Kaziranga, not a single big cat was killed by poachers. Three died of old age, one each died in cases of infighting, poisoning by local villagers, fights with buffaloes, besides three decomposed bodies found,” said Assam’s Chief Wildlife Warden M.C. Malakar.

“If it would have been a case of poaching, the hunters would have taken the skin and other organs. But in all the nine deaths, the body parts of the tigers were intact,” he said.

The 430 sq km park, 220 km east of Assam’s main city Guwahati, is home to the single largest population of the one-horned rhinoceros.

As per the 2006 census figures, some 1,855 of the world’s estimated 2,700 such herbivorous beasts lumber around the wilds of Kaziranga.

Apart from being a World Heritage Site, Kaziranga is also a tiger reserve under the Project Tiger scheme.

According to a 2000 census, Kaziranga was home to about 86 Royal Bengal tigers. The Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII)’s 2008 country-wide status of tigers pegged the figure in Assam at 70.

“We strongly believe the number of tigers at Kaziranga has increased from the last count in 2000,” the wildlife warden said.

At present only 1,400 tigers are left in the country, according to a recent census conducted by WII, which has led to concern among wildlife conservation groups and the government.

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