The increasing number of tiger deaths in Madhya Pradesh over the past two years has raised serious concerns among wildlife conservationists and tiger lovers, with 13 deaths already reported this year. Madhya Pradesh, once known as India’s “Tiger State”, accounted for almost 30% of the total tiger deaths in India in 2016.

Even in 2017, Madhya Pradesh tops the list of states, by recording the highest number of tiger deaths in India. As on 12 June this year, 13 tigers were reported dead according to the data provided by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

In 2016, a total of 100 tiger deaths were reported from various states in the country. Among them, 30 were reported from Madhya Pradesh alone. This year, 56 tigers were reported dead across the country until 12 June, as per the NTCA data.

Between 20-26 April this year, Madhya Pradesh saw five tiger deaths. Three among the five died in the Bandhavgarh National Park, which houses a large number of Royal Bengal tigers. The latest tiger death in the state was reported from the Khairlanji forest, on 21 May.

Poaching has been one of the main reasons for the increasing number of unnatural tiger deaths inside wildlife conservation forests and tiger reserves in India. According to experts, several organised poaching gangs have been operating in Madhya Pradesh and poachers are  carrying out their activities deep inside the jungle.

Electrocution, poisoning and using steel traps are some methods being adopted by the poachers to kill the tigers. According to activists, a tiger fetches around Rs 1-Rs 1.5 crore in the international market, making it lucrative enough for poachers to venture deep into the forests hunting for tigers.

“An increasing number of tiger deaths is being reported from Madhya Pradesh because of the lackadaisical attitude of the state’s forest officers. Tiger protection is the responsibility of the state, but the state government has not been able to do much to protect the tigers there. Another reason why poaching activity has seen an increase is because of the low conviction rate in such cases. Also, the forest minister of the state does not think tiger conservation is an important job,” Ajay Dubey, a well-known tiger conservation activist, told The Sunday Guardian.

Seeing the state of affairs in Madhya Pradesh, for several years, Gujarat has been refusing to transport its lions to Madhya Pradesh. This has been a bone of contention between the two states.

Dubey also said that the Madhya Pradesh government has not formed a special task force, which was to be constituted some years ago to oversee the protection of tigers in the state.

Joseph Tito, tiger conservationist and researcher with the Wildlife Protection Society of India, told The Sunday Guardian, “The MP government should show the willingness to protect its tigers and deploy efficient forest officers on the frontline. If it has already done so, are poachers laying electrocuted wires inside the forest? How are they poisoning the water and, moreover, how are they gaining access to the forest area?”

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