Kala, a 2-year old female tiger kills two and injures four others near a village in Maharashtra. She is captured, radio-collared, and released in the Bor Tiger Reserve. She again kills two more people. A court in Maharashtra upholds the order to shoot to kill the tigress. The hunt for the tiger is on, even as wildlife activists oppose the order and prepare to move higher courts in a bid to challenge it. The villagers, however, are apprehensive and anxious knowing that a man-eater is lurking somewhere close. The high-tension drama around the fate of Kala comes to a tragic end when she dies of electrocution in the wee hours of October 15th, days after the order to shoot her was given.Kala was found dead by the villagers
Kala is not the first tiger to die of electrocution, and neither the last. Earlier this year, Sriniwas, a 3-year old tiger was electrocuted, just like Kala, after coming in contact with an electric fence used by a farmer to protect his farm from herbivores. And the latest big cat to fall prey is Ravina, who lost her life this month near the Chaprala wildlife sanctuary. The anger in conservationists is justified.
Why we need to save the tiger
The tiger is a magnificent beast, yes. But that is not the only reason why it needs to be saved. In the food chain, the tiger is at the top. It helps manage the equilibrium of the ecosystem. If tigers were to go extinct, the herbivore population would shoot up threatening to drastically bring down the forest vegetation. And we all know what that could mean.
According to 2016 tiger census figures, the world tiger population stands at 3890, out of which India has the highest number, 2226. Thus, it’s only natural that India is expected to take necessary measures to ensure the big cat’s conservation. The number of tiger deaths this year was 76. Even though most deaths were natural, there are at least 18 unexplained deaths. At least 19 tigers lost their lives to poaching and deaths due to electrocution are also rising. This animal-human conflict is unsettling and there is a need to sensitize people around the issue today, more than ever. Conservationists also have raised the issue of the impact that unchecked and often excessive tourism in tiger-dense areas has on the tiger population. It becomes easier for poachers to approach tigers who are used to seeing tourists around them all the time.
The way ahead
India has succeeded in the past few years to bring up the number of tigers, but there still is room for improvement. Educating people about the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of tiger conservation, stricter law enforcement and more transparency in the tracking of tigers is the need of the day. To tackle the problem of accidental electrocution, Nitin Desai, of the Wildlife Protection Society of India has suggested that the current in the electric fence be regulated. He says that farmers could be given devices which could reduce the current so that the animals are kept away but do not die if they come in contact with the fence.
It’s high time we took the conservation of our National animal seriously!