Nagpur takes pride in being called the Tiger Capital of India, but the big cats do not seem to be safe in the five tiger projects of Vidarbha. As per the Forest Department, around 115 tigers have been killed between 2018 and 2022, in which 24 deaths took place due to poaching. All these tiger deaths, including those poached, have been reported in the Vidarbha region.
The Maharashtra Forest Department has now geared up to bust the North India based gangs of organised tiger poachers, who are presently active in Central India.
Five out of the state’s six tiger projects in Maharashtra are in Vidarbha region. They are Melghat Tiger Reserve (Amravati), Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (Chandrapur), Pench Tiger Reserve (Nagpur), Bor Tiger Reserve (Wardha) and Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve (Bhandara). Sahyadri is Maharashtra’s only tiger project that is outside Vidarbha and is spread over Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur, andRatnagiri districts.
Out of 115 tiger deaths, 67 have been attributed to natural causes, 24 to poaching, 12 to road accidents and10 to electrocution. In 2021-22, the highest number of tigers- 32 – were killed in Maharashtra, including 7 due to poaching, which is the highest in the past five years.
In 2022-23, there were 29 tiger deaths,of which 3 happened due to poaching; 4 deaths each happened due to road accident and electrocution. Sources in the Forest Department said that as per the 2018 tiger census data, therewere 312 tigers in Maharashtra , all of which were in Vidarbha. Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), with 85 tigers, was the highest. Pench had 39 tigers, Melghat had 25, Navegaon-Nagzira had 8 tigers, and Bor had 5 tigers.
The tiger population has increased in Maharashtra as per the latest tiger census 2023 which also attract the attention of poachers to commit crime in Maharashtra. After Wildlife Crime Control Bureau’s (WCCB) ‘red alert’ call to be cautious from organised poaching gangs in Central India, the state Forest Department taking precaution and increased their joint patrolling in all the six tiger projects.
However, in a recent operation by Assam Police, three poachers were arrested and seized one tiger skin and bones from them. After interrogating the poachers, they revealed that the tiger was killed in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. This revelation raised concern that the group has already active in Central India and it is poaching tigers in Chandrapur and Gadchiroli districts of the state.