Officials have admitted that a tiger reserve in India no longer has any tigers.
Panna National Park, in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, had 24 tigers three years ago, but now officially joins the Sariska reserve in Rajasthan on zero. Panna’s tiger demise is particularly embarrassing because “warning bells were sounded regularly for the last eight years,” according to a report prepared by the central forest ministry (BBC).
Big cats are reportedly also in decline in the smaller Sanjay National Park, also in Madhya Pradesh, where tigers have not been seen for a year.
A century ago, 40,000 tigers roamed India. Now there are only 1,400 left (according to a February 2008 government census). Most observers blame this loss on rampant poaching – despite the attempts of the conservation programme, Project Tiger, which controls the country’s tiger reserves. A 2006 Nature news feature, “The tiger’s retreat” (subscription required) has more on the reasons behind India’s rapidly dwindling tiger population.
Seemingly downplaying the poaching angle, a wildlife intelligence report submitted to Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has played up the influence of “excessive use of tranquilisers” and subsequent radio-collaring used to track tigers in the park. (Zeenews.com, Daily News Analysis).
Image: Panthera tigris tigris, Bengal Tiger/Wikimedia commons