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Data: Number of Humans Killed in Tiger Attacks Increased Significantly in last Few Years


The number of people killed in Tiger attacks crossed the 100 mark in 2022, a significant increase compared to the previous years. Close to 500 people lost their lives in Tiger attacks between 2014 & 2022. On the other hand, more than 4000 people lost their lives in Elephant attacks between 2012-13 and 2020-21.

Owing to its varied ecosystems, ranging from dense forests to arid deserts, India is home to diverse wildlife including tigers, elephants, rhinos, deer, and many others. However, due to the limited nature of natural resources in the country, there has been increasing competition between humans and wildlife in accessing and utilising the resources, paving the way for conflicts. Though it sounds simple, human-wildlife conflict is a highly complex issue that is the amalgamation of ecology, human and wildlife behaviour, socio-economics, politics, and geography. These conflicts have a significant effect on the conservation of flora and fauna and pose a hindrance to human livelihoods and safety.

Human Wildlife Conflicts are multidimensional in nature

When understanding conflicts, various dimensions need to be considered. Anthropogenic factors include infrastructural development, encroachment, settlement, and livelihoods while the population of wildlife, migratory patterns, their habitat & degradation are some of the wildlife dimensions to be considered. The visible impacts of the conflicts on humans include damaged crops, buildings, food insecurity and casualties & injury. In this story, we look at the trends in the human death toll arising out of attacks involving two major mammals – tigers and elephants, about which data was provided in response to various parliament questions over the years. The two are crucial keystone species, playing pivotal roles in maintaining ecosystem health and biodiversity.

Data for this story has been compiled from responses to various parliament questions. Concerning the data related to tigers, the data is available for calendar years whereas for elephants, the related data has been given for financial years. The data in the responses has been provided by the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change, and is based on data provided to the Environment Ministry by respective states. 

State forest officials are responsible for dealing with human wildlife conflicts

Usually, the Conservator of Forest (CF) of the Forest Circle and the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO)/ Wildlife Warden (WW) are responsible for dealing with the wildlife conflicts in their jurisdiction. They are overseen by the concerned state government. As per the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, which is one of the key legislations concerning wildlife conservation in India, the central government sets the framework and guidelines while the states are responsible for managing and implementing these laws within their respective territories. In the case of death, persons from the Police Department and Revenue Department will be involved along with the Forest Department for carrying out documentation and post-mortem.

Close to 500 people lost their lives in tiger attacks between 2014 and 2022

A total of 497 people were reported to have lost their lives in tiger attacks in the last nine years between 2014 and 2022. That is, an average of 55 people died in tiger attacks each year. About one-third of these total deaths were reported in 2021 and 2022. The year 2022 recorded the highest number of deaths in a year with 112 deaths. Since 2018, there has been a consistent rise in the death toll. 

4 out of 10 deaths were recorded in Maharashtra alone 

Most of the human deaths due to tiger attacks between 2014 and 2022 were reported from Maharashtra, which accounted for more than 43% of the total deaths in the nine-year period for which data is available. West Bengal recorded the second highest, with 85 deaths followed by Uttar Pradesh with 76 deaths. Together, these three states accounted for 75% of the deaths reported across the country. 

In Maharashtra, there has been a substantial increase in the deaths reported over the years. While 7 deaths were reported in 2015, the number increased to 85 in 2022. On the other hand, the number has dropped in West Bengal during the same period, from 18 in 2015 to 1 in 2022. Even Madhya Pradesh has seen a decline in deaths despite being the state with the highest tiger population, as per the Tiger Census 2023. Maharashtra had 40% fewer tigers and yet reported more than 4 times the number of deaths. 

While Assam recorded no deaths since 2019, Bihar reported a total of 14 deaths, all between 2020 and 2022. States with relatively higher tiger population- Uttarakhand and Karnataka recorded a total of 13 and 10 deaths, respectively during this period.

No deaths were reported from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Mizoram despite having tiger populations. 

Average of 470 lives lost in elephant attacks every year

Elephant attacks claimed 4,220 human lives in the nine years between 2012-13 and 2020-21. On average, 469 people died every year, or 9 every week. The highest number of deaths were recorded in 2019-20. Apart from a higher population, elephant behaviour could also be a reason for the higher fatalities. Unlike tigers, elephants interact more with human settlements or agricultural areas, increasing the likelihood of conflicts. This can be in search of food, or due to migration and habitat fragmentation.

States in the East account for 10% of elephant population but 60% of the deaths

Among states, the highest number of deaths during the period were reported in Odisha (756), followed by West Bengal (704), and Assam (664). Jharkhand too reported more than 600 deaths. More than 400 deaths each were reported in Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu. Karnataka recorded 290 deaths and Kerala recorded 153 deaths between 2012-13 and 2020-21. In terms of elephant population as per the Project Elephant’s report from 2017, the elephant population was the highest in Karnataka, followed by Kerala and Assam.

Though the states in the south (Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra) as per the elephant population estimation account for nearly half the elephant population, this region accounts for only about one-fifth of the deaths. In contrast, the states that fall in the eastern region (Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand) as per the report host about 10% of the elephant population but account for 60% of the deaths. The state-wise trends can be seen in the following chart.

Compensation is paid for loss of life, injury, and loss of property

Ex-gratia compensation is paid by the government for loss of life and property. For loss of life or permanent incapacitation, the compensation can go up to Rs. 5 lakhs and for grievous injury it can go up to Rs. 2 lakhs. 

Source:Rajya Sabha Starred Question No. 179 Dated 22 December 2022

While it is an important mechanism to redress grievances and assuage the feelings of the community, it is often criticized for being a lengthy and time-consuming procedure. Late disbursal and insufficient amounts are also highlighted. The amount paid by each state is also different. For instance, Maharashtra pays Rs. 10 lakhs to the kin of the victim for loss of life while Karnataka government pays Rs.15 Lakhs. 

Centrally sponsored schemes are being implemented to deal with conflicts

Elephants and tigers are the flagship species. That is, they draw attention to the importance of preserving entire ecosystems and serve as rallying points for conservation initiatives. For their conservation, the government has ‘Project Tiger’ and ‘Project Elephant’ which also includes measures towards management of human-wildlife conflict, sponsored by the Union government. Some of the physical measures taken are habitat management, early warning systems, fencing and barriers, community engagement, crop and livestock protection, and relocation and translocation. 

The government also has the ‘Development of Wildlife Habitats’, a centrally sponsored scheme through which financial assistance is provided to states for the said cause. Measures are also taken by private NGOs to mitigate the same. The Environment Ministry also has a portal to register incidents of Human Wildlife Conflicts.

Featured Image: Tiger Attacks


About Author

A bachelor’s degree in mathematics and master’s in social science, she is driven by ardent desire to work with this unique combination to create her own path instead of following the herd. Having served a stint as the college union chairperson, she is a strategist who is also passionate about nature conservation, art and loves solving Sudoku.

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