In the wake of reports on 106 leopard deaths in two months, Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan told the Lok Sabh on Friday that the population of wild animals in India had increased due to efforts of state wildlife departments.
In a written reply, he said his Ministry is aware of the death of wild animals, including leopards, and attributed them to factors like ageing, diseases, infighting, and poaching.
"The Ministry is aware of the death of wild animals, including leopards, in various parts of the country. The death of wild animals is attributed to factors like ageing, diseases, infighting, poaching etc."
On March 4, IANS reported that as many as 106 leopards had died in the first two months of 2018 in forests across the country -- a number that conservationists and officials said was "alarmingly high".
The IANS report was based on data shared by Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) which said that the maximum number of deaths were due to poaching, while only 12 of the big cats died of clear natural causes.
The Minister said management and protection of wildlife is primarily the responsibility of State or Union Territory concerned and that the information on the death of wild animals is "not collated" by the Ministry.
"Due to effective management and enforcement of laws by state Forest Departments, the population of several wild animals like tigers, lions, rhinos and elephants have increased," Vardhan said.
The Minister said that the Centre, however, provides financial assistance to the state governments through several central schemes.
For financial year 2016-17, the Minister said, around Rs 90 crore (Rs 61 crore in 2015-16) were provided to 29 states and UTs under the 'Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitat'; over Rs 343 crore (Rs 154 crore in 2015-16) to 18 states under 'Project Tiger' and over Rs 20.6 crore (Rs 11.3 crore in 2015-16) to 22 states under 'Project Elephant'.
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