Aug 04, 2020-Tuesday
Camera-traps used in the last tiger census (2018) captured the presence of more free-ranging domestic dogs than tigers in 17 tiger reserves, according to a report in The Indian Express. There is also a substantial presence of both dogs and livestock in at least 30 tiger reserves, the report added. The presence of feral and abandoned dogs and livestock in forests, say experts, could lead to the transmission of diseases to wild animals. These stray animals also compete with wild animals for resources, affecting their foraging patterns. The National Tiger Conservation Authority has said that livestock and dogs are found in fringe areas of forests close to villages.
While the camera-trap capture has provided real-time evidence now, this problem has been growing for years. India has about five million stray cattle, thanks to rural distress and fodder shortage (both make livestock maintenance expensive), lack of the adequate number of shelters, increase in peri-urban dairies, and a ban on cattle slaughter in many states. The feral dog population is 60 million because of the breakdown of the animal birth control (ABC) programme, increasing cases of abandonment of dogs, and the lack of adequate waste management and requisite number of shelters. A 2018 research by ATREE found that free-ranging dogs attacked 80 species of wildlife between 2015 and 2016, mostly mammals.
The problem of stray animals is not just in forests, but also in Indian cities. Instead of endless debates on whether it’s right to feed dogs or not, citizens must demand answers on the operational record of the Animal Welfare Board of India, why governments have reduced funding and support to the ABC programme and failed to untangle the problem of multiplicity of authorities and build shelters.