Tigers are dying in record numbers in India, mostly due to poaching, wildlife officials said this week.
At least 274 tigers have died in the last four years, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told Indian parliament members on Nov. 26.
Only 82 of those tigers died due to natural causes, according to census data, while the rest of the deaths — most of which occurred outside of tiger reserves — were blamed on poaching or other unknown reasons, Indian science and environment magazine Down to Earth reported.
New tiger population estimates will be released at the start of the next census cycle in December.
More than half of the world’s estimated 3,200 wild tigers live in India, where numbers have declined steadily since the 1990s, due in large part to black market demand from Southeast Asian countries, the Associated Press reported.
Earlier this month, Javadekar and other Indian authorities set fire to a stockpile of more than 42,000 illegal animal parts as part of a campaign to discourage wildlife smuggling in the region.
Tiger and leopard pelts, reptile skins, elephant tusks, rhino horns and other materials made from endangered animals were loaded into a large oven at the Delhi Zoo and set ablaze.
“The exercise is an attempt to deplore the unethical, indiscriminate and most unlawful activities of harvest and trade of wildlife products,” the Environment Ministry said in a statement on Nov. 2.