India is home to 60 per cent of the world’s tigers but they face increasing habitat loss and demand for their body parts in China and other parts of Asia, hence the threat to their continued existence.

At least 67 tigers have died this year – many as a result of conflict with humans, including poachers, wildlife activists have said.

Senior officials of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) confirmed to the BBC that the bodies of 58 tigers had been recovered between January and June this year, as well as body parts from nine other tiger fatalities.

Karnataka state in the south recorded 14 deaths, more than any other, while the central state of Madhya Pradesh accounted for 13.

“Wildlife activists are alarmed mainly because of the secrecy surrounding the deaths. Also there is no co-ordination between researchers and the forest department,” Theodore Baskaran said.

On current trends this year’s mortality rate could surpass last year, when 120 deaths were recorded, the highest number since 2006. Tiger deaths have steadily gone up in India in recent years. In 2015 officials reported 80 tiger deaths, and 78 in the previous year.

It is thought India had about 100,000 tigers a century ago. Numbers had plummeted to fewer than 1,500 by the early years of this millennium.

Tigers are now on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of endangered animals.

They are found in just 2 per cent of India and encroachment by humans on their habitat – as well as poaching for body parts and trophy hunting – is a key factor in their decline.