Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, May 29, 2012
With increase in tiger deaths, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has asked forest departments to treat every death of big cat as case of poaching, unless proved otherwise. This has done to check the forest department officials from describing tigers deaths because of natural
There has been a tendency of the forest department officials to describe a death of a tiger probably from poisoning or through iron trap as natural death without examining the possibility of poaching.
“As tiger sources areas are targeted by poachers and tigers also become victims of non-targetted killings due to sensitive human-tiger interface conflicts, there is a need to ensure adequate caution while classifying tiger deaths as occurring due to natural causes,” said a letter written to project directors of tiger reserves in India by Rajesh Gopal, director NTCA.
Three tiger deaths have been reported from Dudwa tiger reserve in Uttar Pradesh in the last one week. But, the forest department believes the death to be natural on the ground of signs of struggle on the body of one of the dead tigers. However, tiger experts believe that the tigers died during a poaching attempt.
In other incidents, at least two tiger deaths have been reported from Maharashtra increasing the tally of total deaths in the state to 12 in 2012. It was only after recent deaths that the Maharashtra government allowed the forest department “shoot at sight” orders against poachers.
The sudden jump in tiger deaths around India has pushed the NTCA to ask the directors of tiger reserves to carrying out detailed investigation before declaring reason for death of tigers.
The protocol prescribed says that area where the tiger death has been reported should be thoroughly scanned to rule out metal snares/traps and evidences related to unauthorized vehicular movement.
The NTCA also wants the officials to look for signs of poisoning near water bodies and poisoning of livestock kills made by a tiger. “Besides, any history of recurring livestock depredation, human death or injury due to wild carnivores in the area should also be taken into account along with pendency, if any, related to payment of compensation or ex-gratia in this regard,” Gopal said in his letter.
The authority has also advised the forest officials of taking preventive actions rather than retroactive action. “This will facilitate retrieval of carcasses before their putrification, thereby facilitating forensic examination in a laboratory,” the letter read.
The tiger conservation body also told the forest officials to treat every tiger or leopard death as case of poaching unless there is convincing evidence to suggest natural death.