- Saturday, 22 September 2012 13:10
The decreasing tiger population in Madhya Pradesh is a cause of great concern. Poaching goes on unabated. What is alarming however, is the forest officials’ collusion with the poachers in this dastardly act. If the national animal is to be saved, there should be a dedicated task force manned by upright and committed officials, writes Zafar Alam khan
Madhya Pradesh, once a tiger state, lost its prestigious tag last year after a tiger census that year. Now it’s struggling to regain that honour. But the way Forest department is working; it seems the dream would remain distant. The State has lost 454 big cats during the last decade. According to the 2002 census, the number of tigers in the state was 711 that came down to just 257 in 2011.
The working of the Forest administration in the State remains under scanner as there is accusations that forest officials are hand in glove with the poachers, especially in Sehore district.
Sehore district is fast earning the notoriety of a safe haven for tiger poaching. In the last one year at least four tigers have fallen prey to hunters. Wildlife activists allege that forest officials are serving the interests of the hunting mafia.
Sehore is just 37 km from the State capital and Kathotia forest, where poachers are most active and have struck twice in three months, is almost at an equal distance. In the two attempts that the poachers made during the last three months, they killed one young male tiger aged two years on June 5, and made an unsuccessful attempt on another tiger cub on September 19. The one-year cub after being caught in the snare of the poachers fell into a pit and was severely injured.
Apart from these incidents, at least two leopards were reportedly killed in two separate incidents in Ichhawar tehsil of the same district. One of them was killed by the villagers when it entered the village on July 18, 2011 and attacked a villager and the second was found dead in the forest under mysterious circumstances on April 19, 2011. Four feline deaths in the same district raise serious doubts over the efficiency and working of the Forest department.
Sehore District Forest Officer (DFO) Vijay Nema told Viva City, “The one-year-old tiger cub was found in a pit. The condition and injuries of the cub suggest that it was an accident. No evidence of hunting or trap was found in the vicinity of the pit where the feline was found.”
Nema further said that the big cat suffered some serious injury in its paws and after rescuing it we immediately sent it to Bhopal Van Vihar National Park where it is undergoing further treatment.
Contrary to DFO Sehore, Assistant Director of Forests (Van Vihar National Park) Sudesh Vaghmare said, “The feline was brought to us in a serious condition and its condition is still critical, it is undergoing treatment and we are not in a position to say anything further at this point of time.”
Sources from Sehore, on condition of anonymity, said that hunters were active in the area for long and worked in tandem with forest officials. The hunters lay snare or electrical traps in the forests to kill wild animals. Once the animal gets entrapped or comes in contact with the naked electric wire, it meets a painful death.
Wildlife activists were certain that hunters had struck once again in Kathotia village on Wednesday and made attempts to kill another tiger. Wildlife activist Ajay Dube has written a letter to the Chief Secretary on Thursday urging him to take appropriate action to protect the big cats. “Please constitute a special protection force for tigers urgently and also form a new committee comprising upright and honest officers to inquire into Wednesday’s attempt to kill the tiger and also that which was killed in June,” demanded Dube wrote.
Dube, while talking to this correspondent, said “one male tiger has been found seriously injured in the jungle of Kathotia near Bhopal. They had killed a fully grown male tiger in June; this is not possible without the support and help of Forest department.”
He said the inaction and inefficiency of the forest administration had boosted the morale of the poachers and had prompted the culprits to repeat the ghastly act in the same area within a short period of just three months.
The wildlife activist said that with fresh attempt to kill another tiger near the State capital on Wednesday, the state government’s security measures for the big cat stands exposed. The striped felines in the state are at threat as the morale of the poachers are so high that they do not hesitate to kill the big cat near the State capital, he added.
Wild Life Society of India Field Assistant Chandramohan Khare also expressed concern on the increased killings and the attempts to kill them near the State capital.
Notably, the 2011 tiger census revealed there were only 257 tigers in the State’s six tiger reserves, namely, Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Panna, Bori-Satpura, Sanjay Dubri, and Pench. The situation is especially worrisome at the famous Kanha National Park which now has been left with just 60 tigers.
The state’s tiger conservation efforts were exposed for the first time in 2009, when it was revealed that Panna, one of the State’s premier tiger reserves, had lost its entire big cat population. The report says that there were about 20 tigers in 2006. Further doubts on the State’s conservation efforts were cast by a confidential report of the Panna Tiger Reserve’s field director, who claimed forest officials were acting in collusion with poachers, thus maintaining a consistent threat to the revival of tiger population in the reserve.
Maximum presence of tigers was registered in 1999, when 42 tigers were killed. In 1995, poachers killed 16 tigers.
A senior Forest department official lamented that it was very hard to nab the kingpin of the poaching gangs. “Old methods of killing tigers using guns are outdated. The gangs now employ villagers living near the forests to kill tigers. The villagers generally poison or electrocute the tigers as it reduces the chances of being caught,” the official said.
Sadly, the tigers are critically endangered. Yet, there is hope. The State is one of the last places where a significant tiger population is there. But, the Forest department’s working raises doubts whether or not the state would be able to meet the expectations. As per the wildlife institute data, the tiger habitat in the state has shrunk by nearly 3,000 square km. The Opposition is blaming the government for the decline in the numbers.