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Save The Tiger....:ELSE WILL BE EXTINCT, by Proloy Bagchi, 29 Dec, 2010 Print E-mail

Wildlife Special

New Delhi, 29 December 2010

Save The Tiger....


By Proloy Bagchi

India’s ‘Save the tiger’ campaign continues to win accolades world-wide. Yet in tiger State Madhya Pradesh one wonders whether the Department of Forests is being needlessly cruel to the King of animals in its tiger reserves. It has been trying to relocate tigers from its national parks to the Panna Tiger Reserve from where all its tigers were poached between 2005 and 2009.

Earlier this month the Department had to abandon its plans to relocate two tigresses from the Kanha National Park. The last minute hitch occurred when a close examination of the tigresses revealed that they were not in a fit condition to undertake an eight-hour road journey to the Panna Reserve. Later in the week when another attempt was under contemplation it was found that one of the tigresses had somehow injured itself.

In Rajasthan’s Sariska game sanctuary too, nothing much has changed since 2005 when the State made an effort to re-populate the Tiger Reserve. However, given the Madhya Pradesh Government’s experience clearly relocating the tigers to another sanctuary would amount to sacrificing them for a cause that various tiger populated State Governments are not committed to.

This is evident from the Panna Game Reserve’s distressing history. While tiger experts have been crying hoarse about the depleting tiger numbers in the sanctuary, the State’s Forest Department continue to turn a deaf ear. Shockingly, a poacher who was nabbed near Panna town confessed to have traded-in as many as eight tiger skins sourced from the Reserve!

Sadly, this did not set off alarm bells. Despite repeated warnings by the Central Government’s Forest Department the State’s bureaucracy failed to initiate preventive action. In fact, just before the State Government officially admitted that tigers were extinct in the Reserve in late 2009, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Wild Life, vehemently denied the big yellow-eyed cats absence.  His culpability brought no retribution for him.

Significantly, in tiger reserves around the country nothing has improved. Recently, in a sanctuary not only did a re-located tiger move out unnoticed from the Reserve but also two cubs of a re-located tigress disappeared and were presumed dead. Moreover, the tigers to be relocated presently, unused to the wild, are likely to be sitting ducks.

Various State Governments’ indifferent attitude towards protection of tigers was elucidated recently by a Chief Minister. Take Madhya Pradesh. The Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has reportedly made plain that he is not in favour of creating a buffer zone as mandated by the Central Wildlife Protection Act.

Worse, the Chief Minister also chose to ignore the Prime Minister’s directive in his letter addressed to him in April last. The Panna Reserve especially is well known for its lackadasical attitude, given that some of the Chief Minister’s political cronies have mining interests within the proposed buffer area.

A buffer zone, unlike the core area of a reserve, is protected from major changes in land use, is not inviolate and people living in it are provided alternative livelihood options. Undoubtedly, mining operations cannot take place in it.

However, alarmingly, the Chief Minister sided with his political cronies and asserted, “I cannot sacrifice Panna for the sake of survival of the tigers. Humans were more important than tigers (even in a tiger reserve).” Only the ensuing uproar made Chauhan back-off. Clearly, the Chief Minister is disinclined towards tiger conservation.  He has now opposed the Centrally approved conversion of the Ratapani Sanctuary into a tiger reserve.

This is not all. The Government is vehemently opposing a case pending in the Madhya Pradesh High Court regarding a ban on tourism in the core areas of tiger reserves, in accordance with the guidelines issued by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

Importantly, according to tiger experts, unrestricted tourism has been a bane for tiger reserves in the country.  What many States promote is a vicious kind of uncontrolled tourism with its infamous “tiger shows” that corral tigers by dozens of vehicles and elephants loaded with unconcerned tourists. This is nothing but “irresponsible tourism”.

In fact, famous South African safari pioneer Colin Bell avers, “The best model for wilderness is no visitors at all” and, if they must come, better to have “high prices and low numbers”.

Towards that end, Madhya Pradesh conducted a study for determining the carrying capacity of tourists in its tiger reserves in 2003. Noticing excessive tourism pressure in the State’s tiger reserves, the report made detailed recommendations. Sadly, hardly any of these have been implemented till date.

Add to this, the hypocritical statements by the State Administration in its affidavit against another petition pending in the High Court has added to India’s ‘tiger woes.’ The Government stated that tourism, inter alia, effectively protects tigers and provides employment to locals. Needless to say a fraudulent  statement as despite restricted tourism in the Panna Reserve all its tigers were poached. And, instead of being made stake holders, the locals are given only menial jobs, if at all. 

In sum, the attitude of various States Governments and its forest officials is out of sync with world-wide concern for the depleting numbers of tigers. Significantly, over 13 tiger-range countries met at a Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg recently and committed around $300 million for the next five years towards doubling the current world population of the ecologically vital species by 2022.

 But if tiger poaching continues unabated in India’s tiger reserves without any checks to control this, it is quite likely that the prognosis of the Conference might come true. Namely, that the beautiful big cat could become extinct by 2022. ---- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)



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