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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mahabaleshwar farmers oppose tiger reserve TNN

PUNE: Thousands of farmers in Mahabaleshwar gathered on Sunday afternoon to oppose the Sahyadri Tiger Project, which was initiated last year by combining the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary and Chandoli National Park in Satara as they fear it would hamper developmental activities. The meeting was held at Taldeo village, about 15 kms from Mahabaleshwar. Balasaheb Bhilare, member of the Satara Zilla Parishad, said, "The tiger reserve project is most likely to affect people of Patan, Javali and Mahabaleshwar. For us, the only source of income is farming and tourism. If our lands are marked under the reserve, farming activities will stop and the affected families will have to find new sources of income." The villagers also posed the question of security before the guardian minister. Bhilare said, "What security would villagers around the reserve get? They will be most exposed to the reserve and if animals walk into the village, it will pose a danger to them." The conservation plan, which was declared by the state government last year, will come up in an area of 740.5 sq km spread across the districts of Satara, Ratnagiri, Kolhapur and Sangli. The tiger reserve will focus on conservation of habitat, breeding of tigers and ensure food and water availability for tigers. Pramod Shelar, president of the Mahabaleshwar Taluka Sarpanch Sanghtna, said, "When farmers and villagers need to construct a house, there are several restrictions imposed. At the same time, the government is giving space for animals when human populations are multiplying every year. The government has still not relocated villagers displaced by the Koyna dam. The same situation will prevail with the tiger project as well." The land for the reserve is divided into buffer and core areas. The core area will not have human habitation, while in the buffer areas animals and humans can coexist. The reserve includes 83 villages in both the sanctuaries that cover four districts - Satara, Ratnagiri, Kolhapur and Sangli. Many villagers have already been shifted and the remaining will be relocated soon. Meanwhile, Nimbalkar has assured villagers that the issues will be taken up and discussed with the government and a solution will be arrived at after a proper study.

CBI probe demanded to crack poachers, officers nexus in Panna TNN

NAGPUR: Even as wildlife week is being celebrated amid fanfare, Prayatna, an environmental action group from Bhopal, has demanded a CBI probe into missing tigers in Panna tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh. In a letter written to MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on October 1, Ajay Dubey of Prayatna has said that nexus between Panna reserve officials and poachers, as a cause of decimation of tigers in Panna, needs to be probed. "Observation of wildlife week should not turn out to be a fashionable and meaningless event. Poaching is posing a grave threat to tigers. Due to poaching and other reasons, MP has lost its 'tiger state' status. Now, only 257 tigers are left in the state," Dubey warned. Decimation of tigers in Panna is the main reason behind this. Earlier, a demand for a CBI inquiry from several forums was ignored. "It puts a question mark on the attitude of the government on the protection of tigers," Prayatna said. "It is very painful that the government, instead of taking any action against offenders, is interested in protecting the culprits who are highly placed and influential," it alleged. In 2007, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had written to the government to institute a CBI inquiry on poaching in Panna, but no action was taken. NTCA's PK Sen committee had revealed that poaching was one of the main reasons behind decimation of tigers in Panna. A similar demand was made by the NTCA in 2009. On March 3, 2010, forest minister Sartaj Singh had announced a CBI inquiry, but it never happened. Former additional chief secretary MK Roy and director of Panna reserve R Srinivasa Murthy had also submitted a report to PCCF (wildlife), MP, HS Pabla admitting that there is nexus between officials and poachers. According to him, officials buried poaching cases by allegedly accepting bribes from the offenders. Murthy has also stated that 2002 to 2007 was a turbulent period as many tigers went missing in these five years. Dubey has also questioned the MP Government's inaction in not notifying buffer zones around tiger reserves, which is mandatory as per the amended Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

6 tiger cubs are Melghat's new guests Vijay Pinjarkar

NAGPUR: While recent lynching of Navegaon National Park tigress in Bhakru Tola in Chhattisgarh by a furious mob came as a rude shock, there is a good news from Melghat - sighting of six new cubs has thrilled wildlife buffs and officials. "In the past couple of months, tigresses with two cubs (around 6-8 months) each have been recorded in camera traps by the field staff in Sonala range in Ambabarwa wildlife sanctuary, part of Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR), Dhakna and Raipur ranges," revealed an overjoyed AK Mishra, field director and chief conservator of forests (CCF), MTR. He adds, two months ago, driver of a forest vehicle sighted a tiger with a kill in Semadoh tourism zone. He also recorded the movements on his mobile. However, several such claims are not considered unless authenticated. Tigers have always remain elusive in MTR, fondly called as the 'Kipling Country' and known for its mystifying landscape with high hills and deep valleys. Sighting of cubs in three places at a time makes big news in Melghat. Till now, such reports in the region could be heard only from Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Chandrapur district which has a distinction of producing 12-15 tiger cubs every year. Melghat, where sighting of tigers is like cracking jokes, has made a major turnaround over the last two years. The last such record of tiger sighting was in February 2009 from Narnala where a tigress with three cubs was sighted. "With the new additions, we expect tiger numbers to go up to 50-55," Mishra says. However, the NTCA-WII estimation of 2010 puts the tiger count in Melghat at 39. About the success, Mishra says strengthening protection and group patrolling, awareness among villagers by distributing pamphlets and educating them and imposing curbs on grazing have led to improving the situation. "Controlling forest fires is our big successes. From 7.5% with 401 cases, the number of incidents has been brought down to 3.2% with 177 cases," said Mishra. "In the past two years, we seized around 500 cattle and filed cases in the court against illicit grazers. Such measures are yielding results," Mishra says. The field director said relocation of three villages - Barukheda, Amona and Nagartas in Wan sanctuary and partial relocation of Vairat and Churni villages in Melghat sanctuary has also helped in reducing grazing pressure of 4,500 cattle. In 2006, MTR in Amravati was rated as 'poor'. However, in 2011, it has bounced back and has been graded as 'good' by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII). The result of 2011 management effective evaluation (MEE) puts MTR in line with high-profile reserves like Corbett, Dudhwa, Ranthambore and Manas. Even tiger conservationist Kishore Rithe, who works in Melghat, admits protection mechanism has been revamped and is very systematic despite shortage of trained and good staff. "Villages in core are willing to resettle. If MTR hands over tourism management to communities, it will help improve livelihoods and thus increase public support for tigers," he adds. Melghat's sweet success * Better protection measures, foot patrolling monitoring mechanism * Resettlement of 3 villages done in 2001-02 and 5 (two partially) in 2010 * Getting young forest guards posted in sensitive areas * Concentrating on threats like overgrazing, encroachments and forest fires The area MTR 1,676.93 sq km Gugamal NP 361.28 sq km Melghat WS 788.75 sq km Wan WS 211 sq km Ambabarwa 127.11 sq km Narnala WS 12.35 sq km Buffer Zone & MUA 1,268 sq km (MUA: Multiple use area. NP: National Park. WS: Wildlife Sanctuary)

Project Tiger on endangered list

India’s first wildlife protection programme — Project Tiger — launched 38 years ago may cease to be if the planning commission’s move to downsize centrally sponsored schemes is accepted. The panel has asked the environment ministry to merge Project Tiger, initiated by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1973, with other programmes such as the Project Elephant to have one scheme for wildlife protection from the next fiscal. The project was started even before the environment ministry came into existence. There was need to protect endangered species specific to states, including lions and rhinos, panel’s environment adviser Indrani Chandrasekharan told the ministry. It means that 20 % of the funds meant for wildlife conservation will have to be allocated for protection of state-specific endangered species. Nine non-official members of the National Board for Wildlife, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, have termed the move retrograde. “All of us are of a unanimous opinion that such a merger would adversely impact our efforts to conserve... our national animal, the tiger,” the members said in a letter to panel’s deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia. The National Tiger Conservation Authority, which administers Project Tiger, got more than Rs600 crore in the 11th plan. The effort is said to be one of the main reasons for tiger population seeing an increase in 2011, after witnessing a decline for almost seven years.