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Friday, December 9, 2011

Central body pulls up State Forest dept

Sivasish Thakur GUWAHATI, Dec 8 – The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) under the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has pulled up the State Forest Department for its “casual approach” in handling the situation arising out of a straying tigress from Kaziranga National Park, which ultimately led to the gunning down of the traumatized animal by armed police personnel. Even though the State Government had immediately instituted a high-level inquiry into the incident, the NTCA also started a parallel probe into the shooting which conservation circles widely believe could have been averted but for the “lax and unprofessional” conduct of the forest authorities. Talking to The Assam Tribune, SP Yadav, Joint Director, NTCA, said that there was prima facie evidence of lapses on the part of the Forest Department. “The killing of the tigress is sad and most unfortunate…it was prima facie a case of lack of leadership and casual approach on the part of the park authorities and the Forest Department,” Yadav said, adding that the NTCA has submitted its findings to the Government of India. Yadav, however, refrained from divulging the details as the Union Minister for Forest and Environment who was outside the country was supposed to go through it first. The killing of the tigress could be even more distressing in view of reports – unconfirmed though as yet – that she was a lactating mother with cubs. In such a case, the survival prospects of the cubs would be rather bleak. A wildlife activist wishing anonymity said that with a little effort towards crowd control, the tigress could have been sent back safely to the wilds. “Unlike in the Moirabari (Morigaon) incident last year when there was a huge angry crowd, this time there were about a hundred people only. Moreover, the forest was also quite near and the animal could have easily been sent back,” he said. The State Government-appointed inquiry committee headed by Additional Conservator of Forests OP Pandey and his deputy CR Bhobora has also started its probe. “We are now hearing evidences and expect to complete our job within the stipulated 15-day time,” Bhobora said. The committee will inquire into the circumstances leading to the incident, fix responsibility and suggest ways to prevent recurrence of such incidents. Killing of straying tigers has emerged as a disquieting trend in the State, with two big cats gunned down in the past two years at Moirabari (Morigaon) and Jakhalabandha (Nagaon) in 2010 and 2009 respectively. With straying tigers showing an increasing trend at Kaziranga, conservation circles believe that unless the forest authorities exhibit greater sincerity and commitment – and put in place a firm protocol defining the role of various agencies including the police – such tragedies would continue to recur.