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Monday, December 26, 2011

Tiger force to take on poachers

December 26, 2011 DC Bengaluru For the first time, the Karnataka forest department will be deploying the Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) which will guard the forests of Bandipur, Badra and Nagarhole against poachers from the first week of January. The deputation of the STPF forces had been in pipeline since 2008 when the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had made recommendations that STPFs should be raised in 13 sensitive tiger reserves — Dudhwa-Katerniaghat, Corbett, Ranthambhore, Pench, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pakke, Bandipur, Tadoba Andhari, Mudumalai, Kaziranga and Simlipal. As per the initial plans the STPF was to be deployed only at Bandipur in Karnataka, however, the forest department is now planning to deploy units at Badra and Nagerhole as well. On January 3, 2012, the first unit comprising 14 foresters and 40 forest guards will complete their training, said sources. The forest guards have undergone three weeks of intensive training in policing, patrolling, combat and even intelligence at the Armed Police Training Centre in Yelahanka. “The guards have been given intensive commando training, specialising in the use of SLRs, small arms, besides hand-to-hand combat. Since it is a forest unit, they also have been taught how to interact with communities and about the Forests Acts and rules,” said B.K. Singh, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife). The annual expenditure for maintaining the STPF unit will be around `97.76 lakh. The forest department has also requested the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for `620 lakh for construction of quarters and buildings for the tiger conservation unit. “This will be first STPF unit that will be commissioned in the country. We will be increase the unit strength later,” added Mr Singh. The STPF unit will be divided into three groups and will be solely responsible for taking anti-poaching measures and will have the power to “shoot to kill”, he informed.

WWF study confirms at least 25 tigers in Sathyamangalam forests

K A Shaji, TNN | Dec 26, 2011, 04.42AM IST COIMBATORE: A recent study by World Wildlife Fund ( WWF) using camera trap method at the Sathyamangalam wildlife sanctuary has confirmed that the 1.41 lakh hectare-stretch of forest at the confluence of Western and Eastern Ghats is home to at least 25 tigers. A DNA finger print-based project initiated by the state forest department had collected 150 samples of pugmarks from Sathyamangalam forests recently and 69 among them were found positive at the tests conducted at Centre for Molecular Biology in Hyderabad. The lab findings indicate that the region is home to tigers, ranging from 18 to 30. Armed with the two study reports, the forest department has prepared a detailed project report for submission before the state government and it would come up for consideration before the cabinet in a couple of weeks. The Union ministry of environment and forests has already advised the state government to make it a tiger reserve under Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. Kalakkad-Mundanthurai, Indira Gandhi National Park in Anamalai and Mudumalai National Park are the existing tiger reserves in the state. "Sathyamangalam forests deserve the tiger reserve status. If declared, that would help total habitat improvement. There would be projects that would help not only the tigers but also the entire flora and fauna of the region,'' said divisional forest officer (DFO) N Sathish. Apart from tigers, the forests are known for a large number of vultures and elephants. "It is home to one fourth of the elephants in the state with an estimated population of 1,250. Sathyamangalam is also a migratory path for over 6,000 Asiatic elephants which move from the Nilgiris to Bandipur in Karnataka,'' Sathish said. It also has a large number of black bucks and hyenas. Its links with Mudumalai, Bandipur and BR Hills sanctuaries would turn advantageous in protection of big cats as they can roam around freely in a large contiguous stretch of forests without any disturbance. It was only in August this year that Sathyamangalam got wildlife sanctuary status. Recently, the sanctuary was expanded with the inclusion of forest reserves like Guthiyalathur, Akurjakkarai, Thalamalai, Berabetta, Ullepalayam and the eastern slopes of the Nilgiris, under it. These forests, which were considered Veerappan territory, are under threat from the laterite-mining and timber mafias. If the forest is declared a tiger sanctuary, more personnel would be sanctioned for its protection. That, forest officials said, would be a major help in keep the mafiosi at bay.

Drop in MP's tiger population cause of concern

SATURDAY, 24 DECEMBER 2011 With the tiger population in the State declining from 300 in 2006 to 257 in the 2011 census wildlife experts have called for more efforts by the Forest Department to solve pending cases of poaching, writes Ritesh Mishra There was a 12 per cent rise in the population of big cats in the country in 2011, but Madhya Pradesh lost its 'Tiger State' status to Karnataka in this passing year. According to the tiger census of 2011, the tiger population in Madhya Pradesh dropped to 257 from 300 tigers in 2006. According to wildlife experts the causes of the decline in the tiger population in Madhya Pradesh are many but one of the most important was that most of the poaching cases were not solved till now, which has given an edge to the poachers and they continued hunting the felines. However, it is not new, but the pending cases of the forest offences are really concerning for the wildlife experts and even for the forest officials and they believe that the Forest Department should take the matter seriously as soon as possible. Reflecting sheer ineffectiveness, apathy and dilly-dallying in solving the forest offences, the figures of the Forest Department revealed that the pending cases till December 2011 in Madhya Pradesh was seven times more than the cases registered in the current year till now. Meanwhile, commenting over the issue, a retired senior official of the Forest Department, requesting anonymity, said that there can be various reasons behind the pending case as it could be lack of staff or negligence. "If more than 60,000 cases are pending in the Forest Department then it is concerning and senior officials should take responsibility," the officer added. Total number of forest offences registered in records of the Forest Department is 7,592 and the total number of pending cases is 60,280. More specifically, total 47,715 are pending for the last 12 months, which reflects the working of the department. The highest number of pending cases is in Bhopal, which is more than 10,800. More surprisingly, in the total 9,542 cases, investigation is pending for the last one year in the State capital only. Moreover, the highest number of forest offence cases has been registered in Bhopal, which sums up to 1,663 followed by Jabalpur (1,173) and Panna (104). RTI activist Ajay Dubey, while talking to The Pioneer said the main reason behind the pending of these cases was that the prosecution of the cases was not done properly. It was due to the apathy of some senior officials of the Forest Department. He further said that in various reports of the Forest Department it was made clear the most concerning issue for the department were the pending cases and the delay in the process but nothing appropriate has been done till now. "I don't know why the Forest Department is ineffective regarding the forest offences," he added. Bandhavgarh and Satpura National Park registered 40 cases each in 2011. Specifically, according to the records of forest offences maintained in the website of the department the cases registered from January 1 to December 7, highest number of the cases was of illegal felling (6097), in which total 1,248 cases are of Bhopal. Further in Jabalpur (1,063) and Seoni (1,129) cases have been registered. In Balaghat, where total 98 cases of forest offences have been registered, 90 are of illegal felling. The most important fact according to details of cases registered is about Panna. The highest number of poaching cases registered was in Panna (28) followed by Bhopal. The highest number of cases of illegal grazing is 30, out of 70 cases registered all over the State. The senior officials of Panna Tiger Reserve have already mentioned in a confidential report to HS Pabla that there are instances of involvement of Panna forest officials with the poachers of nearby districts. Further according to records maintained on investigation status of the forest offences cases, Bhopal ranks the top, with total 10,814 cases, followed by Jabalpur (3,937), Seoni (4,248) and Sagar (7,185), till December 7, 2011. As per details maintained about the pending cases of National Parks of Madhya Pradesh, total 417 are pending in Panna, 1,068 in Kanha and 381 in Bandhavgarh. According to wildlife experts there is a lack of coordination among the forest officials in solving the cases owing to which thousands of cases are pending in nearly all the major districts. The experts suggested that the Forest Department should start a drive in solving the pending cases as soon as possible.

39 tiger reserves mired in problems

Dec 24, 2011 - Rashme Sehgal | Age Correspondent | New Delhi A Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of the functioning of India’s 39 tiger reserves has come down heavily on India’s premier Corbett Tiger Reserve (TR), which due to its high-profile nature should have set a benchmark for tiger conservation. Instead, the MEE points out that the human-wildlife conflict in the buffer zone of this reserve has intensified while the critical corridors in which animals move have become increasingly fragmented. The MEE stresses that “too much time and manpower is involved in managing tourism and tourist facilities which takes away the focus from the primary task of the Corbett reserve”. But this seems to be a problem across all reserves. The Bandavgarh TR is having to cope with one lakh tourists per annum from 2008. A large number of resorts have come up around the reserve resulting in increasing human-wildlife conflict and preventing tiger dispersal opportunities. The Ranthambore TR, comprising largely of a habitat island, faces a similar problem both in tourism excess and man-wildlife conflict. Other reserves such as the Dudha Tiger Reserve located next to the porous international border with Nepal faces the problem of poaching and wildlife trade. The Panna TR had been left with a defunct tiger population populated as it is with Pardhis, a tribe carrying powerful firearms and known for their poaching activities. Problems of mining are putting habitats under pressure especially in the Sahayadri TR and the Tadoba-Andhari TR. Other problems include a failure to protect rare animals. The Satkosia reserve has failed to save the gharial in its only non-Himalayan river system. It has just three gharials left even though this is the place where the Indian crocodile project was initiated. The Udanti-Sitanadi reserve has failed to protect the Asiatic wild buffalo whose population is down to eight from which four have been kept in connectivity.