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Monday, May 21, 2012

'National shame! Form SIT to probe tiger deaths'

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN May 19, 2012, 02.33AM IST NAGPUR: Wildlife experts and conservationists have termed the poaching of a full-grown tiger on Friday as shocking, and a national shame. This is the second tiger poaching incident in little over a fortnight, since Palasgaon in the buffer zone of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. Poachers have struck despite a 'red alert' sounded by the government. With Friday's death, the number of tiger deaths in Maharashtra since January 2012 has gone up to 7. Of these, four were clear cases of poaching while the remaining are shrouded in mystery. One tiger that survived a trap will be forced to spend the rest of its life in captivity. One tiger each died in Tipeshwar wildlife sanctuary and Melghat tiger reserve (MTR), while five deaths were reported from Chandrapur. If figures of past six months are considered, 10 tigers have died since November 3, 2011. " Yes, I heard the tragic news. It's shocking and a national shame.... it also reveals the defunct mechanism of enforcement and governance. The entire forest service of Maharashtra needs to be overhauled on a war footing to deal with this menace. Officials need to wake up from their slumber. They need immediate reforms and good intelligence," said Valmik Thapar, natural historian and tiger conservationist. Thapar said the Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF), cleared by the Parliament five years ago, needs to be put in place immediately. At the same time, the expert said NTCA officials in New Delhi need to leave their chairs and stop their non-effective letter writing. "They should camp at Chandrapur. We don't want more yap-yap from those who serve the tigers. It is a moment for action or we will lose Tadoba, the Taj Mahal of Maharashtra," Thapar remarked. Thapar suggested setting up of a chief minister's task force consisting of police and forest officials and experts from outside the government machinery. "The chief minister should implement its recommendations immediately. If justice has to be delivered to Tadoba and its tigers - it has to mean business. If not, we will watch one of the vital landscapes for tigers in the world vanish," Thapar warned. "Poachers have already laid their traps. So there is no way we can prevent more tiger deaths, unless a massive sanitization process is launched to clear game trails of these metal traps. So far, almost no help has been sought from forensic experts. This is vital if we are to establish who the culprits are," said Bittu Sahgal, conservationist and editor of Sanctuary Asia. "We are at war with poachers. I recommend a curfew be immediately imposed around Tadoba while the sanitization process to unearth hidden traps is underway," said Sahgal. "Search and find initiatives need to be launched in Nagzira, Navegaon, Umred, Tipeshwar, Bor and Melghat," said Prafulla Bhamburkar of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). Kishor Rithe, member, National Board for Wild Life (NBWL), said the cruel act must be condemned by every citizen. "Such incidents cannot be tolerated any further. The chief minister should appoint a special investigation team (SIT) under the chairmanship of chief secretary with DGP, PCCF (wildlife), principal secretary (forests), principal secretary (home) as its members," demanded Writhe. The SIT should be given all resources and powers, he added. "It is clear that the scale of poaching is very serious and that patrolling efforts are inadequate. The forest department should create a new model of patrolling that involves volunteers on a large scale. Many young people are keen to volunteer for patrolling. It is very clear that the government cannot tackle the widespread menace of poaching by itself. It is time for a change in strategy," felt Shekar Dattatri, wildlife filmmaker and conservationist. Times View The poaching of another tiger just outside Tadoba reserve means nothing has been learnt from Palasgaon where one was killed and another found injured last month. Forest Department will come up with familiar excuses: lack of manpower and resources. Yet, it cannot deny its own lack of will. Even years after protecting the tiger was made top most priority, our conservation and protection efforts remain half-hearted. Miscreants can enter and do what they please in much of our forest areas. Unless foresters shed their business-as-usual attitude, India's natural heritage will continue to be plundered. CAT CALLS FALL SILENT * January 23, 2012: Full-grown male tiger poached in electric trap laid for herbivores in FDCM's Zaran area * February 19, 2012: Tigress dies in mysterious circumstances, possibly due to electrocution, in Lohara teak farm in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) buffer area. Forest officials hide cause of death * March 1, 2012: Carcass of full-grown tiger found in decomposed state near Kitadi under Moharli range adjoining TATR * March 8, 2012: Full-grown tiger found dead in compartment number 100 in Tipeshwar wildlife sanctuary in Yavatmal district

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