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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Declare Pilibhit tiger reserve to save big cats

THURSDAY, 16 AUGUST 2012 09:18 MOUSHUMI BASU N NEW DELHI HITS: 42 After the tragic death of three tigers under Pilibhit Forest Division in the past three months, wildlife experts have come out strongly for the forest division to be declared a tiger reserve. The third tiger was found dead on Sunday. The reserved forest area is home to 36 tigers. The Centre had given its in-principle approval for the forest division to be declared a tiger reserve in 2008. In 2010, the State Government wrote to the Centre in detail. However, the Centre sent back the proposal to the State Government seeking clear delineation of core and buffer zones. Now the matter is pending with the State Government. Further, the areas flanking the forest are very vulnerable to man-tiger conflict. Surrounded by villages that have sugarcane fields, there are repeated instances of tigers straying into these areas. However, fresh hopes have been raised with Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan bringing up the issue of Pilibhit along with four other reserves, in Rajya Sabha recently. While the reason for the death of two tigers on May 24 and May 25 was confirmed as poisoning, the forensic report on cause of death of the third tiger is yet to be received. The body of the tiger,however, had no injury or bullet marks, raising suspicions of poisoning in this case too. Rupak Dey, Chief Wildlife Warden, said, “We are combing the villages and other adjoining areas thoroughly to track poaching gangs that could have led to the incident. We are also trying to find out if there has been any recent case of killing of cattle in the surrounding villages.” He admitted that the two previous killings of big cats were in retaliation to loss of livestock. In order to ensure a better tiger management in the present situation, he said, patrolling would be intensified. “There is little doubt that tigers in Pillibhit are vulnerable. The State Government must not delay the long-pending process of notifying Pilibhit as a tiger reserve,” said Prerna Singh Bindra, standing committee member, National Board For Wildlife. Under the Project Tiger umbrella, Pilibhit will get the advantage of more financial and technical support, along with more focused wildlife protection. Studies indicate a good tiger density in Pilibhit, which also serves as a crucial link between Dudhwa and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve in Nepal. UP has barely eight per cent of its area under forest, and Pilibhit is among its finest and deserving of maximum protection. “This will also help mitigate and address the human-tiger conflict which is very acute in this area,” said tiger expert Dr Ulhas Karanth. Recently, a tiger had ventured out of Pilibhit forests reaching Central Institute of Subtropical Horticulture campus in Rahmankhera. It, however, did not attack any human during its 108-day stay in Rahmankhera near Lucknow and was sent back to Dudhwa tiger reserve. In 2011, there was yet another incident of tiger straying. It had killed 6 persons and was eventually sent to Kanpur Zoo. A straying tigress from Pilibhit had to be shot dead in 2009 following enormous local pressure after it killed five persons.

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