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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

NGOs kept out of tiger census

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Feb 8, 2012, 07.20AM IST NAGPUR: SK Khetarpal, the state's principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), has shut the door on NGOs but kept it open for individuals to participate in the phase IV tiger monitoring exercise beginning on Friday. "But it's up to the park managers to decide on the participation of individuals. I won't interfere in this matter," Khetarpal told TOI on Tuesday. The exercise, which was to start earlier from February 2 to 7, will now be held between February 10 and 17 in tiger reserves and their buffer areas, and sanctuaries and national parks. Khetarpal had told TOI in January that only volunteers with wildlife and genuine credentials would be allowed to take part in the monitoring. On Monday, TOI received several calls from wildlife buffs on being denied participation by park managers. The wildlife chief said the department has enough staff to conduct the exercise. "The real field work can be done in a better way by forest staffers who are familiar with the areas. It's also an opportunity for the new forest recruits to learn techniques," he said. On transparency, the chief wildlife warden said, "What can be more transparent than the cameras. We've good number of tigers that are spilling over in non-protected areas. The camera traps cannot be tampered with. Moreover, the Wildlife Institute of India ( WII) will check the data which cannot be distorted." VK Sinha, field director & chief conservator (CCF) of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), said the first lot of compass and rangefinders needed on transact lines has been received. More are expected in a few days. Unavailability of these gears, along with zilla parishad and panchayat polls, was one of the reasons to postpone the monitoring exercise. The exercise will go on even without rangefinders in the hilly terrain and dense forests of Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR) as it difficult to sight animals beyond 30-40 metres. "MTR needed 275 rangefinders but considering the topography I have sought only 10," said A K Mishra, field director of MTR. MTR will allow the participation of wildlife lovers. "They need to produce a photo identity card for verification," said Mishra. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS) are among the NGOs which have been denied permission. WWF coordinator for Satpuda Maikal Landscape Project, Chhitaranjan Dave, has expressed disappointment over the move. SP Yadav, the deputy inspector general (DIG) of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), confirmed that it has left the participation of NGOs to PCCFs. "All we insist is that the national monitoring protocol be followed," he said.

CBI probe for Panna tiger debacle stuck at the lowest level

MAHIM PRATAP SINGH The Hindu A tiger seen at the Panna Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh. File photo: R. Sreenivasa Murthy Three years after the entire tiger population of the Panna Tiger Reserve was decimated, the Madhya Pradesh government has neither been able to fix responsibility for the disaster, nor has it handed over the enquiry to the Central Bureau of Investigation inspite of requests from the Ministry of Environment and forests and even the Prime Minister's Office. A new string of official communication, copies of which are available with The Hindu, suggests that a CBI investigation into the Panna debacle is being held up due to non-communication from the ground i.e. office of the Field Director, Panna Tiger Reserve. Last year, the Prime Minister's Office forwarded a complaint regarding CBI enquiry into the Panna debacle to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). On 20th July 2011, the NTCA wrote to the Madhya Pradesh government asking for an update on the matter. The state government sent the NTCA request to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) who in turn asked the Field Director, Panna Tiger Reserve to send the details of available evidence required for the CBI probe. Since then, the PCCF (Wildlife) office has sent repeated reminders in May, August, September and December 2011―to the Field Director, PTR, asking him to make available the evidence for three poaching cases that the state government had identified for CBI enquiry in 2010. But there has been no response from the Field Director. In March 2010, in response to a letter from NTCA member secretary Rajesh Gopal advising for a CBI enquiry into the Panna debacle, the state government had identified three poaching cases and had admitted the need for a CBI probe. The latest reminder to the FD was sent in December 2011, which unequivocally stated: “Regarding CBI probe in the disappearance of Panna spite of repeated reminders, you have not provided us with the details and evidences relating to three cases identified by the government.. we are receiving constant reminders from the government from the government...please send the details as soon as possible” (translated from Hindi). Interestingly, the Field Director (FD) R.S. Murthy had only recently exposed the official-poacher nexus in the PTR in a confidential report last year, which was accessed by wildlife activist Ajay Dube under the Right to Information Act ( In the report, Mr. Murthy had indicted the forest staff for acting in collusion with local hunting communities such as the Pardhis and the Bahelias as well as with national and international poaching mafia by suppressing cases or not registering one at all. “We believe that the FD is under pressure from some senior officials responsible for the loss of tiger population in Panna. This is the same officer who had exposed the official-poacher nexus through his report, why is he silent now inspite of repeated reminders,” asked Mr. Ajay dube, who obtained the entire chain of correspondence under the Right to Information Act. Not only has the state government not been able to fix responsibility in the case, it has failed to demarcate a buffer zone for the Panna Tiger Reserve, a requirement under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, amended in 2006. In such a situation, the future of the national animal appears bleak at the Panna Tiger Reserve, which is constantly under attack from poaching and illegal mining.

Fighting chance for India's tigers: Poaching declines

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 08, 2012, 12:16 100 0 New Delhi: In cheering news for wildlife conservationists, tiger poaching dropped nearly 60 percent in 2011 as compared to the previous year, though it continues to pose a major threat to the survival of the big cat in the country, a leading NGO said. According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), 13 tigers were hunted last year as compared to 30 in 2010 - a decline of 57 percent. The bodies of poached tigers, seized bones and skins were computed to arrive at the figures. Adding other factors like road accidents, infighting, fighting with other animals, electrocution, found dead, and rescue and treatment, the overall toll rises to 61. In 2010, it was 58. However, top on the list of WPSI's tiger mortality is the found dead figure, 21. The toll from infighting was the same as that of poaching. In the previous year, 10 tigers died in such fights. "There has been definitely a decrease in poaching cases in 2011 compared to 2010, but it does not mean poaching has stopped," WPSI's Tito Joseph said. This could be "due to effective patrolling strategies adopted by the tiger authority (National Tiger Conservation Authority) in coordination with other agencies," Joseph said. The illegal wildlife trade continues to be a major threat to tigers. Joseph said traders were offering huge amounts of money in black markets for tiger body parts. "Recently trade activities were detected in Vietnam and Cambodia. The threat is not only from China (a known hub for such trade) but also from Southeast Asian countries," he said. "We need to be vigilant 24 hours 365 days," Joseph said. "Wildlife articles always have a very premium market and prices are not going to come down easily," U.C. Tiwari, wildlife warden of the Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand, told IANS. The 1,200-plus sq km Corbett sanctuary is one of the 39 tiger reserves in the country. The poaching figure only reflects the cases that come to light and it may not truly reflect the ground condition, said Tiwari. He warned that the situation could turn alarming if the mortality rate of adult tigers rises. "Because adult tigers don't die easily,... there has to be some extraordinary circumstance." According to WPSI, of the 21 tigers found dead in 2011 many were adult tigers. In 2010, 15 tigers were found dead. "The fact that many poachers are now lodged in jails has surely contributed to the decrease. They are still cooling their heels in different jails," the official added. Acknowledging this, Ashok Kumar, an eminent tiger conservationist and vice chairman of the NGO Wildlife Trust of India, said poaching has reduced considerably as many poachers were jailed. "Our lawyers fight against them in court so they do not come out of jails. "All Alwar (Rajasthan)-based poachers are today in jails," said Kumar, referring to a gang blamed for extermination of tigers in the Sariska reserve, one of the two tiger sanctuaries in the state. Kumar has been at the forefront of the fight against poachers and illegal trade of wildlife for over two decades. He was the first director of Traffic India, which studies wildlife trade. Rajasthan is also home to the famed Ranthambore National Park. Sariska currently has five tigers, all shifted from Ranthambore as part of a government attempt to repopulate tigers in the reserve. The latest official tiger census report released in March 2011 estimated about 1,700 tigers in the country. IANS