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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Poachers on the prowl at tiger reserves: NCTA

Obalesh K H, Chamarajanagar, The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NCTA) has asked the State government to tighten the vigilance in the five tiger reserves in Karnataka. According to a letter written by Dr Rajesh Gopal, Member Secretary, NCTA, a copy of which is in possession of Deccan Herald, gangs of poachers have planned to raid 29 tiger reserves in Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. Bandipur, Nagarahole, Dandeli-Anashi, Bhadra and Biligiriranganathaswamy Temple tiger reserves in the State are on the list of the poachers. Snares laid by poachers in some protected reserves have been seized. Postmortem reports of some tigers have disclosed that they died due to poisoning, the letter says. The member secretary has directed the government to strengthen anti-poaching camps and set up new ones wherever required. The letter also asks the government to conduct combing operation in the core areas of the forests regularly, look out for snares particularly in the areas inhabited by tigers, near water sources and beef up security at vantage points. The secretary has called for synergy among district-level intelligence agencies, police and authorities of tiger reserves to check any possible intrusion by poachers. Tiger deaths According to the report published by the NCTA, a total of 56 tigers died in the country during 2011; of them, 11 were killed by poachers. Of the six tiger deaths reported from Karnataka, three died of natural causes and another three fell prey to poachers, the report says.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan urged to review 'defunct' tiger cells

TNN | May 1, 2012, 04.37AM IST NAGPUR: Worried by tiger poaching with the help of jaw traps in Palasgaon near Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is also the chairman of State Board for Wildlife (SBWL), has been urged to review functioning of tiger cells, anti-poaching units and law enforcement and come out with new and advanced mechanism to tackle the problem. In a letter written to Chavan on April 30, Kishor Rithe, member of SWBL and chief of Satpuda Foundation, said, "Time has come to think seriously about how effective our tiger cells are and whether we really need a new and advance mechanism in Maharashtra." The tiger cells and anti-poaching units were set up 10 years ago after detection of many wildlife poaching and trade cases in Maharashtra. "However, after almost a decade, I found that most of the district tiger cells are defunct. Police and forest officers conduct meetings as merely a formality. The tiger cells could not become an effective law enforcement mechanism with fixed objectives to regularly gather required intelligence and prevent and detect the wildlife crime cases in the state," Rithe said. In last so many years, forest department could not build its image as the best law (forest & wildlife) enforcement agency. The new Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) will also make no difference if police and forest departments are not tuned to wildlife crime details and latest modus operandi of poachers and wildlife traders. What needs to be done? * Evolve a mechanism with police and forest departments to effectively use tiger cells, anti-poaching units. * Call a meeting of forest and home ministers and secretaries of departments concerned to tackle wildlife poaching and trade. * Take critical review of existing tiger cells and anti-poaching units and steps taken by them to curb illegal poaching and tiger deaths. * Send message to departments concerned through this meeting that government is really serious to protect tigers. * The meeting should be held before any such incident takes place. Gujarat government took such steps after poaching of lions in Gir and were successful.

Osmania university students to join anti-Kawal tiger reserve fight

Raghu Paithari, TNN | May 1, 2012, 01.34AM IST ADILABAD: With several tribal groups raising a hue and cry against the decision to declare Kawal wildlife sanctuary as a tiger reserve, Telangana students, who have been in the forefront of the separate statehood movement, have now decided to take up cudgels against the move. Osmania University students' JAC along with the district unit of the Telangana Vidyarthi Vedika will conduct padayatras in the interior mandals to educate tribals, though the forest department has allayed the apprehensions of displacement of tribals. Students have started touring villages and conducting door-to-door campaign against the tiger reserve. Villagers of Udampur and Allampalli in Utnoor mandal passed unanimous resolutions against the tiger reserve, emboldened by the student stir. The Kawal tiger reserve will have a core area of 839 square km and buffer zone of 1,123 sq km. OU JAC chairman Jagan told TOI that gram sabhas or panchayats should be consulted as per the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas ( PESA) Act, 1996, before acquiring land in the scheduled areas for any development project. "But the forest officials did not bother to consult a single village panchayat," he said. He found fault with the government and forest officials for going ahead with the tiger reserve plan without taking the opinion of the majority adivasis, who would be displaced because of the project. "Tribals would lose their legitimate right on the forest once they are evacuated from the forest limits," he observed. Vidyarthi Vedika district president Sayanna pooh-poohed the Rs 10 lakh compensation offered by the government for the evacuees. "The money dole would not change the lives of adivasis. Their life revolves around the forest and its produce," he explained. Tribals belonging to 42 habitations in Jannaram, Kadem, Khanapur, Indravelli and Utnoor mandals which will have to be evacuated for the proposed tiger reserve would lose their livelihood. "We are students of this region and would fight until the government withdraws its proposal," Sayanna warned. The dalit groups are also trying to mobilise the people of 42 habitations in the forest area and its surroundings against the decision. Hitesh Malhotra, principal chief conservator of forests, at a recent press conference in Hyderabad said that there was no proposal to evacuate or shift any village or habitation from the area. "There is no question of any forcible evacuation. People will be shifted only if the gram sabhas of those habitations pass a resolution expressing their willingness to move out," he had said. A senior forest official of Jannaram disputed the theory that the Kawal tiger reserve has only two tigers and not 7-8 wild cats. "Once the conditions and habitat in the tiger reserve are improved, the tigers will come back because they would feel safe in their habitat. Also, the corridor linking Kawal with Maharashtra forest will be secure," he added.

Brahmapuri pattern to be adopted nationally

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | May 1, 2012, 04.46AM IST NAGPUR: Impressed by the tiger monitoring model in Brahmapuri forest division in Chandrapur district, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has decided to adopt it in non-protected areas (NPAs) elsewhere too. Rajesh Gopal, member-secretary of NTCA, who was in the city on way to Delhi, said he was impressed by the Brahmapuri division, which is seriously monitoring resident as well as dispersing tigers in its area. Gopal was shown presentation on tiger monitoring by Sanjay Thawre, deputy conservator of forests (DyCF), Brahmapuri, during former's Palasgaon visit on April 28, where a tiger was poached. Thawre said, "I won't boast of a 'Brahmapuri model', but our field staff is seriously monitoring tigers in the area. There are around 21 tigers, 13 residents, in 1,500 sq km Brahmapuri forest division. We have pictures of each tiger in the beats." "Direct sightings, signs like scat, scrape marks, pugmarks etc. are recorded regularly. Whenever there is a cattle kill, cameras are deployed. This helps us know where our tigers are and what is happening. It also helps to tackle man-animal conflict," Thawre said. Gopal said a presentation on Brahmapuri model will be shown to wildlife wing officials at a meeting in Delhi on April 2. "This will be replicated elsewhere," he added. After poaching of tiger in Palasgaon, NTCA has issued an advisory to all tiger-bearing states cautioning about possible poisoning of tigers and stepping up protection by involving territorial staff. It also instructed not to delay paying cattle kill compensation. Gopal said NTCA would give all help to the state to curb poaching. "We will provide 100% assistance for setting up Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF). A MoU has been signed in this regard," said Gopal. The NTCA has also decided to strengthen Tadoba tiger conservation foundation (TCF) by giving additional funds. These funds will be distributed to 4-5 divisions in Tadoba landscape. "A proposal has been sought in this regard," Gopal said. The NTCA will also write to state government on giving control of Tadoba buffer to the field director of TATR. "Plans are afoot to sign MoUs with institutions coming up with irrigation, power, highway projects in buffer areas," said Gopal. On timber and bamboo felling in vulnerable areas in the buffer, PCCF (wildlife) SWH Naqvi said there was no ban on such activity being carried out as per working plan. "However, we will see to it that management of buffer is wildlife-centric," said Naqvi. He refused to reveal progress of probe in poaching case which was in a crucial stage.

Forest department revives Tiger Reserve tag plea for Kudremukh

Ashwini Y S, Bangalore, April 30 2012, DHNS: Says National Park area not to be expanded; no eviction of villagers The State Forest department has once again mooted the proposal to get Kudremukh National Park (KNP) declared a Tiger Reserve, a status which has been withheld despite the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) giving its in-principle approval several months ago. Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, during the campaign for the Udupi-Chikmagalur Lok Sabha byelection, had said the government would cancel the Tiger Reserve status enjoyed by Bhadra Tiger Reserve (BTR), besides dropping the proposal to get KNP declared a Tiger Reserve. The announcement had come at a time when villagers of both Bhadra and KNP had voiced concerns about being evicted. Now, with there being no election, the department is hoping that the government will revisit the proposal. Kaushik Mukherjee, Additional Chief Secretary, Forests, told Deccan Herald that he had written to Forest Minister C P Yogeeshwara to notify KNP as a Tiger Reserve. He said this would not mean any “extra status” to KNP in terms of protection. “I sent the file to the Forest minister 10 days ago. There was much opposition to declaring BTR Wildlife Sanctuary a Tiger Reserve as well. But, eventually it was notified as a Tiger Reserve. There will be no difference in status of protection – no villagers will be evicted from the area,” he said. Mukherjee said the department would not push for extension of the boundary of either Bhadra or KNP. “The expansion has been opposed, and I don’t want to go against the powers that be. Even if KNP is notified as a Tiger Reserve, the existing area will not change,” he said. Forest Minister Yogeeshwara was not available for comments. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) of the MoEF had given its in-principle approval to the State government’s proposal to declare KNP a Tiger Reserve last year, with the then Union Forest minister Jairam Ramesh strongly backing the proposal. The Centre’s nod ensures grants to the State under Project Tiger. The State has, however, withheld the status, not making efforts to hasten the process. KNP, which is spread over 600.57 sq km, has 29 villages. Of the 300-odd tigers in the forests of Karnataka, KNP is said to be home to around 15. Tiger conservationist Sanjay Gubbi says the government’s move to shut down the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited has helped improve the eco-system. It is a unique tiger habitat with a mixture of evergreen forests and shola grasslands. It will be ideal if the government declares it a Tiger Reserve, he says.