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Monday, May 21, 2012

Three cheers: Tiger number up in Panna

Lemuel Lall, TNN | May 20, 2012, 05.43AM IST BHOPAL: Tiger population revival programme in India has received a boost with one more tigress named T-2 giving birth to three cubs in the Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR), in eastern Madhya Pradesh. With the three new additions tiger population in Panna reserve has risen to 20. After the failure of a similar programme in Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, the big cat population revival in PTR had brought back relief to the wildlife experts and foresters associated with the project. Three months ago, a feline christened T - 1, begot four cubs. Seven-year-old T-2 had been trans-located to PTF from world famous Kanha tiger reserve three years ago. The tigress gave birth to three cubs in a cave last month. "None of us can risk going to the cave and seeing the cubs, a top forest official said. This is the second litter of T-2.This feline gave birth to four cubs, eighteen months ago. With the arrival of three new guests in the PTR, the cub population has gone up to 15 in the park. Panna tiger reserve was in the news in the year 2009 as tiger population had vanished following poaching in the region. After PTR became devoid of big cat population the tiger population revival programme was launched in the park in early 2009. Four tigresses and a tiger were trans-located to PTR from Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench tiger reserves. Apart from T-2's seven cubs in two litters, two other tigresses - T- 1 and T -4 have begotten 10 cubs so far, of them 2 had died. Spread over an area of 543 sq km in Panna and Chhatarpur district, PTR had once been home to 35 tigers but slowly and gradually it lost them to poachers. This is the second litter of T-2.This feline gave birth to four cubs, eighteen months ago. With the arrival of three new guests in the PTR, the cub population has gone up to 15 in the park.

Ideas pour in to stop tiger poaching

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | May 21, 2012, 01.44AM IST NAGPUR: Reactions continue to pour in against the brutal poaching of a full-grown tiger at Borda near Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve on Friday. Reacting to Friday's incident, Belinda Wright, executive director of Wildlife Protection Society of India ( WPSI), said the loss of every wild tiger is a major set back for this critically endangered species. "The removal of three tigers from the wild due to poaching in Tadoba landscape tragically illustrates just how inadequate our existing protection measures are. The only short-term remedy for this is intelligence-led enforcement," Wright said. To achieve this, the forest department needs to collaborate closely with skilled enforcement officers from the police department, and experienced NGOs. Modern investigation techniques, including forensics and trained dogs, need to be quickly put in place, she said. Wright said another essential requirement is improved patrolling and monitoring in the field. Prof Nishi Mukherjee, who works with Baiga tribals in Kanha, called for a law to shoot poachers at sight. In Kaziranga tiger reserve in Assam, poachers are shot, he said. The Assam government, like the government of South Africa, knows how much economic sustenance the parks can give to local people. "Nagpur is the 'tiger capital of the world' and the 'gateway to tiger land'. Why must Maharashtra be a soft state within the country? With such flagrant poaching continuing without any accountability, is anyone held responsible?" asks Mukherjee. He said, "If criminals plunder gold from the Reserve Bank of India, will the security keep quiet? Similarly, if poachers plunder tigers and leopards, our forest wealth, should the forest department keep mum? Tigers and leopards are like gold mines and can bring in huge money, but locals have failed to understand this." Wildlife veterinarian Dr AD Kholkute called for close watch on Nagbhid, Talodi, Sindewahi, Mul and Babupeth railway stations and bus stands, from where Bahelia poachers sneak into the forest areas. "Inquire with local cycle stores about any unknown person hiring a cycle and if a local person has introduced him," he suggested. There are coal mines in Chandrapur and majority of the workers are from other states. Officials should inquire about guests visiting these workers. Besides, villagers, particularly shepherds and cowboys, need to be taken into confidence as they know people wander in the forests.

Tiger carcass had gunshot-like wound

Mazhar Ali, TNN May 20, 2012, 04.53AM IST CHANDRAPUR: Was the tiger, whose carcass was recovered in 10 pieces in Borda jungle, was shot by a gun? That is the big question before investigators probing the tiger poaching case. While investigators are much inclined on electrocution angle in poaching, mention of a hole on tiger carcass akin to a gunshot injury in autopsy report has raised new questions in the case. Veterinary doctors who performed post mortem on the tiger carcass found burn injury marks which could have been caused due to electrocution, but they also discovered a lone hole on the stomach just below the hip which could be a shot injury of manually loading gun. "Vets have recovered some blackish metal like balls from the injury. Such injury could be caused due to gun shot," said sources. DCF, Chandrapur forest division, P Kalyankumar confirmed the hole in the tiger carcass. "The entire injured portion having hole on it has been removed from the carcass and forwarded to the forensic department for confirmation. Possibility of tiger being shot by gun cannot be ruled out. In that case, burn injury marks suggesting electrocution could have been put deliberately to confuse investigators," he said. Forest officers are also probing the case from the angle of electrocution. They have obtained trip record of electric supply lines from MSEDCL. The tiger is assumed to have been killed Thursday night, but it has turned out that there was no tripping of power supply that night. "Records suggest that electric supply was not snapped on Thursday night. But there were incidents of tripping in the afternoon and evening on Thursday. However, poachers do not lay electrified wire for poaching during the day as there are high chances of grazing cattle coming in its contact," Kalyankumar said. He, however, maintained that this is an unusual case and hence chances of day time electrocution too is not being ruled out. Investigators have summed up that more than one poacher are involved in poaching. Whoever had poached the tiger had access to four-wheeler and a butcher. Foresters are more focused on summer farming area, which have to irrigation facility with 11 KV connections. "Local poachers are clear suspects in the case. Poachers could have been after some herbivores, but a tiger died in their trap. They were clever enough to remove the carcass to a distant location. There is definitely no Baheliya gang connection into this poaching as such destruction of tiger skin is not their modus operandi," DCF said. Forest department is seeking all the help from police and MSEDCL for investigations into the case, he added.

'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

Striking farmers begin indefinite fast at Sariska

TNN | May 21, 2012, 03.14AM IST ALWAR: As the agitation by farmers at Sariska Tiger Reserve entered the fifth day on Sunday, at least 13 of them have sat on an indefinite fast to put pressure on the state government to meet their demands. The farmers under the banner of Bharatiya Kisan Union are demanding refurbishing of Sariska road and basic facilities in the villages. At least 50 villages in and around Sariska are participating in the agitation. The agitation has hit the tiger tourism as farmers are not allowing tourists to enter the reserve. They have threatened not to give up the agitation unless their demands are met. Yudhvir Singh, national general secretary of BKU said, "Thirteen farmers have sat on indefinite fast at the reserve gates from Sunday". The farmers are demanding lifting of ban on registration of land in 164 villages in the area that was imposed in 1987 and announcing forest road leading to Sariska as national highway. "The government did not fulfill its promises which it had made to the farmers earlier. They made the national highway, a lifeline for all the villages in the area, as forest road. This time we will not make any agreement with the government unless they accept our demands," he added. These farmers had staged a sit-in in March for almost a week. They claimed that they had reached a compromise on six points with the district administration and forest department. However, the administration is not considering it, they alleged. They said that the administration had promised to meet their demand. However, the officials are now pretending to be helpless citing some Supreme Court orders. The farmers' protest in March had hit the hotels as they received mails and calls from tourists cancelling their trips. Angry villagers had even blocked the entrance to prominent hotels by placing piles of wood and stones. Sariska's field director RS Shekhawat said the main entrance to Sariska Tiger Reserve has been blocked by the villagers and efforts are on to reach a compromise with them. The farmers on Sunday threatened not to allow entry of even forest officers in the reserve.

Two plan to sell tiger parts in Vile Parle, held

Nathaniel Valthaty, TNN May 20, 2012, 01.53AM IST MUMBAI: The Vile Parle police on Friday arrested two persons for possessing tiger skin and claws. The police learnt that the accused-Pramod Sunil Kuchekar (22) and Manoj Mahadev Geete(26)-had plans to sell the tiger skin and claws at a spot near the Vile Parle railway station. They laid a trap and caught them. The duo was booked under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act for transportation and dealing in articles derived from scheduled animals. The two were produced before the Bandra metropolitan magistrate's court on Saturday and remanded in police custody till Tuesday. Cops suspect that the accused had procured the tiger skin from poachers outside the city to sell it in Mumbai. The police are probing if a network involved in procurement of tiger skins is active in the city. They are also verifying is the accused two have criminal records.

Poachers chop tiger into pieces in Maharashtra

Mazhar Ali, TNN May 19, 2012, 12.10AM IST CHANDRAPUR: Poachers have struck again in Maharashtra's tiger reserves despite a red alert about possible strikes by Baheliya gangs from neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. A mutilated carcass of a tiger was found in the Chandrapur forest range on Friday. The big cat was chopped into 10 pieces and its remains strewn along the Chichpalli-Borda road. The Maharashtra government had sounded an alert after intelligence inputs suggested that Rs 40 lakh had been paid to poachers to snuff out 25 tigers in the region. Forest officials had heightened vigil and declared Rs 1-lakh reward for clues. But poachers managed to punch holes in the security ring around the Chandrapur forests. This is the second killing of a tiger in two months. The Chandrapur forest has lost six tigers this year - five were either poached or killed accidentally and the sixth got maimed in an iron jaw trap. Investigators say the tiger was electrocuted by poachers deep inside the forest. Later, its carcass was cut into pieces, stuffed into a gunny bag and transported in a four-wheeler to the Borda forest. The remains were then scattered near the road. A forest guard found the remains a few metres off the road. Forest officials rushed to the spot, cordoned off the area and sniffer dogs were pressed into service. It was a full-grown male tiger. "Burn injuries on a limb suggest it may have been electrocuted. Its head and paws were slashed and the body chopped," said range forest officer, Badkelwar. Tyre marks of a vehicle making U-turn around 20 metres from the spot have been detected. The tiger may have been killed on Thursday night, said an official. Surprisingly, the tiger was not stripped of its skin, which sells for over Rs 1 crore in the international market. Other body parts like nails, hair and bones are pegged at over Rs 6 lakh. The Baheliya gang is known for poaching tigers with metal traps. Experts say members of this community simultaneously operate at multiple locations and are ruthless in their approach. The tiger's remains have been sent for autopsy.

Heads start rolling, Tadoba field director shifted

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | May 20, 2012, 04.20AM IST NAGPUR: A day after the shocking discovery of a poached tiger that had been cut into 10 pieces, heads have started rolling. Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) field director VK Sinha has been shifted with immediate effect. Moreover, on the direction of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the entire control of tiger reserve buffer zone has now been handed to the field director. Both, the transfer and unified control notifications were issued by the state government on Saturday evening. Sinha, who is yet to complete his full tenure of three years as field director, will be replaced by 45-year-old Virendra Tiwari who has a reputation of being an energetic and no-nonsense officer. Tiwari was chief conservator of forests (CCF) with budget, planning and management department at Van Bhavan in the city. Sinha was not available for comments. Interestingly, Chandrapur deputy conservator of forests (DyCF) P Kalyan Kumar has been spared in the reshuffle. The state's principal secretary (forests) Praveen Pardeshi said, "We are running short of DyCFs and any further changes will have to be done carefully. Sinha was shifted as he is good at joint forest management (JFM) and budgetary planning." Pardeshi added, "One of the reasons to shift Sinha is that we want new and young leadership. We are doing lot of soul-searching and results will be seen soon." The secretary informed that TATR will now have two deputy conservators. With the unified control notification, Chandrapur DyCF will work for TATR (buffer) while Chaprala (Gadchiroli) wildlife sanctuary will look after TATR (Core). Besides, the Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) will be in place in Tadoba in 15 days. The STPF in Pench will take some time," he said. On a special investigation team (SIT), Pardeshi said, "We first want the CID to take over the probe." Head of forest force (HoFF) AK Joshi said Tiwari will assume charge on Monday. Saying that there are various reasons for Sinha's transfer, Joshi admitted that poaching in the buffer zone of Tadoba was one of them. "Sinha took good initiatives and the transfer is not a reflection on his governance," said Joshi. The ambiguity over unified control of TATR buffer has come to an end with the notification that henceforth the TATR field director will be in full control. TOI had frequently raised the issue that overlapping administrative control was a deterrent in tiger protection and its conservation. The government had notified TATR buffer zone on May 5, 2010. It includes 558.81 sq km reserve forest (RF), 113.04 sq km protected forest (PF), and 401.49 sq km other area. Of the 1103.34 sq km combined area, 901.66 sq km belongs to Chandrapur division, 125.51 sq km on lease with Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) and 76.17 sq km area with Brahmapuri division. Chandrapur's around 60% area is under buffer. The new notification says that now all the ongoing forestry works in this area will continue under the field director's control. The HoFF has been entrusted with the task of reorganizing the territorial area apart from buffer. The amended Wildlife (Protection) Act 2006, mentions that existing land uses in the buffer zone can continue with due mainstreaming of wildlife concerns and wildlife protection would be an overlapping mandate for the entire area. Till now, the staff with Chandrapur forest division was working under the TATR field director but area other than buffer was with CCF of Chandrapur. Besides, administrative and joint wildlife management of Chimur forest range under the Chandrapur and Brahmapuri divisions, was handed over to the field director. The hand over, along with employees was to be confined to buffer zone only. The technical control of deputy conservators of forests (DyCFs) of Brahmapuri and Chandrapur regarding works related to saw mills, nistar rights, minor forest produce (MFP), tendu, Forest Conservation Act (FCA) issues, etc was not with the field director. But now it will be with him. Taking poaching head on * Field director of TATR V K Sinha shifted * Young IFS officer Virendra Tiwari brought in * Unified control given to TATR field director * STPF for Tadoba to be place in 15 days * Tadoba to have two deputy conservators * Chaprala (Gadchiroli) & Chandrapur DyCFs brought under TATR field director * SIT to probe poaching cases likely

‘30% tiger reserves under Naxal control’

May 19, 2012 By Rashme Sehgal Correspondent New Delhi The Naxalites are expanding their tentacles into the tiger territory. Thirty per cent of India’s tiger reserves are already under their control. Indian forest officials, from the states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, present at the Global Tiger Recovery Programme (GTRP), complained of increasing Naxal infiltration in India’s heartland. The tiger reserves comprising Valmiki in Bihar, Palamau in Jharkhand, Indravati in Chhattisgarh, Buxa in West Bengal and Simplipal in Orissa are some of the reserves bearing the brunt of the Naxal menace. “The growing nexus between the Naxals and the timber mafia has created a situation where contractors are openly paying a levy to Naxals who are eating into larger chunks of forest land,” said a senior forester. Principal chief conservator of forests, Jharkhand, A.K. Malhotra complained, “The situation is getting more intractable because the local administration is not able to reach the interiors. Poachers also have strong links with these Naxals,” he said. Mr Anil Kumar Mishra, DFO of the Palamau Tiger Reserve was very critical of the lack of NGO activity in the majority of the tiger reserves. “Large number of NGOs are found operating in high profile Corbett Tiger Reserve and in the Ranthambore park but World Wildlife Fund and other organisations are not to be found in Central India where there is much greater poverty and where tribals are in desperate need of livelihood alternatives,” said Mr Mishra. NGOs however retort that Naxalites have driven NGOs working in these areas. Sociologist Jaya Roy pointed out, “They don’t want NGOs to organise people.” Mr Mishra maintains that so far Naxals and foresters have managed to survive only because forest employees and Naxals go out of their way not to step onto each other’s toes. “Our forest guards are local tribals but they are all in their fifties. There has been no recruitment for several years. I have a staff strength of 90 and have to make do with 11 people,” Mr Mishra added.