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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Every tiger, leopard death will be presumed poaching: National Tiger Conservation Authority

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | May 31, 2012, 01.59AM IST NAGPUR: National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has decided that henceforth every case of tiger and leopard death will be treated as poaching incident unless proved to be natural death. The latest directive by Rajesh Gopal, member-secretary of NTCA, follows after a recent spurt in tiger poaching cases, specially in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. The NTCA move is seen as an effort to make the states take every tiger death seriously and follow the protocol to ascertain the exact cause of death. In the six months since November 3, 2011, the state has lost 10 tigers, most of them to poaching. Several tigers have died under mysterious circumstances. "Maharashtra has been very casual in submitting reports about the deaths. Whenever a tiger dies, we just receive an SMS and that's all. In all 10 tiger deaths, detailed reports including forensic report establishing cause of death have still not been submitted to us," NTCA officials told TOI. SWH Naqvi, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), Maharashtra, responded, "It is possible that detailed reports have not been sent. I will check-up. We will do what is necessary." "To ensure proper due diligence and topmost priority, every case of tiger and leopard death will be henceforth treated as a case of poaching, unless otherwise proved beyond reasonable doubt," Gopal's letter said. The letter written to all the chief wildlife wardens of states stated that if a tiger death was classified as occurring due to natural causes, the same should be substantiated by adequate supporting field evidences and factual details, while reporting to NTCA. Any incident of tiger death requires detailed field investigation vis-a-vis the advisories issued in this context from the authority. While natural mortality owing to density related stress and other causes do occur in a tiger habitat, there is a need to establish this based on categorical evidences. "There is a need to ensure adequate caution while classifying tiger deaths as occurring due to 'natural' cases," Gopal said. The NTCA has said the area where tiger death is reported should be thoroughly scanned to rule out metal trap and snares and evidence of unauthorized vehicular movement, use of fire arms, poisoning near water points, natural salt licks and poisoning of livestock kills by tigers and leopards. Besides, any history of recurring livestock depredation, human death and injury due to carnivores in the area should also be taken into account along with pendency, if any, relating to payment of compensation and ex-gratia in this regard. It has directed that the day-to-day patrolling by field staff and supervisory checks at senior level should ensure preventive actions as well as proactive detection, rather than retroactive actions. This would also facilitate retrieval of carcasses before their putrefaction, thereby facilitating, forensic examination in a laboratory. Two panels to protect big cats The NTCA has constituted two committees for tiger conservation. One panel is for district planning in tiger range while another for appraisal of centrally sponsored scheme (CSS) in 40 tiger reserves. The committee for tiger range districts includes V B Mathur, dean, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, M Firoz Ahmed, member, NTCA, Dr Biswajit Banerjee from Planning Commission, A K Shrivastava, director of ministry of tribal affairs, R Sundaraju and B K Patnaik, retired chief wildlife warden of Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh respectively, S Dhena and Thilagarajan U, both social workers, and S P Yadav, DIG of NTCA. NTCA sources said the team would suggest a process for factoring in tiger concerns in the district planning in tiger range districts. It will come out with generic prescriptions vis-a-vis the 2010 country level tiger estimation for district plan for mainstreaming tiger conservation in each district. "Four regional sensitization workshops for stakeholders and line departments will be organized. The panel will submit its report in six months," sources said. NTCA, which releases big sums of money for tiger conservation, has also constituted five appraisal teams for the CSS. The tiger reserves have been classified into five landscape complex. Of these, the Central Indian landscape (Tadoba, Pench, Melghat, Ranthambore, Sariska) will include ex-PCCF DNS Suman, NTCA member Prakash Amte, social worker D Krishnamurthy and AIG Sanjay Kumar. The team will verify whether the CSS money is being used properly and suggest improvements.

Criminal Investigation Department to probe tiger poaching cases: Patangrao Kadam

TNN | May 31, 2012, 01.03AM IST CHANDRAPUR: State forest minister Patangrao Kadam ordered of CID inquiry into two recent incidents of tiger poaching, while declaring adoption of uniform tiger protection strategy for tiger bearing areas in Chandrapur. He visited tiger poaching site near Gondmohadi and held joint meeting of forest, police and MSEDCL officials in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve on Wednesday. Several crucial decisions to strengthen protection and conservation of tigers in protected and non-protected forest areas in Chandrapur were taken in the meeting. "I have ordered a CID inquiry into Gondmohadi and Borda tiger poaching and asked the agency to give its status report in the next three months. Gondmohadi tiger poaching involves interstate poaching gangs. We have got some clues in Boarda tiger poaching case and investigators are working on it," said Kadam, interacting with reporters at the district collector's office. Forest minister informed that there have been six deaths of tiger and one other tiger was seriously injured in Chandrapur since January. "Off these one tiger in Jharan forest, two in Gondmohadi and one in Borda forest were poached," he said. Kadam said that the forest ministry has released secret funds to the department to raise intelligence network, on the lines of police department. "In light of poaching by electrocution, we have decided that the entire 350km electricity supply lines passing through forests in Chandrapur will be converted into underground cabling at the cost of Rs 72 crore. Similarly, all new supply lines passing through forest areas henceforth will also of underground type," he said. The minister also declared adopting uniform tiger protection strategy for tiger bearing areas in Chandrapur. "The existing 34 forest beats in TATR will be restructured to form 85 beats to enhance protection. We are providing 10 jeeps, 25 motorbikes and a large number of bicycles to the staffers for patrolling. Van patils, on the lines of police patils, will be recruited in villages falling in jungle areas. The number of water holes in buffer area will be increased, while each waterhole is being monitored by two staffers during day and night," he said. Kadam also said that additional fire arms are being provided to forest staffers in core and buffer area of TATR. He said that funds have been provided to the forest department for procurement of more metal detectors and GPS units to strengthen tiger protection. "We have also decided to form Special Tiger Protection Force and 112 posts for this force has been approved. Similarly, department has lifted the ban on new recruitment and approved 1,250 new posts for the department," he said. He claimed that management of TATR is being restructured for better protection and conservation of wildlife. "Core and buffer area of Tadoba would be now under separate DCFs headed by CCF and field director of TATR. As 1,100 sq km of buffer area, comprising maximum part of Chandrapur forest division, has been fully handed over to TATR, a new forest division clubbing remaining forest area of Chandrapur division and some part of Bramhapuri division will be formed," he said. Government has also decided to raise the compensation against human death in wildlife attack from the existing Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. He said that forest department has regularized 6,500 van majoors (forest labourers) in the state and they would be soon given uniforms. Replying to a query, he said that the red-alert related to threat from interstate poacher gangs will continue for some time. "PCCF (wildlife) would take regular review of the protection and decide over continuation of the alert," he said. On the high number of forest fires in TATR this year, he held that majority of fires in Tadoba were intentional human mischief and offences in this regard have been registered. Replying to a question on the rising number of resorts around TATR, Kadam said, "A committee for buffer management has been formed a year back. This committee would decide over go and no-go areas in buffer zone. Resort will be allowed in specified areas to ensure that wildlife have minimum disturbance," he said. Kadam was accompanied by MLA Jaikumar Bode, PCCF (wildlife) SWH Naqvi, PCCF (Head of Forest Force) AK Joshi, APCCF (wildlife) AK Saxena, APCCF Anmol Kumar, TATR CCF Virendra Tiwari, Chandrapur CCF BSK Reddy, district collector Vijay Waghmare and other officers. Thackeray visits poaching sites Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray began his three-day tour to Chandrapur focused on tiger poaching and forest fires on Wednesday. He visited tiger poaching site near Gondmohadi in Palasgaon range in the afternoon accompanied by MLA Bala Nandgaonkar and a huge posse of supporters. Thackeray inspected the waterhole where the tiger was poached and took information about the incident from wildlife activists and forest officers at the spot. A crowd of Thackeray's supporters spoiled the pugmarks of a tiger on the sand around waterhole, sources said. Thackeray later entered TATR from Kolara gate in the afternoon. He spotted two tigers at Pandharpaoni. Thackeray also stopped at Jamni village and talked to villagers about their rehabilitation. Wildlife activist Bandu Dhotre apprised Thackeray about the rehabilitation. He also inspected the spot near Kolara gate where forest fire had taken place. Strong measures * Additional firearms to forest guards * Special Tiger Protection Force to be formed * Metal detectors, GPS devices to be procured * Entire 350km electricity supply lines passing through forests in Chandrapur to be converted into underground cabling * Existing 34 forest beats in TATR to be restructured to form 85 beats to enhance protection * Van patils, on the lines of police patils, to be recruited in villages near forests * Additional vehicles to be provided for patrolling * Recruitment freeze lifted, on 1,250 new posts soon * Compensation for human death in wildlife attack raised from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh

Diversion of land from tiger, elephant reserves will continue to need clearance from top panel

Nitin Sethi, TNN | May 31, 2012, 03.11AM IST NEW DELHI: The environment and forests ministry on Tuesday decided to correct the internal guidelines on wildlife clearances for using forest patches in tiger and elephant reserves which will have to be approved by the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL). Media reports had said that the environment ministry amended the existing regulations to take projects requiring elephant and tiger reserves and wildlife corridors out of the purview of the NBWL. Under court orders and ministry rules, all projects that require land in protected areas, or in a 10-km radius around them, tiger reserves or elephant reserves need to be cleared by the standing committee of NBWL, which comprises wildlife experts and government officials and is chaired by the environment minister. An internal discussion began in 2009 within the ministry on taking elephant and tiger reserves out of the domain of the NBWL standing committee with some senior officials suggesting that the internal guidelines had gone beyond the purview of what the apex court had ordered. It was also pointed out that wildlife corridors or elephant reserves did not hold any legal sanctity. Wildlife corridors remain within the realm of scientific debate and elephant reserves are management demarcations done to boost money for conservation under Project Elephant but do not have any special legal treatment. Some officials within the ministry pointed out that the clearance from the wildlife board to use tiger reserve lands, unlike in the case of elephant reserves, was mandatory under the Wildlife Protection Act. In December 2011, the decision was taken to maintain status quo on this count. In another decision, the ministry had decided in 2009 that environmental clearances - a separate process - can run parallel to the forestry and wildlife clearances and can be made conditional upon project developers eventually securing both where required. While the environmental clearance process reflected this decision, the wildlife clearance side of the ministry did not fix its rules in consonance. In February 2012, it was decided to bring the wildlife clearance rules in alignment with the environmental regulations but the changed rules also removed reference to tiger, elephant reserves and corridors. Sources said the ministry had corrected this and brought tiger and forest areas of elephant reserves back under the NBWL purview.

Initial probe rules out foul play in tiger's death

PTI | 12:05 PM,May 30,2012 Lakhimpur (UP), May 30 (PTI) Initial investigation into the death of a tiger at the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve has found that the animal died due to infighting and ruled out any foul play. Relying on the observation of the body, a team of doctors has described the probable cause of death of the male tiger found dead in Kishanpur range in Dudhwa Tiger Reserve (DTR) on May 27 as infighting. They have referred the case for final diagnosis to Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Bareilly. Prior to this, two carcasses of tigers had been recovered in neighbouring Haripur range of Pilibhit forest division on May 24 and May 25 respectively. UP Chief wildlife warden Rupak Dey, field director DTR Shailesh Prasad and deputy director Ganesh Bhat have rushed to Kishanpur to investigate the matter. The authorities conducted a thorough examination of the tiger carcass and inspected the surroundings, where the carcass was recovered. The evidences on the spot ruled out any poaching attempts. "Sniffers from the Sashastra Sima Bal (SSB) were deployed to detect any human presence. However, no human interference on the body was detected," field director Shailesh Prasad said. In their findings, the veterinary doctors found ‘rigor mortis absent’ while the ‘vertebra found broken at two places.’ Deep canine bite injuries were detected on the spots where vertebra was found broken. Right and hind limbs were also found broken. Based on these findings, the doctors suspected fighting with some other tiger to be the cause of death. "No foot-prints of human movement were noticed on the spot," Jaswant Singh Kaler, wildlife activist and office-bearer of NGO Katarnia Ghat Foundation, said after visiting the spot.

Thackeray's Tadoba visit will give political fillip to tiger issue

TNN | May 30, 2012, 03.44AM IST Chandrapur: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray would be on a three-day tour of Chandrapur from Wednesday. His tour is focused on tiger deaths, forest fires and rehabilitation of villages out of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR). He will visit tiger poaching sites in Gondmohadi and Borda jungle, inspect the jungle burned in fire and meet the villagers rehabilitated out of tiger reserve. MNS district chief Dilip Ramedwar informed that Thakre will arrive in Nagpur by train on Wednesday morning and reach Gondmohadi in Palasgaon range via Chimur by noon. He will visit the spot in the jungle were two tigers were poached near waterhole last month. Later in the afternoon he would visit TATR and inspect the forest burned in fire in Kolsa range. "He would enter from Kolara gate of tiger reserve after taking lunch. He will go to Kolsa range where massive fire had burned hundreds of hectare of jungle. Later he would exit the tiger reserve from Jhari gate to visit the spot in Borda jungle where chopped carcass of tiger was found a few days back," he said. Ramedwar further informed that Thackeray would halt in Chandrapur on Wednesday night. He would take up tour of jungles burned in buffer zone and other forest areas on Thursday and interact with forest officials over the problem. He would stay in Chandrapur on Thursday night. MNS chief would visit Bhagwanpur, the rehabilitation site of Tadoba villages, on Friday morning and interact with the villagers. He is also likely to visit rehabilitation site of TATR villages in Chimur tehsil, before leaving for Mumbai. DCF, Chandrapur forest division, P Kalyankumar however held that he has not received any official intimation about Thackeray's visit to the areas under his jurisdiction. Wildlife activist have welcomed Thackeray's move to take up the issue of tiger poaching and forest fires on political platform. "Tiger and jungle are national property. But, the politicians are rarely concerned over such issues. Raj Thackeray's initiative would definitely help in speeding-up the investigations in poaching and putting pressure on forest department to strengthen safety and conservation of tigers and forest," said president of Green Planet Society Suresh Chopne. He however held that Thackeray should keep politics out of these issues.