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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tiger killed in Wayanad was not a man-eater: Maneka

IGNATIUS PEREIRA Maneka says it was not a man-eater The killing of a tiger, which had given sleepless nights to people in several villages of Wayanad district of Kerala over the past fortnight, has triggered an uproar within and outside the State. A special task force of the Forest Department shot dead the tiger inside a coffee plantation near Moolamkavu on Sunday after it ventured out of the forest and lifted over a dozen cattle from the neighbouring villages. Green activists in the State are up in arms against the killing and have threatened to move the Kerala High Court on the issue.People for Animals (PFA) chairperson Maneka Gandhi said “the incident creates a sound base to wind up the Wildlife Department.” Talking to The Hindu on the phone from the PFA headquarters in New Delhi on Monday, she said the tiger was not a man-eater and there was no reason to kill it. A so-called special task force was deployed to “capture” the tiger and “not to kill it.” It could have been easily captured and relocated. According to the Forest Department, it all happened because an uncontrollable crowd followed the task force inside the forests. This made it clear that the authorities had encouraged people to come inside the forests and witness the operation. “The operation should have been one to save the tiger and not to eliminate it,” she said. The incident conveyed a message that Kerala had got used to killing its wildlife treasures without giving any forethought. “The State has a Wildlife Department which either takes bad decisions or no decisions,” she said. Probe ordered When contacted, a top forest officer, who did not wish to be quoted, said the department had ordered a high-level probe into the incident. The probe would focus on whether shooting the tiger at that point of time could be justified. The officer said the task force adhered to all rules and tried its best to tranquilise, capture and relocate the tiger. But the crowd was simply unmanageable. E. Kunhikrishnan, wildlife enthusiast and professor at University College, Thiruvananthapuram, told The Hindu that the Forest Department had done its best to save the tiger. But the tragedy occurred because of the mob. However, there was some lack of professionalism in administering the tranquiliser shots. Tigers had been easily tranquilised and relocated in other parts of the country. It also appeared puzzling how the whole incident got videographed as though it was a documentary, Professor Kunhikrishnan said. Veterinary surgeon and technical expert of the Kollam unit of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals B. Aravind, who had tranquilised and brought under control several captive elephants that ran amok, said there appeared to have been some technical failure in the tranquiliser shots. He blamed the mob for the situation. It would take at least 10 minutes for the tiger to swoon. The mob made the tiger wary and defensive when it experienced the pain of the tranquiliser shot, Dr. Aravind said. Keywords: tiger killing, Maneka Gandhi, man-eater, man-animal conflict, Forest Department

Forest department plans to ban private vehicles inside Anamalai reserve

By K A Shaji, TNN | Dec 4, 2012, 05.58 AM IST COIMBATORE: Major changes are in store at the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) with the forest department deciding to restrict the movement of private vehicles beyond Sethumadai, the gateway to the reserve in the foothills of the Western Ghats. Visitors will have to cover the 28-km forest stretch from Sethumadai to Topslip, which passes through the core area of the reserve, on vehicles provided by the forest department. A small fee will be charged from visitors who avail of the 'guided tour' which will also cover tourist spots in and around Topslip, officials said. Private vehicles travelling to Parambikulam tiger reserve in Kerala alone will be allowed to go beyond Sethumadai. Exemption has been made for these vehicles since the Parambikulam reserve can be accessed only through the road that passes through ATR. These vehicles, however, will be closely monitored. At present, tourists travel to both Anamalai and Parambikulam reserves in their own vehicles. Once the regulated tourism comes up in ATR, only forest department vehicles and two government buses from Pollachi and Palakkad to Parambikulam will be allowed run on the road that passes through tiger country. A large parking lot is expected to be constructed in Sethumadai which borders Ulanthy forest range to accommodate tourist vehicles. "It is advantageous for both department and the visitors. Tourists can enjoy the facilities in a better way under the guided tourism and we can have effective monitoring. Almost all the major tiger reserves are practicing it successfully,'' said a senior official of the ATR. In Topslip, tourists can avail of a 17-km vehicle safari conducted by the forest department. Bookings can be made on the spot at Topslip and advance bookings can be made at the forest office in Pollachi. Three trekking routes have also been resumed at Pandaravara, Manampally and Aliyar. In Topslip, two dormitories with 30 beds are available. In the case of Monkey Falls on Valparai road, the department is planning steps to ease vehicle congestion. Private vehicles would be stopped at a parking lot near Aliyar dam and tourists would be taken in forest department vehicles to the famous waterfall. Also the department plans to have guided tourism in some parts of Valparai, including in Kadamparai Arch, Sholayar Dam, Upper Aliyar Dam, Grass Hills, Attakatti and Varayadu Hills. Though Valparai receives hundreds of visitors every month, only Chinna Kallar and Nallamudi viewpoint are accessible for tourists in Valparai. Now plans are also on to allow tourists to visit Meenparai and Number 10 Parai in Manompally forest range. The proposals of the forest department need to be cleared by the government, which officials expect in a month. The Supreme Court approved 'Normative Standards for Tourism Activities and Project Tiger Guidelines, 2012,' talks about stringent regulations for tourism within the tiger reserves even while allowing "ecologically sustainable and nature-friendly tourism" in 20% of the core areas. The guidelines also warn against allowing "mass tourism" in tiger reserves and calls for tourist activities that will ensure "sustainable, equitable and community-based effort which will improve the living standards of local, host communities living on the fringes of tiger reserves".

Dabhil villagers set to move HC against project

Snehal Rebello, Hindustan Times Project-affected residents of Dabhil village are likely to move the Bombay high court in the next two weeks challenging the acquisition process for the proposed Sarambala medium irrigation project in Sawantwadi taluka of Sindhudurg. Non-government organisation Vanashakti is also set to challenge the Rs184.73-crore irrigation project in the eco-senstive area, with the contention that the project is ill-conceived. More than 150 hectares of forest land in Dabhil, along with homes, ancient temples and sacred groves fall under the submergence area of the project. “The irrigation department has said the dam will be built on the Dabhil nullah (drain). How can a tributary of the Terekhol river be called a nullah,” questioned environmentalist Stalin D from Vanashakti. “The effect of blocking the Dabhil river on downstream villages has also not been documented.” In April, Vanashkati had written to forest secretary Praveen Pardeshi raising objection to the Sarambala irrigation project inside a proposed wildlife corridor, and sought its cancellation. Pardeshi didn’t respond to phone calls or text messages from HT. Project-affected villagers have not been accepting the repeated eviction notices issued by the collector’s office. “We don’t want the project. We don’t water for our fields. We don’t want to be forcibly evicted and relocated from out land,” said Balkrishna Gavas, a resident of Dabhil. According to a reply under the Right to Information Act to Vanashakti, none of the residents of villages, who are deemed to benefit from the Sarambala project, have written to the irrigation department asking for water for agriculture or drinking purposes. Moreover, while the project report has claimed no wild animals have been seen in the proposed submergence area, tiger pugmarks were spotted at Dabhil village last week. The pugmarks were put in cast and sent to the Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun.