Friday, May 25, 2007

India: Tiger population is a 'national crisis'

Published: 25/05/2007 12:00 AM (UAE)


New Delhi: Terming the dwindling tiger population in the country "alarming and a national crisis", experts yesterday demanded a separate wildlife protection cadre on the lines of the Rapid Action Force.

"The government was planning to set up a wildlife crime control bureau but nothing has happened so far. The partial tiger report published by the Wildlife Institute of India should wake authorities from their slumber," said Tito Joseph, a senior project officer at the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

Renowned tiger expert Raghu Chundawat said India needs a dedicated wildlife cadre as early as possible.

"An autonomous body under a senior Indian Police Service official is the need of the time. A wildlife protection cadre on the line of Rapid Action Force should be formed immediately," Chundawat said.

In its partial tiger report, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has recorded that there are only 490 tigers in the 16 reserves of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. The 2002 census had recorded 1,233 tigers in these states.


Although the ministry of environment and forest has termed the report unofficial, experts rubbished the government's stand.

"The government has sanctioned Rs130 million (Dh11.8 million) for the census and the WII is a part of the ministry. Now how can they term it unofficial? It's a glimpse of their casual attitude towards a grave problem," said Chundawat.

He said the institute used camera and pugmark photography methods for the report.

"There were a few glitches in the report but it's trustworthy and almost accurate," Chundawat added.

The WII report reveals the number of tigers in Madhya Pradesh has gone down to 276 from 710 in 2002, a decline of 61 per cent. Similarly, in Maharashtra there were only 102 tigers compared to 238 in 2002.

Rajasthan is home to 32 tigers now compared to 58 five years back and Chhattisgarh only has 26 tigers compared to 227 during the last census.

Ashok Kumar, vice chairman of the Wildlife Trust of India also expressed his disappointment over the alarming situation and said the government needs to be quick in addressing the issue.

"Otherwise we will read about tigers in our history books," he said.


Kumar said conservation methods used by the government are archaic and patrolling needs to be strengthened. "Apart from vehicle patrolling, they need to go for foot patrolling and the intelligence gathering mechanism needs to be strengthened to stop poaching," he said.

"To stop poisoning of tigers and human-animal conflict, the government should give some compensation to villagers whose cattle were preyed upon by tigers. Thus they can avoid poisoning of tigers by village people," Kumar said.

"Nearly 25 per cent of forest guard vacancies need to be filled immediately," he added.

Elaborating further, Chundawat said the ministry of environment and forest should be converted into two separate ministries.

"The ministry is now only working as a environmental clearance certificate providing agency. The focus is not on wildlife but on providing no objection certificates to industries."

Carcasses of two cubs found in park

Forest guards found the carcasses of two tiger cubs in a well in a park in northwestern India, an official said yesterday.

Another cub was rescued alive on Wednesday from a 3-metre-deep well in Ranthambore National Park, a popular tourist destination for sighting tigers, said Fateh Singh Rathod, the official who heads the park.

All the cubs are nearly three months old and were probably abandoned by their mother, Rathod said.

Authorities are investigating whether the two cubs died of hunger or were killed in some other way, Rathod said.

Poaching and a vanishing habitat have savaged India's tiger population, which was believed to number in the tens of thousands a century ago.

Conservationists say early results of a new survey indicate that the last tiger census in 2001-02 - which found about 3,500 tigers - was far too optimistic.

The park, which contains a fortress built 700 years ago, was one of the first focuses of India's 33-year-old campaign to save the Bengal tiger from extinction in the wild.

The Ranthambore National Park has an area of 155 square kilometres.

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