Govt offers money to villagers to vacate tiger reserves
16 Aug, 2008, 1954 hrs IST, AGENCIES
NEW DELHI : Govt on Saturday offered money to villagers to vacate wildlife reserves in a bid to save the country's tigers from extinction, officials said.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said it was releasing 520 mn rupees (1.3 mn dollars) out of a total of six bn rupees to be disbursed over the next five years.
Each family that volunteers to move out from tiger habitats and state sanctuaries is due to get one mn rupees under the scheme. It was not known immediately how many families would receive funds.
The largest sum of 190 mn rupees has been set aside to clear out two villages from inside Sariska park near New Delhi where the entire population of 19 tigers was found missing in 2006, presumed slaughtered by poachers.
The move is aimed at "ensuring inviolate areas for the big cats as well as for other wildlife," a NTCA spokesman said.
"This will help decrease man-animals conflict and create inviolate zones for tigers," the spokesman added.
The federal agency swung into action just months after authorities said last year that India's rare Royal Bengal Tiger population had plunged to 1,411, far lower than the 3,700 estimated to be alive five years earlier.
Rajesh Gopal, who heads Project Tiger, a national conservation programme, has blamed "poaching, loss of quality habitat and prey" as key reasons for the decline.
Conservationists have long complained that many Indian forestry posts lie vacant and that the small number of staff employed are no match for poachers.
India and China have been under fire from international experts for failing to halt tiger poaching, with conservationists blaming collusion between poachers, government officials and buyers.
Tigers are hunted for their pelts, claws and bones, which are prized in traditional Chinese medicine.
More than 40,000 tigers are believed to have roamed the Indian wild before the subcontinent's independence from British colonial rule.