Tiger relocation entrapped in red tape
18 Jan 2009, 0451 hrs IST, Anindo Dey, TNN
JAIPUR: If at first it was a number of directives, now it is the lack of one that seems to have entrapped proposals for the relocation of a third tiger, this time a female, from the Ranthambore National Park to Sariska.
And though officials from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the state forest department revealed that the relocation was due any time now, but with each waiting for orders from the other, it may still be a while before the third tiger finds its way to Sariska.
While the state forest department officials are waiting for the NTCA to throw more light or, better still, do away with a clause that makes it mandatory for the WII to tranquillize only "transient" tigers from Ranthambore, others agencies involved in the relocation think that the onus lies with the state forest department. With chief minister Ashok Gehlot keeping this portfolio to himself, the orders will have to come from him first.
Sources in the state forest department, explaining the long wait for the much-hyped relocation of at least six tigers that were slated to be moved to Sariska within last year, revealed that the initial hitch came from the NTCA, which sanctioned the Rs 1.5-crore project, order to the WII.
The order stipulated that only tigers caught within the Ranthambore sanctuary or its reserve area could be relocated and not those from within the national park.
The directives threw a spanner in the work of the WII. "These kind of restrictions made the job cumbersome as one cannot not be sure as to whether a tiger is actually inside the national park or not. And a slight mistake in the location of the tiger could bring in the ire of the higher authorities," say officials involved in relocation of tigers.
The Ranthambore tiger reserve comprises the Ranthambore National Park, Keola Devi and Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary. The national park comprises a rich green covering and thus has more tigers but NTCA was of the opinion that tampering with the tiger populace there could trigger an unrest it the big cat's population there.
However, with the WII writing for a clarification on the orders of the NTCA, according to state forest authorities, changed it to tranquillizing only transient tigers from within the sanctuary area. "But even that is difficult. It must be understood that whenever a tiger is removed from its territory even from within the forest, that space is automatically taken by another tiger in due course and not left vacant," said officials of the forest department.
But Rajesh Gopal, director, NTCA had his reasons. "We don't have any such orders that restrict the catching of tiger from the national park area of Ranthambore. All that we are insisting upon is that they catch a tiger that is migrating to other areas for eventually these tigers are likely to get killed. And so it is better to relocate them. Currently, there are two tigers that have been straying off to the Keola Devi and the Sawai Man Singh sanctuaries," he said adding that the relocation can take place any time now.
Even officials of the WII denied that directives of the NTCA is acting as a hindrance. "If at first it was the elections, now with the chief minister himself looking after the forest department we are just awaiting orders from him. The moment it comes we will relocate the tiger," the official said. However he added that catching a tiger in the reserve area was that much more difficult.
But now with the mating season of the tigers fast running out (it lasts till February) it remains to be seen whether the motive of the relocation -- that of re-establishing the tiger populace at Sariska -- can be met soon.