Team to investigate missing tigers
Conservationists have appointed a special team to investigate the disappearance of tigers from an Indian national park.
The team, appointed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), will investigate whether local forest officials played a role in the disappearance of the tigers from Panna National Park in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
The park was one of the special reserves that formed a part of Project Tiger - a government conservation effort launched in 1973 to protect the country's national animal.
P K Sen, former director of Project Tiger, who heads the investigative team, said he feared that from 15 tigers about two years ago only one remains in the reserve.
The team was formed after leading tiger experts urged prime minister Manmohan Singh to call for a thorough inquiry into the matter. It came four years after a committee appointed by the Supreme Court warned that tigers were vanishing from the Panna reserve.
The team consists of a former Wildlife Crime Bureau official, a scientist from Wildlife Institute of India and an official of the NTCA. The state government will also have a nominee on the team.
Wildlife conservationists are unhappy at the drastic fall in tiger numbers. Bibhab Talukdar, a member of the National Board for Wildlife, said he was sure the disappearance was linked to poaching.
"Definitely this situation is due to poaching. The government needs to be serious about its conservation efforts. They need to find out who is responsible, whether monitoring of tigers was done or not, what the causes are.
"Why was there a gap in information? If the government was aware of the falling numbers, what steps did they take?" he added.
"This is the state of the tiger almost all over the country. If there is a change in attitude after the general elections it will be good news for the conservation efforts."