Foresters worried over alleged tiger killing in Keri
11 May 2009, 0350 hrs IST, Paul Fernandes, TNN
PANAJI: Amidst increasing cases of man-animal conflict, the alleged trapping and killing of a tiger close to human habitation in Keri presents another worrying development to forest department officials and environmentalists, as the big cat, barring leopards, is rarely reported to have strayed in settlement areas in Goa.
"A tiger is a very shy animal and being largely territorial, it prefers to keep away from human habitation," a forest department official said, adding "If its killing which is being probed is true, it is a matter of concern as such an incident had not happened in the recent past."
Incidents of elephants and even bisons on the rampage in the north, leopards being sighted and caught in urban areas, snakes crawling into houses were reported often in the past. But, the killing of a buffalo in Chorla ghat and the foray of the tiger in a village culminating in its being trapped with fatal consequences adds a new dimension to the man-animal conflict. Big cats were being sighted in Cotigao and Mhadei but away from settlements.
Forest department officials and environmentalists say that a few issues need to be looked into after this development. "The degradation of their habitat, resulting in lack of food for animals and their migration can be cited as the cause of the problem. Basically, the genesis of everything is human intervention, be it encroachments into forests, or more pressure on its resources - timber and firewood," Shashi Kumar, chief conservator of forests (CCF) said.
Many feel that better availability of water, food and green areas in Goa may have driven wild animals to use the space on this side of the contiguous corridor. Tropical forest areas of Karnataka and Maharashtra form a solid corridor for wildlife in the region. "Wild animals do not go by geographical boundaries and move towards areas where the conditions are suitable for them," Shashi Kumar said.
The migration of animals into Goa may be an indication of fragmentation of forests, either in Mhadei or other sanctuaries or across the border. Says Parag Rangnekar, who researched birds in Mhadei areas, "There is lot of disturbance across the border in Karnataka, as forests are mostly privately owned and lot of tree felling is going on for cashew and other plantations."
Agreeing that disturbance in neighbouring areas may be a factor, Shashi Kumar said "This may be true, but a study is needed to confirm it." Land has been acquired by investors to set up farms while construction of canals and dams may also be a factor in deforestation, sources say.
The 2002 census conducted by the forest department with the help of volunteers, among others, based on pug marks and droppings, had enumerated five tigers in Goa. Foresters have been insisting for long that tigers seen in the state's protected areas are not resident ones. "But the tiger issue is a good tool for forest department to draw support from central government for more funding and research," Rangnekar said.
However, Shashi Kumar conceded, "Even if they are migratory, there is no denying the fact that they may continue here if they find the situation conducive." Goa has a good prey base of herbivorous animals, chital, sambars and monkeys for bigs cats. Sources say water sources in border areas have dried up and places like Anjunem dam, in the vicinity of the tiger killing, have abundant water for animals.
Agreeing that the entry of the tiger in human settlement is a matter to be studied in the context of long term solutions, officials agreed that conservation has scope to be upgraded. Nature lovers and environmentalists have been persistently demanding that the corridor between Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra comprising a few sanctuaries, be declared as a tiger reserve, but are critical of the government's lethargic approach in upgrading protection in the new sanctuaries.
Stating that the man-animal conflicts are occuring throughout the country, the CCF said plans are afoot to improve infrastructure. "People are on the job, and we are going ahead with management plans for all protected areas, and even in new sanctuaries (of Mhadei and Neturlim)," he said. "Molem is our flagship in terms of the flora and fauna and as a habitat and its management has been appreciated," he said.