Bandipur to get country's first tiger protection force
Jayashree Nandi, TNN 26 August 2009, 12:59am IST
BANGALORE: Six tigers have already died in Karnataka this year, compared to eight deaths each in 2008 and 2007. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) considers this `abnormal and alarming'. The Centre has directed the state's forest department to step up conservation measures.
As a first step, the state will have a special tiger protection force, the first one among the 13 tiger reserves across the country.
The increasing tiger deaths in some states was discussed at the meeting of state forest departments with the Union environment minister and Prime Minister last week. Some wildlife conservationists say the number could be as high as 10.
Additional principal conservator of forests (PCCF) B K Singh has a different take on the number of deaths. He says one of the six tigers died when it was moved from Bandipur to Bhadra reserve forest in July. The post-mortem concluded it was due to shock from translocation. Two cases, in which pelts were seized from poachers, are old cases.
While one of them was seized from Pandavpura two years ago, the other was seized from Gundlupet over 15 years ago. Three other cases were of territorial fights and one due to starvation. "Patrolling on foot and investigations have been stepped up and that is why these cases are coming to light," he said.
NTCA member secretary Rajesh Gopal told TOI from New Delhi: "I don't see this very positively. The post-mortem process has to be very transparent. That is why we usually have an independent individual nominated by NTCA to be there during the post-mortem. This is being followed but I still think it is an abnormal figure. In Nagarahole, there are issues. Tigers are targets of poachers. There should be no scope for complacency. We are waiting for comments from our people who were at the post-mortems."
He added that NTCA will fund all the requirements of the special tiger protection force and an MoU will be signed with the state to see that men are not used for activities such as election duties or other commitments.
"Unnatural deaths due to reasons like poaching are a cause for concern currently. For instance, the seizure of a tiger pelt by Nagarahole staff was a clear case of poaching and the pelt was fresh," said assistant director (conservation science and policy), Wildlife Conservation Society - India Program, Sanjay Gubbi, who is tracking the issue locally.
Singh acknowledged that protection needs to be stepped up. While we have a healthy population of about 12 tigers per 100 sq km, it is less than 17 in the Corbett National Park. "Though there are almost no cases of poaching, patrolling can be improved and will be done more on foot. We'll make them walk on inter-state lines, which are very vulnerable. Intelligence gathering is also required, not just solving the case then and there by arresting the offender but investigating to the root cause. Bandipur officials should visit Mudumalai and Kerala to keep tabs on poachers there. However, all six cases were either due to territorial fights or old cases of poaching," he said.
As part of the protection force, 112 forest staff will be appointed with four vehicles. Gopal said governments need to comply with NTCA guidelines on special protection forces immediately. Bandipur has been chosen out of Karnataka's four tiger reserves because it has a rich landscape and the Waynad-Bandipur zone is vulnerable.