Vijay PinjarkarVijay Pinjarkar, TNN Sep 26, 2011, 03.58AM IST
NAGPUR: Even as the brutal killing of the Maharashtra tigress by a furious mob in Bhakru Tola near Bamni on the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border is being widely condemned, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) will send a fact-finding team to ascertain the truth.
The full-grown tigress (around 4 years) was beaten to death right in front of the Rajnandgaon DFO and other field staff by a mob of over 5,000 villagers on Saturday.
"We've taken a serious note and are considering sending a fact-finding team to look into all aspects of the incident," SP Yadav, joint director of NTCA told TOI on Sunday.
When asked whether the NTCA nod was sought before releasing the tigress in the Navegaon National Park, Yadav said, he will have to check up. NTCA member-secretary Rajesh Gopal did not respond to the calls made to him.
State officials deny or are not ready to confirm whether it is the same tigress that was released in Navegaon. However, there are indications from the field staff that it is the same tigress that was spotted in the South Deori range. A forest official even confirmed that the pugmarks of the dead tigress matched with the ones recorded by them.
The brutal killing of tigress has come in for sharp criticism. Kishor Rithe, member, National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), condemned the act of the villagers. "People should feel ashamed for killing the vehicle of 'Durga' especially ahead of Navratri," he said.
When B Majumdar was PCCF (wildlife), he had started the practice of fitting transmitter chips below the tail of problem leopards trapped in Chandrapur. However, the practice seems to have been discontinued. Both the Katlabodi and the Navegaon tigress were not fitted with chips nor were they radio-collared.
Rithe said that such gears are good tools to monitor animals post their release into the wild. "The practice should not be stopped. If it is the Navegaon tigress, it supports the claim that there is a strong connectivity between Nagzira-Navegaon to the Chhattisgarh forest and tigers still disperse through the corridor which needs to be protected," Rithe said.
On the release of problem tigress in Navegaon, Rithe said every tigress which is released is only after permission from the NTCA. "If it is a fit case for release, then only NTCA gives it nod," he added.
Nitin Desai, director of Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), Central India, says the incident proves that people don't have sympathy towards wildlife.
"It is still a source of cheap meat and tigers continue to be considered as perpetual nuisance. The department needs to wake up now," Desai stressed.
"Why was the tigress made a villain?" asks Prafulla Bhamburkar, manager of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). The tigress moved to Chhattisgarh from the Maharashtra side and it was the Chhattisgarh forest officials' duty to protect it.
This also indicates lack of coordination and monitoring from both states. It would have been better had the tigress been released in its original habitat in Brahmapuri.
"The Katlabodi tigress near Nagpur settled down after it was rescued and released back in the same habitat in January 2011," Bhamburkar said.
It is learnt that villagers armed with lathis were on the hunt for the tigress for the past eight days, especially after it killed a woman from Murmadi. This indicates that forest officials had no clue and hence police help was not taken.
Honorary wildlife warden of Gadchiroli MS Chouhan says the tigress gave enough indications by attacking scores of cows near Navegaon and South Deori.
Although difficult, officials should have tranquillised the beast after continuous monitoring. Once released, there was hardly any serious monitoring of the animal.
"It's really sad that the forest department has a separate publicity wing but no steps are taken to spread awareness among villagers about tiger dynamics. It happens only when such incidents take place," Chouhan added.
Meanwhile, People for Animals (PFA) termed the incident as one of the worst episodes of the 'save tiger' campaign. "Crores of rupees spent to save wild cats look a sham after the Bamni incident. Officials should not forget that it is because of tigers that they have their jobs. God will not forgive those responsible for the mess," remarked Karishma Galani, city PFA chief.
Will the killing hit Bor tigers' release?
The basic principle of re-introduction of tigers should be within the tigers' former natural habitat and range and should require minimal long-term management. This may be one of the reasons behind the killing of the Navegaon tigress in Bhakru Tola in Chhattisgarh. However, the tragic incident is likely to cast its shadow on the release of three tigers - two females and a male - back into the wild.
The wildlife wing is planning to shift the three tigers in a big enclosure of around 4-6 hectares to the Pench National Park. Subsequently, they will be released into the wild. However, after the Navegaon tigress mess, sources said that officials are in a quandary whether to release the Bor tigers in the wild or keep them in a big enclosure forever.
Wildlife experts say that animals kept in a cage for long periods of time make them unfit for 'translocation'. The three tigers in Bor have been in a small enclosure for two years.
The Navegaon tigress was in captivity for more than two months. Its release ended in disaster. Noted tiger experts, including Valmik Thapar and K Ullas Karanth have already sounded a note of caution. They said release of such tigers is full of problems. Unable to find their own source of food, they can turn into cattle lifters or man eaters.