Centre clears translocation of 4 big cats to Panna
Neha Sinha Posted online: Saturday , Jun 27, 2009
New Delhi : After losing all its tigers to poaching, Panna Tiger Reserve is set to get a second chance. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has cleared a proposal to translocate two tigers and two tigresses to the reserve. But in a letter to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the MoEF has made it clear that it expects action to be taken after the “Panna disaster”.
The letter, sent by MoEF Minister Jairam Ramesh, calls for “urgent administrative and ecological actions”, saying “responsibility should be fixed on erring officials as pointed out in the SIT report and disciplinary action be taken”. Seeking personal intervention of the CM in Panna, the letter has asked for a follow-up action report and directed that a site-specific security plan be drawn up for Panna. As already reported by The Indian Express, a probe by the SIT, set up by the Centre, found that senior officials ignored all warnings regarding Panna, resulting in the loss of more than 40 tigers to poaching.
“I solicit your personal intervention for early action indicated, to avoid Panna-type disasters,” said the letter, and asked for the phasing out of tourism activities from the core areas of Panna and moving it to buffer areas. “The guidelines and red alerts sent by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) were ignored (in Panna),” the letter points out, citing the SIT observations.
The states ignoring NTCA’s warnings is a common occurrence since wildlife is a concurrent subject. This is now set to end as the Cabinet has okayed bringing the position of NTCA member secretary at par with the Chief Wildlife Warden at the state-level.
“This will strengthen the NTCA’s position,” Ramesh told The Indian Express.
In the past, states have often ignored NTCA advisories on issues like transfer of officials, culling of maneaters and notifying buffer zones for tiger reserves. This had reduced the NTCA to little more than a fund-giving body for the Centrally sponsored Project Tiger scheme.
Madhya Pradesh has been at loggerheads with the NTCA on the Panna issue, declaring that it had enough tigers in the reserve as late as March 2009. However, a Wildlife Institute of India camera trap survey in February showed that tigers had completely vanished from Panna.
The genetic stock of Panna was lost after all its tigers were poached between 2002 and 2009. Currently, the reserve only has two tigresses, translocated to Panna from Kanha and Bandhavgarh after it was learnt that there were no big cats left in the reserve.
The four tigers will now be moved as per a new tiger translocation protocol. The new protocol is a response to a spate of local tiger extinctions in the country, starting with Sariska in Rajasthan in 2005, and now Panna, which necessitates moving tigers from other parts of the country to these reserves.