Did tranquillisers kill Panna tigers?
Gyan Varma / DNA
Thursday, July 16, 2009 3:24:00 AM
A startling explanation has emerged for the extinction of tigers at Madhya Pradesh’s Panna tiger reserve, the second after Sariska to lose all its tigers. “Excessive use of tranquillisers” on the tigers may have led to their deaths, an investigation by a team of forest officials has found.
The report, submitted to Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday and also accessed by DNA, said that the established blame on poaching may be exaggerated and that tigers straying into nearby villages were routinely tranquilised for bringing them back to the reserve.
The Ramesh-constituted panel prepared the report after an examination of tiger carcasses and other studies, and blamed forest officials for being irresponsible.
A government official said this was the first time a detailed post-mortem of tigers was conducted. “Though it is mandatory to conduct a post-mortem on a dead animal, it is sometimes not done because of a lack of resources,” he said. “When we started investigating, we had suspected large-scale poaching in the reserve. But we found something completely different.”
He said forest officials should have been very careful while using tranquillisers since animals straying outside a reserve’s area is a common problem. “We can’t expect the animals to understand the meaning of restricted areas and villagers. They don’t understand these boundaries, [so seeing to the tigers’ welfare is the responsibility of humans].
“We are planning to issue directions to all 37 tiger reserves about what steps they should take while trying to bring back an animal into the restricted area of the reserve.”
Panna had an impressive (by reserve standards) 30 tigers three years ago, but the report points out that the figure was exaggerated and was an outcome of forest officials lying to census takers.