Lion’s share for tigers

Lion’s share for tigers

Saturday March 1 2008 13:16 IST

BHUBANESWAR: There is a ‘wild’ side to General Budget 2008-09. When Finance Minister P Chidambaram said number 1411 should ring in alarm bells, not many expected a Tiger Fund to find mention in his speech.

The Finance Minister’s announcement for a Rs 50 crore fund for raising a tiger protection force has brought in loud cheers from conservationists and wildlife lovers. At a time when large cats are not exactly burning bright – a 50 percent drop has been noticed in the recent census – the move appeared timely. Orissa has a reason to feel good. With two tiger reserves to take care of, and proposal for a third one pending, the special provision is assuring, to say the least.

‘We need a striking force for our forests and protected areas and this is certainly going to strengthen the existing conservation measures,’ was the reaction of Chief Wildlife Warden Bijay Ketan Patnaik.

Orissa, in the past, tried to put in place a dedicated force at Similipal, its first tiger reserve, by constituting a unit of green brigade comprising exservicemen. However, the latest census has only put Similipal in a spot by registering its tiger population at barely 20 whereas the Government claim puts it in a region of 90.

In fact, inclusion of Satkosia, which has a tiger occurrence area of 787 sq km, will add pressure on the State Govenrment’s conservation plans. However, the fund to raise a protection force will come handy. ‘It’s too early to say what strategy National Tiger Conservation Authority will chalk out but it has come at a good time,’ Patnaik said.

For quite sometime, the proposal to raise a Special Task Force has been pending and it may become a reality now.

According to Chairman, WWF India, Orissa State Committee Saroj Patnaik, it is a good move but tiger protection force is not the only issue, habitat development is. “We need improved habitats and better connectivity between them,” he said.

In fact, the proposal to enhance compensation for location of villagers from the critical areas from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh per family may find place in the new fund.

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