15 Mar 2008, 2144 hrs IST,IANS
BHUBANESWAR: Thousands of tribals in Orissa held a rally in Mayurbhanj district on Saturday to create awareness about the importance of protecting tigers, whose numbers are fast dwindling.
The tribals, including women and children, marched through the streets of Baripada town in Mayurbhanj, some 250 km from here, raising slogans like “Save Tigers, Protect Environment”.
The Simlipal National Park – one of the first project tiger reserves in the country – is located in Mayurbhanj.
“We are concerned by the way the number of tigers is coming down in the park,” Rabindra Murmu, a tribal, said. “Forests and animals are closely linked to our lives. If they vanish we cannot survive,” he said.
The latest census by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had revealed that there were only an estimated 1,411 tigers left in the wild in India today, less than half the number in the 2002 census.
It showed that Orissa had less than 60 tigers and that the Simlipal National Park was home to only 30.
The Orissa government, however, said the census figures were inaccurate and that Simlipal had over 100 tigers.
“The methods adopted to count the tigers were not accurate,” said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who heads the state forest and wildlife department.
But the National Board for Wildlife said Patnaik did not have accurate figures as state forest officers were misleading him.
“The chief minister is being misled by his officers,” said Biswajit Mohanty, a member of the board.
“We are happy that the tribals have come forward to protect the environment and tigers – something they have been doing for ages anyway,” Mohanty said.
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