Fri, Jun 6 02:44 AM
Thirty-four dead and about 25 injured in tiger attacks in 29 months. That should have set alarm bells ringing among those concerned with tiger protection. But even as the attacks continue in the peripheral forests of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district, strengthening the antipathy of the local population towards tigers, there seems to be no hurry to address the issue.
The latest incident on May 28, where, for the first time, two persons, including a small girl, were killed by a tiger at Kitali village near Nagbhid town, has once again underlined the need for urgent action, but the elaborate plan drawn by the Forest Department to tackle the crisis is nowhere close to being implemented.
“We understand the gravity of the problem. That’s why we have planned a slew of measures which I have forwarded to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for its advice. NTCA Member-Secretary Rajesh Gopal acknowledges that it’s a unique and a very serious problem and has agreed to come down and visit the areas,” Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) B Majumdar told The Indian Express.
But the ground reality isn’t as reassuring as the words. The plan was submitted in February, but there has been no action taken so far. “We can implement it ourselves too. But I would like to avail the NTCA expertise, especially that of Gopal for greater efficacy,” Majumdar said.
Asked when is Gopal likely to visit, Majumdar said, “I am waiting for his call. He should be coming anytime.” Several attempts by The Indian Express to contact Gopal drew a blank. Gopal had once visited the area in December last, immediately after a problem tiger was shot dead by sharp shooters on Majumdar’s directives. The tiger had killed four persons in a span of one month.
Wildlife researcher Vidya Athreya said, “there is no doubt that there is urgency here, but first a scientific study must be done to assess the reasons and address it properly. Has that been done? I think the issue needs to be tackled in concert by bureaucrats, scientists and field conservationists.” Athreya is credited with conducting a scientific study of leopard-human conflict in western Maharashtra.
Incidentally, Ulhas Karanth of the Wildlife Conservation Society has decided to study the problem, but the exercise is yet to begin.
The growing conflict is attributed to the success of the reserve-the tigers have grown in numbers and are straying out of the reserve and into nearby villages.
The 625-sq km TATR is surrounded by 2,000-sq km of contiguous forests and the current conflict is occuring in the belt connecting Nagbhid and Mul tahsils in Chandrapur district.
Meanwhile, villages living in the tiger shadow continue to grow restless over the lethargy in addressing the issue. And with political leaders cashing in on the issue, the tiger population in these areas face a grave threat of revenge.
What the Forest Dept plans to do
? Called Corridor Conservation Proposal, the three-year plan aims at surveying the area to study habitat, water presence and natural dwellings of the tigers.
? To help rebuild the wildlife corridor between TATR and the neighbouring forests by plugging the gaps for unhindered movement of tigers which now tend to get stuck amidst human population.
? Field training to the forest staff to manage, monitor and protect wildlife in these areas, including identification and handling of individual problem animals through tranquillisation, trapping and translocation. Currently, these areas are under territorial wing which has commercial forestry and not wildlife protection as their top priority.
? Community awareness programmes to reduce human pressures due to forest produce collection, poaching, fire and cattle-grazing, as also to create awareness about co-existence with wildlife.
? Developing groups of trained local volunteers
? Strengthening capacity of the Joint Forest Management Committees to prevent and handle the conflict situations.
? Regular meetings with villagers to mitigate man animal conflict issues.
? Networking with local NGOs and other conservation groups.
? Create awareness among villagers about presence of carnivores.