Tiger Conservation: Are we on the right track?
It is a pity and such shame for humanity the way the tiger population has been dwindling. Poachers have kept striking at will. The tiger habitat has been methodically encroached – an activity diabolically supported by politicians to win votes and stay riveted to power. Whatever remains of the tiger habitat is being plundered by the mining mafia and illegal fellers or else the so called stakeholders who are robbing the forests and the entire biodiversity base through reckless grazing and minor forest produce collection. Let us go back a few years. In 2009 Panna Tiger Reserve, not far from Bandhavgarh where this sordid killing of a tiger cub took place last week, all the tigers had been eliminated. After a few years of relocating and breeding under controlled conditions Panna is again boasting of tiger numbers. At least I am not proud of Panna. I am not interested in authorities flaunting tiger numbers because what is required is protection of forests and their corridors to such an extent that there is no man animal conflict and tigers are left with the necessary privacy and prey base to ensure they breed and thrive in their natural surrounding.
Lets take a closer look at the State of affairs in the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. Between January and December 2014, 13 tiger deaths were reported in Madhya Pradesh and 8f these 13 cases of tiger mortality were in Bandhavgarh. On February 8, a mortality due to infighting was reported from Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. May onwards last year, the Bandhavgarh Reserve came under sharp focus as tigers started dying in this territory under unnatural circumstances and in quick succession. Tiger mortality was reported from Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve on May 13, 28 and 29, July 16, and August 5, 6, 8 and 18.
Union Minister for Environment and Forest Prakash Jawadekar had admitted in Parliament on July 16, 2014, that poaching of wild animals and illegal trade of their body parts is a serious issue but at the same time he also told the House that there has been a drop in tiger mortality due to poaching as there has been a drop in seizure from a high of 59 in 2012 to 5 during the first six months this year. The number of tiger poaching-mortality cases recorded in 2010 was 28 and 16 in 2011. On the basis of these figures, Mr. Jawadekar told Lok Sabha: “the efforts of the Government are also bearing results.” There is a section both within and outside the state forest department that admits that more and more tigers are getting killed in Bandhavgarh due to “man-animal conflict. A forester said that the surrounding villages and interference of local leaders in the Protected Area is aggravating the situation. There are indications that due to cattle loss, and also to meet the objective of keeping a certain area tiger-free for nistar, firewood and minor forest produce collection purpose, the villagers resort to revenge killings and also use the methods used by poachers to eliminate the tigers. Hence drop in seizure of tiger body parts cannot be used as the ultimate barometer to point out that poaching mortality cases are now on the decline as Mr. Jawadekar did while replying to a query in Parliament. The Minister should be told that even revenge killings by farmers amounts to poaching and there are no dearth of such cases in and around Bandhawavgarh and other parts of the country.
The traditional hunting tribes like the Pardhis in Central India and Maharashtra cannot be wished away. There are wide gaps and lack of continuity when it comes to making focussed efforts to bring the Pardhi population into the national mainstream. Pardhis on the move (photo by Anil Yadav)A large number of those belonging to the Pardhi community still continue to live in the hunting and gathering stage. These traditional hunters identify the water holes, have full knowledge of salt licks, they know the tiger habitat like the palm of their hands and keep a close eye on the core forest areas where conditions are supposed to be ideal for breeding. These tribals provide inside information to the smugglers and the agents reporting to the kingpins running the smuggling racket from India to Nepal, China and other South-east Asian countries where the demand for tiger body parts refuses to die down and the world community is failing to bring pressure on the governments concerned to act for the cause of tiger and other wildlife conservation.
The death of a 3-year old tigress in the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh in May 2010 had raised several questions. Everyone knows that the tigress was fatally hit by a vehicle carrying tourists near a water hole at Jhurjhura on the Tala-Jhurjhura track. After this incident, a probe was launched but till date the culprits continue to go scot free. No one has been held accountable for allowing vehicles to carrying tourists to leave the specified tracks and venture close to the tigers even when they were supposed to be in the privacy of the core area near the water holes. Even now this is happening that too at night with flood lights to entertain VIPs. Every who has been to Bandhavgarh is aware of the mad rush of tourists trying to spot the tiger. Their rashly driven vehicles, racing with each other, only disrupt the tranquility of the forest and further threaten the endangered wildlife.
|Tiger, Mortality – 2014.|
This database is a collaborative effort of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (A Statutory Body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India) and TRAFFIC-India the wildlife trade monitoring network.