Category Archives: Wildlife

If you have “special interest in wildlife” you could be a member of State Wildlife Board in Madhya Pradesh

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Kanha Tiger Reserve, year 2000. Photo  © Lalit Shastri

Bhopal: Successive governments in Madhya Pradesh have done it with impunity and in the latest instance it is the present Government headed by Shivraj Singh Chouhan that has flouted the statutory provision of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (WPA) regarding the nomination of “eminent conservationists, ecologists and environmentalists” and appointed even persons taking into consideration only their “special interest in wildlife” as members of the State Wildlife Board through a gazette notification issued on 20 November 2020.

Check this gazette notification, especially the subheading after s.no 22 and see how some of the nominated members (s no 23, 24, 28, 29 and 30) have been shown as members having “special interest in wildlife”.

The State government on 20 November 2020 reconstituted the State Wildlife Board. This action had been necessitated since veteran journalist Lalit Shastri, who is also a leading environmentalist, conservationist and wildlife documentary maker, has challenged in Jabalpur High Court (WP 17484/2019) the formation of the (now disbanded) Wildlife Board constituted in 2019 by the previous Kamalnath government on the ground that the notification was illegal as the statutory requirement was not followed while nominating 10 members under the relevant provision of The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. Section 6 (1) (e) of this Act, introduced with the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002 that came into force in 2003 and substituted Section 6 (1) (h) of the Principal Act clearly states “ten persons to be nominated by the State from among eminent conservationists, ecologists and environmentalists including at least two representatives of Scheduled Tribes”.

Section 6 (1) (h) of the Principal act earlier provided for the nomination of “such other person, not exceeding ten, who, in the opinion of the State Government, are interested in the protection of Wildlife, including the representatives of tribals not exceeding three”. The point to be noted is that this provision has been amended and replaced.

Neither bothering to follow the Central Act nor keeping the Chief Minister informed about the statutory requirement is a telling commentary vis-a-vis the bureaucrats who are supposed to work not only as the executive arm but also act as advisors to the Government in all important matters.

The High Court is seized of the matter and the Government was required to submit a reply during the next hearing. After reconstituting the Board, the government would obviously tell the court that since the earlier gazette notification that has been challenged has been replaced by a new notification and the Wildlife Board has already been reconstituted, there is no ground to continue the present case. In this context, it is important to mention that the latest notification to reconstitute the Wildlife Board glaringly reveals that Section 6 (1) (e) of WPA again has not been followed.

Take a closer look at the 20 November 2020 notification. The law clearly spells out that only “eminent conservationists, ecologists and environmentalists” can be inducted as members in the State Wildlife Board. The category under which the members have been inducted in the newly constituted board says “पर्यावरणविद/सरंक्षण के क्षेत्र में विशेषज्ञ” (law wants them to be eminent conservationists, ecologists and environmentalists) but against the names of several members inducted under this category, the notification mentions: “वन्यप्राणी में विशेष रुचि” (special interest in wildlife). One doesn’t need space science to pinpoint the difference between “eminent conservationists, ecologists and environmentalists” on the one side and those having only “special interest in wildlife” on the other. It is simple, one will have to know the difference to appreciate why at all there was a need to go for an amendment and substitute Section 6 (1) (h) of the Principal Act with Section (1) (e). The idea was to elevate the level of the State Wildlife Boards by ensuring only experts are inducted

The notification of 20 November reveals more than what the Government would apparently like to hide. Question arises: What was stopping the Government from mentioning that the ten persons nominated to the Wildlife Board are from the “eminent conservationists, ecologists and environmentalists” category”. But that would have been a blatant lie as a couple of those who have been inducted have nothing much to write home about as conservationists or experts. It is therefore axiomatic that by sticking to the term “वन्यप्राणी में विशेष रुचि” (special interest in wildlife) successive State governments are bent upon trampling on the letter and spirit of a Central Act only to keep the backdoor open to bring the backroom boys and those with political clout in an important body like the State Wildlife Board.

Female tiger found dead in Umred Paoni Karhadala sanctuary

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Nagpur: A female tiger, age about 3-4 years, was found dead on Sunday 22 November 2020 in Compartment no 1452/1 of the TAS beat of Umred Paoni Karhadala sanctuary in Bhandara district of Maharashtra by local Forest Guard during regular patrolling.The spot is inside the forest and the nearest village is about 3 km away.

According to Field Director Pench Tiger Reserve, DFO Bor Rahul Gawai who was in the tour there reached the spot immediately. During the spot verification as per the SOP of NTCA, 4 foetus, 7-8 weeks old, were also found aborted nearby. The body was found dragged for about 50 m inside thick forest. Several signs and indications of infighting were found in the nearby stream- including blood trails, multiple tracks of pugmarks, drag marks, heavily disturbed ground and body hair spread everywhere, including on the vegetation. Postmortem was carried out in presence of veterinarians Dr Chetan Patond, Dr Syed Bilal and Dr L A Khan LDO Nand, in presence of CCF & FD Pench Tiger reserve, DFO Bor and Sanjay Karkare, Asst. Director, BNHS as the representative of NTCA and Dr Vasanta Kahalkar, Asst. Professor as the reprentative of CWLW.

The carcass was found eaten up from left side with rib cage broken. There were puncture marks on the ventral neck (due to canines) and death might have caused due to asphyxia and bleeding.

As per the observations during PM and circumstantial evidences, prima facie, the internecine fight can be attributed as a cause of death.

Samples have been collected, camera traps have been deployed to collect additional information. All possible information is being collected collected to rule out any other possibilities as a cause of death.

The carcass was disposed-off as per the NTCA SOP.

The tigress was an adult female captured during the last P-IV exercise. She was the new entrant to UPK.

Rising tiger deaths in Madhya Pradesh and the challenge of tiger protection

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Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh, which is recognised as the Tiger State and boasts of some of the best tiger habitats in the country stretching across the the Central Indian Highlands, is confronted with rising incidence of tiger deaths and the challenge of protecting tigers and other wildlife in the Tiger Reserves and other forest areas due to serious lapses with regard to wildlife protection.

The tiger crisis has been flagged by the State Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden Alok Kumar through a letter addressed to all Chief Conservators of forests, Field Director of Tiger Reserves, Directors of National Parks, CCFs Wildlife Sanctuaries, forest officers.and DFOs.

Drawing attention to an earlier letter of 20 August 2020 regarding necessary steps to strengthen the protection of wildlife. the PCCF (Wildlife) has spelt out action that is required to strengthen the safety of wildlife

While observing that it is a matter of great regret that despite the instructions issued from time to time in the past,  protection of wildlife is being neglected, the PCCF (W) has drawn attention to the recent death of a tiger in Panna Tiger Reserve and the death of a tigress in a vehicle accident and its cub under mysterious circumstances in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve and the suspected death of a tiger in the North Shahdol forest division on 14 November 2020. Not only this, the bodies of dead tigers are being found in such a decomposed condition that their autopsy is also not possible, he has pointed out.

The prevailing situation is a cause for serious concern, the PCCF (W) has observed adding effective steps are not being taken to protect the tigers in protected areas and other forest areas, due to which the number of deaths of tigers at the state level has gone up. It is a matter of great concern that despite Madhya Pradesh being the tiger State, effective steps are not being taken for tiger protection/ prevention of poaching / death from power lines, death in road accidents etc. Hence in all the tiger reserves, national parks, sanctuaries and and adjoining forests of the state where tigers, leopard, bear etc have been reported or sighted, special campaign should be launched to maintain the safety of wild animals and to prevent wild life crimes

In a stern message, the PCCF (W) has warned of stringent action against the officer / employee concerned if negligence is found in the protection of tigers / other wildlife. In order to keep the state of Madhya Pradesh at the forefront in terms of tiger population, work has been done by the staff / officers of the state Forest department with dedication. In order to maintain this reputation, more effective efforts are needed to strengthen the protection of wild animals, especially tigers, it has been emphasised.

The following guidelines have been issued by the office of the PCCf (Wildlife) to maintain the safety of wildlife.

In order to protect tigers, regular monitoring works in protected areas / regional forests areas should be done effectively at the beat level. Many days after the death of tigers their bodies have been found in a decomposed state. There is delay in informing the headquarters. Acting promptly in the cases of tiger deaths, this office and the NTCA should be informed within 24 hours. Be sure to take legal action by assigning responsibility for late notifications.

Regular meetings of district level task force be organized for protection of forests and wildlife.

Regular monitoring of power lines passing through protected areas and surrounding forest areas should be ensured and tripping of power lines should also be monitored in coordination with the Electricity department. There should not be any poaching with electric wires in the agriculture fields.

Special care should be taken and patrolling / surveillance should be strengthened in such areas

In the PAs, there should be regular monthly meetings of Eco Development Committees with proper dialogue and there should be a review of these meetings

Dog squads should be fully utilized to solve forest and wild crime casesand they can act as deterrent against crime.

The weekly and monthly limit for patrolling by foot should be fixed for Officers at all levels and the performance should be reviewed every month by the
Director / Officer-in-Charge Divisional Forest office. In sensitive areas like river streams, water bodies, natural salt lick caves and nearby plains patrollking on foot should be done compulsorily.

Payment of compensation for loss of life, injury and cattle loss in the vicinity of the protected area should be within the time limit as per the rules. Also, it should be ensured that animals killed by tigers and leopards are not poisoned by poachers. In case of crop loss, the field staff should extend full cooperation when it comes to filing the application by the concerned person and registering of case at the competent level in the revenue department. 

Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve: The death of Rajbahra Tigress and her cub puts a question mark on Tiger conservation in Madhya Pradesh

Lalit Shastri

Ill-fated T42 of Bandhavgarh- The last kiss (Photo above and featured image by Dr Kapil Mishra)

There is no end to poaching and tigers continue to die under mysterious circumstances in the central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh. The latest case of tiger death has been reported from Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve.

T42 Rajbahra tigress, popularly called Solo, and one of her cubs have died under mysterious circumstances in Bandhavgarh. According to available reports, two of her cubs have gone missing. People in this area have not ruled out the involvement of poachers and hunters in this case.

The park management had been informed by some tourists and it was also reported by the media that the tigress that has now been killed was moving around the Sehra Maidan with her cubs when a large number of vehicles carrying tourists, including children, had converged at the same spot. Due to excessive disturbance, the tigress left Sehra Maidan and went with her cubs towards Mahaman village.

Sources have informed that the tigress and her cubs were forced to leave the core area as there was excessive tourist pressure, which was much above the carrying capacity and in gross violation of Supreme Court orders. The problem was aggravated further as some crew was allegedly involved in filming the Tigress with her cubs and this was being done clandestinely with the involvement of the Park personnel.

Notwithstanding reports that a number of elephants and park personnel had been deployed for patrolling of the area, it is still a matter of investigation whether or not adequate arrangements were made by the Park management to beef up the monitoring activity to track the movement of the Tigress and her cubs after they got information that the big cat, along with her cubs, had left the core area due to human pressure and was near a village. Also questions are being raised when it comes to complying with the mandatory carrying capacity rule.

A three-year-old tigress was also found dead during the night of 23 September in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. Park authorities had declared territorial fight as the cause of this death. Earlier in April, three more tiger deaths were reported from the same habitat.

The headless tiger of Panna

In the first fortnight of August this year, a tiger (Panna 123) had died under mysterious circumstances in the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.

The postmortem report categorically states that the head along with the scrotum and Penis had been removed with some sharp weapon after the animal’s death. There has been no follow up enquiry in this matter.

Since April this year more than half a dozen tigers have died under mysterious circumstances in Madhya Pradesh but efforts to address the issue are totally missing. The tragedy is that almost every time when a tiger gets killed, the Wildlife wing of the State forest department undermines the threat to tigers by hiding the truth and planting infighting stories.

Postscript: Tourism pressure in all the tiger reserves has gone down due to COVID. Besides Bandhavgarh has always been an area with heavy and unruly tourist traffic. The veteran tigresses are used to this chaos, it is being pointed out. The female (Solo), who was almost 10 years old, and her cubs were getting disturbed by tourists – is an argument that is being contested by some wildlife experts. They are pointing out that she might have shifted away due to the arrival of a new male in her territory. The staff of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve should investigate this and also whether or not filming was being done and there was excessive rush of tourists on a particular day as per available reports.