During the course of the last one year, the state of Madhya Pradesh in Central India has witnessed 16 tiger deaths, due to poaching and other reasons. Seven of these deaths occurred in the Pench Tiger Reserve.
Forest officials believe that most of these deaths were natural. However NGO officials blame the government for its failure to protect the tigers.
“MP, which was once tagged as tiger state, has slipped to number three slot in the country in big cats count primarily due to the state government’s failure to protect the majestic beasts,” Ajay Dubey, who runs NGO Prayatna for protecting tigers, said.
“Even after eight years, the Special Tiger Protection Force has not been formed in MP,” he said.
He argued that the conviction rate in tiger poaching was below 10 per cent in MP. The intelligence gathering regarding poaching was zero. He also said that no preventive arrest in regard to tiger poaching had been made in recent memory.
Forest officials have a different take on the issue. They opine that utmost care has been taken to protect the tigers and that the deaths are mostly due to natural causes.
However, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Shahbaz Ahmad said,
“The state government and forest department are doing their best to protect tigers. The killing of tigers is just negligible. Maximum deaths of the big cats reported in the state were natural.”
The officer also said that there were a few cases of electrocution and poisoning for which strict action was being taken.
Some were cases of human-animal conflict where traps were set for herbivores, but ended up trapping tigers. Measures were being taken to tackle human-animal conflict.
As for the formation of Special Tiger Protection Force, he informed that it was under consideration by the state government.
In the Pench Tiger Reserve, seven deaths were reported. A tigress along with its two cubs were poisoned in Satosha area last month. A senior official said that three persons were arrested for the same. Last September, the Pench Tiger Reserve authorities arrested four poachers and recovered body parts of a big cat they had killed.
“These poachers are being prosecuted,” Pench Reserve’s Director Shubranjan Sen said.
According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) website, tiger deaths were reported not only from Pench, but also from Kanha Tiger Reserve, Bandhavgarh Reserve, Panna Tiger Reserve, Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary, Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve, a forest in Chhindwara district, Umaria-Shahdol district highway and Dewas.The details of most of the deaths was awaited by NTCA, the website said.
It is apparent that tigers are not as safe in Madhya Pradesh as was believed in the past. Lack of initiative to educate locals and persecute the poachers, is increasing threats to the tigers.
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