Another suspected poaching incident in Pench

Authorities fail to keep check

By Ashwin Aghor
Published: Saturday 02 June 2012

Tigers in Maharashtra continue to remain under threat from poaching. After a spate of poaching incidents in Chandrapur district around a fortnight back, one more tigress in Pench Tiger Reserve is feared to have fallen prey to hunters. No investigation has been done in the cases despite announcement of reward amounting to Rs 1 lakh and handing over the investigations to the state criminal investigation department.

On May 31 morning, the forest department found a six-month-old tiger cub walking on the retention wall of a lake and looked starved and acutely dehydrated. “It was walking on the wall and fell right in front of our staff. They immediately covered it with wet jute bag and took it to a shelter. The cub was later shifted to Seminary Hills in Nagpur for treatment. However, it died,” says a senior forest department official who does not wish to be named. Since April 26, three tigers have been poached. “There are all possibilities that the tigress might have been poached. But nothing concrete can be said until the body is recovered or thorough investigations are carried out,” says Nitin Desai, central India director for Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI).

After the cub was found, the forest department launched a search operation for its mother. “The female which frequented a waterhole in compartment number 277 had two cubs. Since one is now dead, we apprehend that the other one might be with the mother. But we could not trace them despite massive search operations,” the senior official said.

The forest department got a major blow when a male tiger was found poached in southern buffer zone of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Chandrapur on May 18. The incident took place two days after a red alert was sounded on poachers’ gangs on the prowl. Incidentally, two tigers were trapped on April 26—one of them died in the trap while another is battling for life at Nagpur—in the northern buffer zone of TATR. Desai says, “The protection activities of the department are hampered as the forest guards are burdened with different tasks which make patrolling very difficult. The department must recruit more guards and foresters to check wildlife crimes.”

Kishor Rithe, member of National Board for Wildlife, says a special investigation team should be formed to probe the poaching incidents. “It is shocking that forest department officials have failed to trace the poachers in TATR buffer. It is even more alarming that the poaching took place despite the red alert sounded by the forest department,” he says. The chief minister should appoint a probe team headed by chief secretary of Maharashtra, comprising director general (police), principal chief conservator of forests, principal secretary (forests) and principal secretary (home), adds Rithe.


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