Tigress’ death shakes Madhya Pradesh into action

By Sanjay Sharma, IANS
Wednesday, June 2, 2010

BHOPAL - A tigress’ death due to a vehicle hit in Madhya Pradesh’s Bandhavgarh tiger reserve has galvanised authorities into action. Two tourist routes inside the park have been shut down and similar moves are being planned in other tiger reserves in the state.

However, locals associated with tourism activities are alarmed and say the initiative will hit their livelihood.

The eight-year-old tigress was discovered lying in an injured condition May 19 and died a few hours later. The autopsy report said it died of haemorrhage due to internal injuries caused by a vehicle hit. Its cubs, aged around five months, are being looked after by the forest department.

The authorities have shut two of the four tourist routes inside Bandhavgarh reserve, located in Umaria district.

Other restrictions being planned to prevent such incidents include curbing the movement of vehicles inside the park, reducing the number of resorts and cutting down the number of tourist guides, according to an official.

“The Bandhavgarh National Park management has already closed down two of the four tourist routes in the park. The heat is on camps, resorts and hotels located in tiger reserves across the state as the forest department is planning to impose restrictions on their activities,” the official told IANS.

Besides Bandhavgarh, such restrictions may also be extended to other prominent tiger reserves in the state - the Pench, Kanha, Panna and Satpura national parks - the official added.

But this could hit at the root of their livelihood, say locals around Bandhavgarh who held a meeting Monday to discuss the situation.

Under the aegis of Jansabha, comprising tourist guides, drivers and resort owners, the locals have also demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the death of the tigress.

“It was a forest department vehicle that hit the big cat and it is very unfair to hit our livelihoods for something which is not our fault,” a report compiled by the Jansabha said.

“Though the officials have quizzed us and even conducted forensic tests on our vehicles, the same interest has not been shown in the case of vehicles of the forest department,” the report added.

The probe conducted by Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) Dharmendra Shukla and the park director C.K. Patil has failed to produce any conclusive results.

Shukla, who is in charge of the probe pertaining to the tigress’ death, said it is immaterial whether a tourist or a government vehicle hit the tigress.

“Unregulated vehicles in tiger reserves are a hazard. There is need for regulating their movement. Before the next tourist season commences in October, there will be a system in place that may pinch tourism, but it is necessary for the safety of the animals,” he said, adding that parks were not meant for commercial interest and have to be maintained for future generations.

The last tiger census held in January 2006 and released in 2008 put the average population of tigers in Madhya Pradesh at 300, while the total number of the big cats in the country was put at 1,411.

In the last few years, a number of poaching incidents and accidental deaths of tigers have been reported from the tiger reserves.

(Sanjay Sharma can be contacted at sanjay.s@ians.in)

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