Nov 30, 2014
BAREILLY: About a decade ago, the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan made news as it came to light that there were no tigers there. Tigers were then relocated from elsewhere to re-populate the reserve. Now, it appears that the newly formed Pilibhit Tiger Reserve may be going the Sariska way. Despite the measure to conserve the tigers, their population has been dwindling here. A ruling party MLA has now raised the matter, forcing the chief minister to intervene. Wildlife activists are worried – even before the Pilibhit reserve could become a full-fledged reserve, the tiger population has begun to shrink. Authorities are unable to offer a plausible explanation for what is causing the decline in the number of tigers. Quoting officials of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) who counted the tigers in the reserve on the basis of pugmarks, Samajwadi Party (SP) MLA from Barkhera assembly seat, Hemraj Verma took up the matter with the chief minister. Wildlife activist and conservationist, and founder-secretary of the Save Environment Welfare Society, TH Khan, said, “In 2010-11, we were told there were 40 tigers. In 2011-12, there were 30. In 2012-13, we were told the figure had shrunk to 23. In a short span of four years, it looks like the numbers are shrinking quite dramatically. And what is hard to believe is that a tiger reserve may be coming up in an area where the big cat faces a big threat.” Since the counting process uses pug marks, cubs carried by mothers are not counted. Mohd Ahsan, retired chief wild life warden of Uttar Pradesh, said, “Investigations should focus on whether the missing tigers are falling prey to poachers. There is also the possibility that some of the tigers may have strayed into forests in Uttarakhand adjoining Pilibhit. There are now a large number of human habitations on the fringes of the reserve, and when forest belts get crowded, the herbivores migrate. They form the staple diet of tigers. To retain tigers in any reserve, easy prey is the most essential pre-requisite.” Amitabh Agnihotri, vice president of Wildlife Biodiversity Conservation Society, who has studied the whole area for more than two decades, said, “God forbid Pilibhit Tiger Reserve should meet the Sariska fate. The MLAs concerns are legitimate, and the WWF information was provided after a survey.”
Unwilling to be drawn into the discussion about the shrinking numbers of big cats, UP chief wildlife warden, Roopak Dey said, “Perhaps the SP leader has his own sources in the department based on whose information he is making such controversial claims. The counting of tigers is done by the forest department in association with some non-government organizations. The report is then sent to the National Tiger Conservation Centre for review. It is a highly professional and guarded operation. The report is classified. On what basis these claims are being made is not clear. Only the man making them can answer that.” Pilibhit Tiger Reserve is spread over 72,000 hecatres. It is the country’s 47th tiger reserve, and the area comprises 52 forest beats, including Mala, Mahof, Haripur, Barahi and Deuria.
As posted in Timesofindia.indiatimes.com