AS an extraordinary measure, Maharashtra’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Nitin Kakodkar has sent a proposal to the state government for “translocation” of about 50 tigers from Chandrapur to zoos, tiger safaris and other wildlife areas to tackle the growing man-tiger conflict. Experts, however, say such an idea is neither legally nor ethically allowed, nor will it serve its purpose.
“I proposed about two months ago (before the lockdown) that about 50 tigers should be removed from the Chandrapur landscape to mitigate the man-tiger conflict, which is assuming greater proportions each passing year,” Kakodkar told The Indian Express.
“These tigers can be removed from there in a phased manner and put in other wildlife areas, rescue centres or tiger safaris. I have written to Nagpur’s Gorewada Rescue Centre to augment its capacity to hold more tigers and I have also asked Chandrapur and Yavatmal Chief Conservators of Forest to explore the possibility of setting up tiger safaris,” he added. “The man-tiger conflict is only going to grow further with Chandrapur having as many as 160 tigers. It can’t hold such a big population without their coming in conflict with humans,” he said.
He suggested that Brahmapuri and Central Chanda divisions could be the probable areas from where tigers can be relocated. Brahmapuri division, which is a non-protected forest, has over 44 tigers, considered a very heavy population for the area. It’s also Chandrapur’s main man-tiger conflict area.
Kakodkar said, “The idea is subject to approval by the State Wildlife Board and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).”
Vidarbha has witnessed 18 deaths so far this year in big cat attacks, nine of them during the lockdown. Only five of these deaths have occurred outside Chandrapur. Last year, Chandrapur saw 24 deaths in tiger and leopard attacks.
Past experience shows it is very difficult to catch hold of problem tigers. It took over 10 months to kill T1 (Avni), the problem tigress of Pandharkawda in Yavatmal district, in 2018. Kakodkar said, “The idea is to pick up non-problem tigers, which shouldn’t be such a problem.”
Wildlife activist and former member of National Board for Wildlife Kishore Rithe said, “Translocation is allowed for repopulating areas that have lost tigers like it was done to restore tigers to Panna and Sariska. But the Wildlife Protection Act doesn’t allow them to be removed and put in zoos or rescue centres unless they are proven problem animals.”
He added, “Moreover, when you remove a tiger from an area it is replaced by another tiger in course of time. So what you are doing is just a stop-gap arrangement. We need to manage the tiger areas in a more nuanced fashion.”
NTCA member-secretary Anup Nayak said, “Tigers not in conflict with humans can be translocated to repopulate areas that have lost tigers, like it was done in Sariska and Panna but definitely not to be put in zoos or safaris. What the Maharashtra forest department can do is strengthen the corridors that will facilitate the tiger movement to Indravati reserve in Chhattisgarh or Kawal in Telangana,” adding, “removing so many tigers is absolutely unwarranted.”
Chandrapur honorary wildlife warden Bandu Dhotre said, “I have been suggesting removal of tigers like those roaming the prosopis jungle on Chandrapur Super Thermal Power Station (CSTPS) that has become a regular tiger habitat. These tigers have been venturing into fringe localities of Chandrapur city. Recently, a tiger from here was seen waking on the overburden of Western Coalfields Limited (WCL). In the Chichpalli forest on Chandrapur-Mul road, a small 7-km radius area is found to have four tigresses with cubs. Tigers in Chandrapur are changing their habitats and also food habits. We are sitting on a tiger landmine that is waiting to explode. So, I had suggested to the PCCF that we need to translocate such tigers. But putting them in cages or in zoos and safaris doesn’t fit the conservation bill.”
A conservationist said on condition of anonymity that in any given year, one sees not more than 2-3 tigers turning into problem animals. It means the other tigers are harmless and have come to live peacefully with locals. “So, to remove such a huge number of tigers is scientifically and otherwise not only untenable but wouldn’t serve the purpose since it won’t end conflict,” he said.
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