Every tiger, leopard death will be presumed poaching: NTCA

Every tiger, leopard death will be presumed poaching: National Tiger Conservation Authority

NAGPUR: National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has decided that henceforth every case of tiger and leopard death will be treated as poaching incident unless proved to be natural death. The latest directive by Rajesh Gopal, member-secretary of NTCA, follows after a recent spurt in tiger poaching cases, specially in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. The NTCA move is seen as an effort to make the states take every tiger death seriously and follow the protocol to ascertain the exact cause of death.

In the six months since November 3, 2011, the state has lost 10 tigers, most of them to poaching. Several tigers have died under mysterious circumstances. "Maharashtra has been very casual in submitting reports about the deaths. Whenever a tiger dies, we just receive an SMS and that's all. In all 10 tiger deaths, detailed reports including forensic report establishing cause of death have still not been submitted to us," NTCA officials told TOI. SWH Naqvi, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), Maharashtra, responded, "It is possible that detailed reports have not been sent. I will check-up. We will do what is necessary."

"To ensure proper due diligence and topmost priority, every case of tiger and leopard death will be henceforth treated as a case of poaching, unless otherwise proved beyond reasonable doubt," Gopal's letter said. The letter written to all the chief wildlife wardens of states stated that if a tiger death was classified as occurring due to natural causes, the same should be substantiated by adequate supporting field evidences and factual details, while reporting to NTCA.

Any incident of tiger death requires detailed field investigation vis-a-vis the advisories issued in this context from the authority. While natural mortality owing to density related stress and other causes do occur in a tiger habitat, there is a need to establish this based on categorical evidences.

"There is a need to ensure adequate caution while classifying tiger deaths as occurring due to 'natural' cases," Gopal said. The NTCA has said the area where tiger death is reported should be thoroughly scanned to rule out metal trap and snares and evidence of unauthorized vehicular movement, use of fire arms, poisoning near water points, natural salt licks and poisoning of livestock kills by tigers and leopards.

Besides, any history of recurring livestock depredation, human death and injury due to carnivores in the area should also be taken into account along with pendency, if any, relating to payment of compensation and ex-gratia in this regard. It has directed that the day-to-day patrolling by field staff and supervisory checks at senior level should ensure preventive actions as well as proactive detection, rather than retroactive actions.

This would also facilitate retrieval of carcasses before their putrefaction, thereby facilitating, forensic examination in a laboratory.

Two panels to protect big cats

The NTCA has constituted two committees for tiger conservation. One panel is for district planning in tiger range while another for appraisal of centrally sponsored scheme (CSS) in 40 tiger reserves.

The committee for tiger range districts includes V B Mathur, dean, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, M Firoz Ahmed, member, NTCA, Dr Biswajit Banerjee from Planning Commission, A K Shrivastava, director of ministry of tribal affairs, R Sundaraju and B K Patnaik, retired chief wildlife warden of Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh respectively, S Dhena and Thilagarajan U, both social workers, and S P Yadav, DIG of NTCA.

NTCA sources said the team would suggest a process for factoring in tiger concerns in the district planning in tiger range districts. It will come out with generic prescriptions vis-a-vis the 2010 country level tiger estimation for district plan for mainstreaming tiger conservation in each district. "Four regional sensitization workshops for stakeholders and line departments will be organized. The panel will submit its report in six months," sources said.

NTCA, which releases big sums of money for tiger conservation, has also constituted five appraisal teams for the CSS. The tiger reserves have been classified into five landscape complex. Of these, the Central Indian landscape (Tadoba, Pench, Melghat, Ranthambore, Sariska) will include ex-PCCF DNS Suman, NTCA member Prakash Amte, social worker D Krishnamurthy and AIG Sanjay Kumar. The team will verify whether the CSS money is being used properly and suggest improvements.

Vijay Pinjarkar,TNN May 31, 2012, 01.59AM