The Centre has succeeded in persuading a reluctant Madhya Pradesh, which is facing criticism for the dwindling tiger population in the state, to sign a tripartite pact with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and tiger reserves to protect the big cats.

In a recent meeting with the Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh in Bhopal, the state forest officials agreed to sign the agreement after the Minister convinced them about the need for the pact.

The state which has five tiger reserves namely -- Panna, Satpura, Pench, Kanha and Bandhavgarh tiger parks – had reservations on the clause in the pact that “holds the director of the reserve accountable for any tiger death in his area.”

“The contention of the State was that as the director is too a junior post and he cannot sign a pact with the state government as envisaged in the tripartite agreement,” a senior official from National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) said.

However, after much reasoning, the state wildlife officials agreed to sign the treaty, which enables them to access the funds being provided by the Centre, the official added.

According to an estimate, the number of tigers in Madhya Pradesh is reported to have dropped dramatically from 300 in 2007 to 232 in 2009. Panna, which was said to have 24 cats in 2008 had none in early 2009. This prompted the state government to translocate two tigress, to be followed by a male tiger soon.

Except West Bengal, all other tiger range states have either signed or expressed their desire to sign the tripartite agreement with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) on behalf of the Centre.

The pact aims to strengthen tiger conservation by laying out the respective responsibilities and reciprocal commitments linked to funds flows. The funds would be channeled through a Centrally-sponsored scheme in the 37 tiger reserves in the country in 17 states including Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarkhand, Bihar and Jharkhand.