NATIONAL

Madhya Pradesh: a decade full of tiger deaths and just two convictions?

Doomed species:The 2011 census has revealed that there are only 257 tigers left inMadhya Pradesh's six reserves.— FILE Photo: K.R. Deepak

Doomed species:The 2011 census has revealed that there are only 257 tigers left inMadhya Pradesh's six reserves.— FILE Photo: K.R. Deepak  

Madhya Pradesh, once famous as the “Tiger State,” lost 453 animals over the last decade. And how many culprits did the government bring to book? Just two.

Recently accessed documents reveal only two cases of poaching reached their logical conclusion of conviction during this period, as of March 2012.

Sample the facts: according to the conservation programme ‘Project Tiger', the population of big cats in Madhya Pradesh in 2001-02 stood at 710. However, the 2011 census revealed there were only 257 tigers left in its six reserves — Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Panna, Bori-Satpura, Sanjay Dubri and Pench.

According to information accessed by wildlife activist Ajay Dube under the Right to Information Act, the two convicted of poaching were punished with three years' rigorous imprisonment along with a fine of Rs. 10,000 each.

While one of the cases was reported from the Umaria forest division that covers the Bandhavgarh reserve, the other was from the Sehora division covering the Kanha reserve.

At 453, the decline is almost half the number of tigers lost globally (1,069) over the last decade (2000-2010), according to a recent report by TRAFFIC International, a wildlife trade monitoring network (http://www.traffic.org/species-reports/traffic_species_

mammals60.pdf).

“The prosecution is so weak that poachers have no fear of the law and they know that they would eventually get away,” said Mr. Dube.

Last year's census figures resulted in Madhya Pradesh losing the “Tiger State” sobriquet to Karnataka, which recorded over 300 big cats.

Madhya Pradesh's conservation efforts were exposed for the first time in 2009, when it was suddenly revealed that Panna, one of its premier tiger reserves, had lost its entire big cat population.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan faced flak from conservationists after he announced there would be no buffer zone for the Panna reserve and that the proposed Ratapani tiger reserve would not be established, on the plea that these would cause displacement of a large number of people.

However, official sources have repeatedly confirmed to The Hindu that both developments were being delayed to protect the interests of a powerful mining lobby in the two regions.

Further, doubts were cast over the State's conservation efforts in a confidential report of the Panna reserve's field director, who claimed forest officials were acting in collusion with poachers, thus maintaining a consistent threat to the revival of tiger population there.

During this decade, the Forest department secured three convictions for poaching of four leopards in three separate cases.

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