Recent sightings strengthen Goa’s case for a tiger reserve
The sightings of two fully grown tigers, a male and a female, and two cubs, in the Bhagwan Mahaveer National Park and the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary earlier this month have brought cheers to wildlife conservationists. While a tigress and two cubs were found on the bank of a tributary of river at Nanora, a majestic male was found wandering in the core area of the state’s lone national park at Mollem. Their presence was recorded by camera traps installed in the two reserved forest areas during one week. Though forest officials had some evidence of presence of tigers within the state territory they had not been able to record their presence. Their presence is not conclusive evidence that they are natives of the forests within Goa’s territory. They probably wander from other states in search of prey.
As presence of tigers has been recorded on more than one occasion in the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and other parts the idea has been growing ground that the areas be declared a tiger reserve. In the last wildlife census, forest officials and volunteers had found pug marks and fresh excreta of tiger. The sightings of tigers have been often during the past decade. The National Tiger Conservation Authority had mooted a proposal for constitution of a tiger reserve in Goa after the All-India Tiger Estimation survey in 2014. The state government is yet to take a call on the proposal. The presence of tigers in two different forest areas is an indication that level of conservation of wildlife habitats and wildlife management practices in the state were of high levels. The forest officials, who have really worked hard in these areas, deserve appreciation. With the new sightings of tigers in the state’s forests the demand for declaration of the area as a tiger reserve is expected to gain momentum.
Forest coverage in many states are dwindling, but Goa has managed to keep its forest cover higher than the national average. However, attempts have often been made with or without political patronage to cause damage to forests, even cut tree cover. There have been cases of encroachment of forest areas with the tacit support of politicians and government officials. Houses have been constructed illegally in forest land. Scores of such encroachments in various parts of the forests have increased human threat to wildlife and wild animals’ threat to humans living in their illegal houses. Cases have been recorded of tribals constructing houses in forest areas and claiming rights to the encroached lands. Many have got benefits under tribal welfare schemes and programmes on the basis of their encroachments. In a recent case forest officials have been accused of felling 300-odd areca nut trees in the Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary. It is alleged that they ordered cutting the trees to prevent illegal occupation of the land by some elements.
The latest sightings of tigers has given credence to the past claims of forest officials of presence of tigers in the state. It is necessary that forested areas, wildlife and flora are protected for the posterity. The politicians must back the efforts of the forest officials for the protection of green cover in the state. Their efforts have got the backing of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the National Green Tribunal, which have kept up the pressure for forest conservation. It is sad to note that the state government has opposed the decision of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to notify 1,471 sq km of area in the Western Ghats in Goa as ecologically sensitive area. The areas where the tigers have been found are congruous, a part of Western Ghats, and could jointly qualify for declaration as a tiger reserve. As has been the case in the past, there would be opposition from vested interests to declaration of eco-sensitive area and a tiger reserve. It is upto the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to see how much valid is the arguments against declaration of eco-sensitive area and a tiger reserve.