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Leave Tigers Alone

Waste no time in declaring Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary as a tiger reserve

THE killing of four tigers at the Golavli village in the Sattari taluka, which is a part of the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, is shocking and distressing. This is for the first time that killing of so many tigers within a few days has been reported in the state, probably in the whole country. The whole family of a tiger was wiped out. The last killing of tiger in the state was reported in the year 2009; it was killed in a trap laid to ensnare wild pigs. That incident took place in the Keri village of Sattari taluka, which too forms part of the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary. The reasons behind the brutal killing of the tiger family are not yet known, though the forest department has apprehended three persons for their alleged involvement in the crime. The fact that the carcass of one tiger was found buried clearly indicates involvement of humans in the gruesome episode. The claws of one of the killed tigers were found missing, which again shows human involvement. Limbs and parts of tigers fetch good prices in the illegal markets.

Questions are being raised why the tiger family was killed. Was it case of animal-human conflict? Had the tigers caused harm to the people living in the area? Had the government failed to pay compensation to the affected people? The information so far is that no complaints of tiger killing goats or cattle owned by the residents in and around the Golavli village were registered. There have been allegations of officials refusing to register cases of killing of domesticated animals and damage to property by wild animals and to pay compensation. Questions have been raised about the functioning of the forest officials in protecting wildlife in the area. There have been allegations that some good officials who had been effective in safeguarding the sanctuary have been shunted and replaced with officials who have not been going out to the fields for their supervisory and regulatory duties. Patrolling of the forest areas including in the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary has been lax in the recent years. As it was known to these officials that tigers were present in the sanctuary, they were duty bound to ensure their protection, but they failed. Utter laxity and ineffective vigilance has led to the loss of tigers.

Nevertheless, what could not be proved when the tigers were alive has been proved by their death. It has now been established beyond doubt that the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary was home to tigers, belying contrary claims. Some sections do not want the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary to be declared a tiger reserve as they fear that industrial and developmental activities such as mines and industries would be barred. A case has been sought to be made out by the opponents of tiger reserve that tigers are migratory and not resident to the state. That theory has fallen flat now. The state government should lose no time in getting the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary declared as a tiger reserve. Naming the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary as a tiger reserve would bring in huge amount of funds for its development, though other activities would be restricted. At the same time the government must not let those involved in killing the tiger family go unpunished.

The government should carry out an in-depth study of the killing of tigers and take steps to prevent such occurrences in future. There have been cases of illegal hunting and poaching in the area. As very few cases of animal-human conflicts occur in the state there is little possibility that the tigers were killed to avenge losses by the affected people. The state government has decided to shift the people living in the villages inside the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a good thing. While it may not be possible to watch all those with evil ideas, enhanced patrolling and intelligence gathering could prevent wildlife killing. The killing of the tiger family should at last drive the government to take a firm position on protecting forests and wildlife. Tigers are very important to the Nature’s food chain. India and the rest of the world are committed to the mission of increasing tiger population. The Goa government must take all steps possible to increase their number.

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