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20 tigers feared poached at Tadoba in past 5 months

DNA, 19 May 2009
Sudden end to man-tiger conflict in sanctuary has greens worried
Ashwin Aghor

Environmentalists are worried about the turn of things in the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), considered the best tiger reserve in Maharashtra. The man-tiger conflict in this Chandrapur forest area, which had grown alarmingly in the last three years, has suddenly come to an end in the past five months.

“The sudden end to the conflict should be taken seriously since it is an indication that the tigers in the conflict area are in serious trouble,” said Kishor Rithe, president of Satpuda Foundation, an NGO working for forest conservation in central India. It is feared that around 20 tigers have been poached_in the recent past in the Reserve.
The man-tiger conflict in Chandrapur district had become serious with 11 human deaths in 2006, 13 in 2007 and more than 26 in 2008. Surprisingly, only one incident of human death — on January 21 — has been reported this year.

Three reasons could be cited for this: 1. The tigers have uncharacteristically decided to stay away from humans; 2. Tigers and humans in the conflict area have “arrived” at a consensus not to invade in each others domain and 3. All the tigers in the conflict area have been wiped out.

“First two possibilities are out of question and there are more chances that all tigers in the area are wiped out,” he said, adding, “Tigers have no future outside TATR in Chandrapur district.”

Even the forest department officials are accepting the fact. A senior forest official agreed that the tigers in the area must have been poached. “We have information that an organised poaching syndicate from Katni in Madhya Pradesh is active around Bhandara and Gondia,” he said.

According to the official, there are around 40 tigers outside TATR and available information indicates that eight tigers have been poached leading to either death of three cubs and removal of two cubs from the forest, out of them one later died at Maharajbaugh Zoo in Nagpur.

The official said that there was an urgent need of undertaking know your tiger exercise to create a data base. “Since poachers are far more advanced than the forest department, we should at least have detailed information about the tigers in the region. The poachers must have killed around 20 tigers in the region in past five months,” the official said.

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