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Centre frowns at reward for killing tiger


INDIAN EXPRESS
Dec 25, 2008

Lucknow: The Centre has taken strong exception to the Uttar Pradesh government’s announcement of a cash reward for killing a stray tiger.

The state forest department had declared the tiger a maneater after the remains of a 14-year-old boy were found in a jungle near Sarai Bilahari in Barabanki on Tuesday. Subsequently, orders were issued to kill the beast as the department was under pressure from the state government to catch the animal. On Wednesday, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) asked the UP government not to kill the tiger and directed a Wildlife Institute of India (WII) team to visit the spot and catch the animal.

NTCA Member Secretary Rajesh Gopal said: “It is unfortunate that the UP administration has announced a reward for killing the tiger. There are specific guidelines under the NTCA that differentiate between a ‘man-killer’ and ‘maneater’. A tiger can only be called a maneater if it regularly kills humans.” He added: “Though there is no rule against the declaration of monetary reward for killing a declared maneater, the killing has to be handled by the Forest department. It is unfortunate that the reward was announced for ‘anyone’, who kills it.”

Tiger conservationist and member of the National Board for Wildlife Belinda Wright said: “Only a chief wildlife warden can declare a tiger a maneater. The declaration of the reward by the district administration for killing the tiger is against the law.”

Barabanki District Magistrate K Ravindra Nayak, who had declared the cash reward of Rs 5,000 for killing the tiger, said: “My words were misunderstood. I had declared the reward to those, who would assist in the combing operations like carrying torches during night operations.”

Forest department sources said this is the first time in living memory, when the department declared a big cat a maneater after it had killed merely one person. In March, the North Kheri Forest Division had requested the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) to declare a leopard a maneater after it had killed five persons over three months. But the animal was not declared a maneater.

PCCF (Wildlife) BK Patnaik, however, denied that the tiger was declared a maneater under political pressure. “The decision was taken to ensure the safety of villagers,” he said.

The department, however, appeared to soften its stand after the protest from the NTCA. Patnaik said, “Shooting the tiger is our last option and we are making all possible efforts to capture it. The law states that the animal can be killed if it can’t be tranquilised.”

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