Warangal: The killing of a tiger, suspected to be a female one, by poachers about a fortnight ago under the Eturungaram Wildlife Sanctuary limits has caused much pain to wildlife lovers and environmental lovers. This barbaric act by some poachers from Gothi Koya (Guthi Koya or Muria Gonds) tribe living in the SS Tadvai mandal in Mulugu district has also raised doubts about the commitment of forest officials concerned towards protecting the tiger that had made the forests of erstwhile Warangal, Khammam and Karimnagar districts its habitat for over a year after it entered these forests from the Indravati Tiger Reserve in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh.
A tiger was spotted near Azamnagar village of Bhupalpally mandal in Jayashankar Bhupalpally district in August 2020 after more than a decade. A week or so later, it entered Peddapalli district, crossing Manair River with officials announcing that they had identified the pugmarks on the banks of the river.
Meanwhile, a tiger with a cub was reportedly spotted in Kannaigudem forest area and subsequently again near Azam Nagar in Bhupalpally district. Since then, the movement of the tiger was reported from several forest ranges of Bhupalpally, Mulugu, Warangal, and Mahabubabad districts.
In October 2020, a high-level meeting with the forest officials of Mulugu, Mahabubabad, Jayashankar Bhupalpally, and Peddapalli districts under the chairmanship of the then Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF), Warangal, MJ Akbar was held in Mulugu town where they discussed the measures to be taken to protect the tiger and also ensure that the area is declared as a ‘Tiger Reserve’ since the proposal was pending for a long time.
“In 2009, a tiger was spotted at Rampur forest area under the Pakhal Wildlife Sanctuary. But there was no movement of tigers till August last year in erstwhile Warangal district,” informed Kazipeta Purushotham, former District Forest Officer (DFO), Bhupalpally, to Telangana Today. He was working as the DFO of Bhupalpally when the tiger was spotted at Azam Nagar.
“A tiger, believed to have strayed from Chhattisgarh, was spotted on August 1, 2021, in Tadvai Forest area by the forest officials while patrolling the area. Coordination mechanisms were set in place between these four districts and active patrolling of forest areas was strengthened. Base camp watchers, animal trackers along with forest staff were deployed to track and camera traps were installed and the movement of the tiger was monitored,” Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF), Warangal Circle, SJ Asha, said on October 3, when police presented the poachers before the media in Mulugu. However, the Orugallu Wildlife Society (OWLS) and Vana Seva Samithi (VSS) have expressed apprehensions over the efforts of forest officials in protecting the tiger.
“Though the tiger zone is well known, no concrete efforts have been made to strengthen the habitat, no monitoring or tracking system with a local squad was seen to retrieve, salvage traps, snares, etc., in the tiger zone. Officials have not done much to make public aware of the need to protect the tiger, and there was no movements of staff concerned for the last two weeks in the tiger zone,” a press note released by OWLS said.
It further said that the police, who were on combing operations, found tiger nails and carcass but did not ‘inform’ forest officials in time which was a must under section 55 of WLP ACT,1972.
“The police are not authorised to chargesheet,” it said and made some suggestions to the forest officials to protect the tigers. “Special parties and tiger tracking teams should be formed, regular perambulation by staff concerned in the tiger zone with monitoring systems like M-STrIPES (Monitoring System for Tiger, Intensive Patrolling and Ecological Status) must be done. Grassplots, solar borewells, basecamp watchtowers to be set up in and around areas of the tiger movement besides providing training to the staff on wildlife cases registration and protocol to be followed during tiger hunt. Chargesheet is to be filed immediately,” the OWLS opined. The organisation has also demanded suspension of the staff up to the level of the Forest Range Officer (FRO) and issue charge memos to the above for their failure.
Former DFO Purushotham also observed that an action plan must be prepared to avoid such offences/incidents in the future for recurring arrivals of big cats into the tiger zone. “Change of DFO’s residential quarters to sanctuary limits not at other districts. And proposals for more community reserves and conservation reserves should be made,” he suggested.
Meanwhile, Vana Seva Society (VSS) founder Potlapally Veerabhadra Rao said that a Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden of Kerala Forest Department should be appointed to take care of the wildlife, particularly tigers and leopards.
“The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) should be appraised to make these forest areas/zones a new tiger reserve,” he added.
Moved by the death of the tiger, OWLS member and environmental activist Pittala Ravi Babu said: “Tigers are not beasts, we (humans) are the real beasts. It is very sad to know that we all have failed to protect the tiger from poachers,” he said, and urged the government to take measures to protect tigers in Telangana.
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