Goa may add to India's tiger numbers

The good news, however, is that this state could once again add as many as five tigers to the national tally of 1,706.

Assistant Conservator of Forests Wildlife and Eco-Tourism Kamu Prakash told IANS that although the state forest department had completed its share of field work and sent its findings to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in Dehradun, the analysis confirming the findings is yet to be returned.

"The union ministry of environment and forests had come up with a set of guidelines on how the tiger census is to be conducted, based on which we had submitted that there could be as many as five tigers in Goa," Prakash said.

"But we are yet to receive the report either confirming or refuting our findings (from the WII)," he added, saying once the report is out, the tiger count in India is likely to go up.

"The nationwide census began in November 2009, whereas here in Goa we held it only in the last week of April and the beginning of May. So we submitted our report almost six months late. Our report is expected to come in about a fortnight," Prakash said.

Suspected tiger faeces were found at Surla and Nandran within the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary at Mollem and pugmarks of a tigress and two cubs discovered along the water's edge in Anjunem dam near the Goa-Karnataka border in recent times.

"The tiger-related findings from Goa will have to be correlated with those from Karnataka to ensure we are not counting the same tiger twice," Prakash said.

Wildlife and environmental activists have long been campaigning that Goa's sanctuaries be notified as tiger reserves. They have accused the forest department of denying the presence of tigers to appease the politically and economically strong mining lobby.

Following strict directives from the ministry of environment and forests, the Goa forest department in the past has had to initiate probes into mining near the Netravali wildlife sanctuary in eastern Goa, a known tiger corridor.

The mining lobby fears that the confirmed presence of the country's most endangered animal could force a halt to their highly lucrative ore extraction operations. More than two dozen mining leases ring the sanctuary area.

Noted wildlife activist Rajendra Kerkar has said top forest officials were dithering from admitting to the presence of the tiger in Goa's forests because of pressure from the Rs.6,000- crore mining industry in Goa, which has nearly 100 open cast mining pits, most of which border the wildlife sanctuaries. A tiger was poached in the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary, 70 km from here in 2009.

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