38 big cats die in first half of '09

Centre, states to discuss tiger conservation



Besides poaching, loss of tiger habitat, forest degradation and absence of prey base contribute to tiger mortality.

While Nagarhole is one of the critical forests where tigers are finding it difficult to survive due to the loss of dense forest cover, eight tigers died in Kaziranga (Assam) earlier this year because there were too many big cats within a short territory.

The tigers straying into human landscapes is becoming more common as seen recently in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Karnataka and West Bengal.

Naxalism is another headache for the tiger administration. Indravati (Chhattishgarh) and parts of Simlipal (Orissa) remain out of bounds for forest officials, said an official from the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests.

These issues will come up for discussions on Tuesday when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets state environment and forest ministers here. Tiger conservation and forest protection will be the two key issues to be discussed in the national conference. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh admitted that significant changes were required for wildlife protection.

The government is planning to bring a comprehensive amendment to the Wild Life (Protection) Act of 1972 to make the punishments for wildlife crimes more stringent.
Also the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau will be strengthened for which an additional Rs 7 crore has been allocated besides budgetary provisions.

Buoyed by the success of the Corbett national park in Uttarkhand where Van-Gujjars (forest dwellers) were successfully employed to protect big cats, the government may plan to extend the idea to other forests.

A Special Tiger Protection Force has been approved for 13 reserves for which the government has provided Rs 50 crore last year.  So far, Rs 93 lakh each has been released for Corbett, Ranthambore and Dudhwa and the rest will be released in the current fiscal.

Besides tiger protection, the prime minister will also seek the states’ cooperation in preserving the forests and improving the quality of forest cover.

More than Rs 12,000 crore  (including Rs 11,000 crore CAMPA afforestation fund unlocked by the Supreme Court) is available with the government for improving forest quality.
Forest protection, however, will not happen at the cost of jungle dwellers whose rights will be settled before commencing any conservation project.

The meeting with the prime minister will also look into the dichotomy in the tribal rights act for iron out the problems, which may appear for the tribal community in Western Ghats, North-East and the Himalayas.


Falling numbers

*Poaching, loss habitat, forest degradation and absence of prey contribute to deaths
*Incidences of tigers straying into human landscapes more common as seen recently in UP, Uttarakhand, Karnataka and West Bengal 
*Naxals pose problems in Chhattisgarh and Orissa
*Govt to make punishments for wildlife crimes more stringent
*Forest dwellers may be employed to protect tigers as done in Corbett National Park

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