Overzealous volunteers hindering tiger census

Overzealous volunteers hindering tiger census

Despite rejection, hundreds throng Bandipur national park

Overzealous volunteers hindering tiger census

Even as the tiger census enters its third day, hordes of civilian volunteers continue to make their way to Bandipur, despite the Forest department having sent rejection letters to many. 

According to sources, some applicants have even pulled strings to make sure they are being accommodated, including the brother of a Kerala MP. What is interesting to note, however, is that most applicants are particular about participating in the census in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve, and they are doing everything in their capacity to ensure that they get in. As a result, the tiger reserve now carries the impression of being overcrowded with humans, leaving wildlife authorities fuming. 

“Though many of these people are obviously sincere in their dedication, their very presence is interfering with the census, which requires teams to be small in number,” a source said. 

There are 115 beats in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. According to procedure, each beat should be covered by a single forest department staff plus one or two volunteers. However, as the numbers of volunteers continues to grow, each beat has at least five volunteers.

“Despite us rejecting applications, many people continue to drive up here, showing their eagerness to participate in the census. Since they have taken the trouble to come here from long distances, we have been accommodating them,” said H C Kantharaju, director of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

The Reserve had initially received around 1,000 applications from volunteers, which were filtered down to 360. Another round of cuts reduced this number to 230, which includes around 20 women. While the majority of volunteers are from Bangalore, some have come from neighbouring Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and others from New Delhi and Mumbai. 

There are around 16 doctors taking part in the census. 

Neglected Nagarhole

In contrast, the Nagarhole National Park, adjacent to Bandipur and equally popular for its tigers, has received a tepid response from volunteers. 

Speculation suggests that the recent tiger attack where a watcher was killed inside the park, has soured the enthusiasm of many volunteers. But Gokul, the deputy conservator of forests, Nagarhole wildlife division, did not agree. 

“Nagarhole is smaller in area when compared to Bandipur, and we require a smaller number of volunteers,” he said and added that they had received around 324 applications.

‘The volunteers have been divided into batches of 150 each. Each batch will get to take part in the census for three days. The census teams should be small, with no more than two to three people in each team, including the forest department staff. 

“I don’t know if volunteers have backed out, but it is a fact that I am not allowing any volunteers at the Balle Moorkal camp where the attack occurred. It is good if volunteers have backed out because we don’t want to risk any more lives for the sake of the census.”

One tiger less in Bandipur

A tiger death was reported in Bandipur on Thursday. The tiger, a six-year-old, is said to have died of natural causes. Though the sex of the tiger could not be positively ascertained during a postmortem because the animal’s hind portion had putrefied, forest staff believe that the tiger is a female.

Bandipur Tiger Reserve Director H C Kantharaju said that body of the tiger, which was found near a rivulet at Compartment six (Yelchatti beat of the Kundakere Range) in Bandipur, is in an intact condition, ruling out the involvement of poachers. “It looks like the animal died during a scuffle with another tiger. Our belief is that it died three or four days ago. Volunteers who spotted the carcass next to a pit, immediately informed forest officers. The remains of the carcass were burnt after a postmortem,” he said.

A report will be sent to the National Tiger Conservation Authority shortly. This is the first tiger death reported in Bandipur this year. Last year, six deaths were reported. All the tigers are said to have died of natural causes.