Tiger deaths: Under-staffing, poor intelligence among reasons

Tiger deaths: Under-staffing, poor intelligence among reasons

The committee on 'conservation and protection of tigers' flayed the National Tiger Conservation Authority for its failure to ensure sufficient funds and staff to check the declining big cat population. Asking it to plug the gaps, the panel, which tabled its report in Parliament on Thursday, has also suggested that the NTCA -- entrusted with the task of implementing Project Tiger in the country -- should speed up village relocation on priority basis to save the animals.

"The implementation of the Project Tiger under NTCA was severely hampered by under-staffing at the level of sanctuaries and the personnel actually employed were also found to be over-aged, under-trained and under-equipped in many cases," said the panel headed by BJP MP Gopinath Munde. Inadequate arms and ammunition, lack of strike force, poor intelligence gathering and inadequate patrolling camps were some of the other reasons for tiger deaths, it said.

"As a result, poaching of tigers continued and touched an annual level of 22 over a period of six years," it said. Initiated in 1972, Project Tiger has been taking several steps to ensure tiger conservation and protection. The NTCA is an autonomous body under the Environment Ministry. The panel also took serious exception to fact that the relocation of families in tiger reserves was going on at a snail's pace and "at this rate it will take more than a decade to relocate all the families from the core/buffer area."

Attributing the delay to funds shortage, it noted that "Against the requirement of Rs 11,000 crore to relocate 64,951 families living within the tiger reserves, the allocation in the Tenth Five Year Plan was a meagre Rs 10.50 crore." In its reply, the Environment Ministry told the panel that since inception of Project Tiger till June 2005, a total of 80 villages (2904 families) have been relocated.

"During the Tenth Plan, under the enhanced package Rs 10 lakh to each family, Rs 236.79 crore was provided to states for 7782 families' relocation." Pointing out that mitigation of human interference was important for tiger survival, the panel suggested that the Environment Ministry should undertake a special donor-driven project and "link this to the benefits which will accrue to the community by not cutting trees."

The committee also expressed its reservation over the authorities' failure to conduct annual census in most of the tiger reserves. It said the figures were not up-to-date and hoped that the adoption of new methodology for the ongoing survey would make it reliable and accurate. Taking a cue from tiger farming in countries like China and the UK, the panel has asked the NTCA to explore similar options by launching a national tiger breeding programme and reintroducing the tigers in designated habitats.