Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tragic Death of a Tigress in Bandhavgarh..

We lost a beautiful Tigress in Bandhavgarh and the double tragedy is that she has three lovely Cubs, which are about 4-5 months we have effectively lost 4 wild Tigers!! So who is to be blamed for this tragedy and will the real culprits be ever found?!

The Jhurjhura Tigress (also known as Rajbehera Tigress, whose photos and story is in my blog as an earlier entry). These photos were taken by one of our Guests, Dr.Muffi..and could be one of the last of the Cubs in the wild.

Two of her three Cubs..cannot imagine their fate now! As we speak they are being fed by goat meat..but they are certain to end up in a Zoo soon.

I am currently in Bandhavgarh since two weeks and i could gather the following story from various sources; but first the sequence of events on the fateful morning of 19th May, when the Tigress died:
1. A vehicle from a Lodge, driven by one of the most mild-mannered and liked Naturalists in the Park, saw the Tigress at the Jhurjhura waterhole at about 6.10 am..and she charged at them! She looked injured..and the Naturalist promptly reported that to the Park authorities. In fact, i met him and his frightened guests and he told me about the encounter and asked us to avoid that area.
2. The area was promptly closed and the Park authorities went to investigate; they also got charged by the engraged Tigress and driver in his fright or whatever hit the Tigress while reversing the vehicle..the evidence is clear on the ground by a damaged machan and also the vehicle was damaged in several places.
3. When they approached the area again later..they found the Tigress dead.The time was 9.20 am.

What could have happened? Why was the Tigress charging at any vehicle? The post-mortem conducted on her the next morning revealed that the death was caused by injuries sustained 6-7 hours back..that means at around 2-3 am in the wee hours of the morning. No other vehicle can possibly enter the Park but a Forest Department (FD) vehicle. So it is clear that a speeding FD vehicle hit the Tiger and whoever did that hushed up the matter. No wonder the Tigress was aggressive and charging at any vehicle on sight. In fact, this particular Tigress is known for it's extremely non-agressive nature in the whole Park.

As expected, the blame game started..the Park officials caught hold of the last tourists who reported the incident in the first place..they wanted them to implicate the Naturalist-driver..the very man who probably saved their life by showing presence of mind and driving away! The officers intention was clear..they wanted to find a scape-goat! They harrased every other vehicle on that route..summoned them to the Park office in Umaria (30 kms away) repeatedly. But fortunately the Park Director is a upright and a strict officer..he smelt a rat..and on the 25th May ordered the suspension of 3 officers and ordered an independent enquiry. Let's hope the truth will come out.

I cannot believe that when the whole Nation is so worried about the dwindling numbers of this magnificent Big Cat, some officers who are responsible for it's very one of India's best known Tiger Reserves..can be so callous! We, all the wildlife lovers, have to put immense pressure on the powers-to-be to catch hold of the guilty and give them exemplary punishment. There are rumours that a minister's son was taken inside the Park for a night drive..whatever the truth is and whatever it takes to bring it out..we have to act together and make an example out of this case. The culprits have to charged with the murder of four Tigers...and given the highest possible punishment.

The Forest Department should be forced to pull up it's socks. It is a department, at least at the Park level, with a almost feudal mind-set and works in a way which is not accountable and does fit into to rest of the democratic system. I have observed it closely for nearly 20 years now! For instance, in Kanha, we never see a FD vehicle drive slowly in the Park! They race down at 60-80 kmph and at the same time regularly penalise tourist vehicles which are supposed to be driving at 20 kmph for over-speeding! On several occasions, they 'banned' tourist vehicles without even hearing the other side of any incident..totally against the principles of 'natural justice'. Once, in Pench, i was driving a Range Officer and some researchers..he reprimanded me why i was driving like a 'tourist vehicle'! He meant i was driving too slow!!
I dread to think that we are entrusting them with the protection of our Tigers and Parks!

Another very alarming issue we need to address immediately is about the so called VIP's in the Park. These govt officers make a mockery of the Park rules.Their vehicles do not follow any Park rules of timings, speed and routes. They flout all these rules right in front of the bonafide international and national tourists who have paid full fees and have every right to enjoy the Park. For instance, after the tragic death of the Jhurjhura Tigress, the area where her Cubs were found is prohibited for any regular fact, half the Park is closed for them. But the 'VIP' vehicles are merrily going into this area with families in tow, making such a mockery of the great pre-cautions taken by the Park authorities.

These issues only reflect the mind-set of the Forest Department..specially at the ground-level..where all the protection takes place. Can we trust these officers to be committed, self-disciplined and motivated enough to protect our Tigers and wildlife? I doubt it very much...
Let us all get together and mount pressure on the authorities both in Bhopal and Delhi to move swiftly in this case, investigate thoroughly and nail the guilty. They should be given the harshest punishment possible under the Wildlife Protection Act and this should be highlighted as a test case..that the Nation will not tolerate any harm done to it's Tigers. Please write in your comments and i will bring this to the attention of the Chief Wildlife Warden, M.P and other higher officials in Delhi.


Ashish said...

Its not only for Tigers it happens also for deers, gaurs and other animals too..I have always notcied them driving so fast inside the jungle when near to an elephant(as the care takers themselves are scared of mock charges)..Many a times infront of us deers and gaurs have escaped almost from a nasty hit as they try to run away from the elephant charge or even simply if the elephant is there.

Sarath C R said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarath C R said...

I completely agree with you's not only Tigers which suffer..but all possible wildlife..specially fast moving animals like Langurs and Chital. Also, many FD vehicles are also over speeding at night..where the visibility is so less! FD has to come up with some strict rules regulating the speed of their own vehicles and also monitoring who actually enters the Park at unauthorised people should be allowed.

vnatty said...

I jokingly commented to Tiger that the VIP will probably blame the tigress for being in his path. But seriously this where the humans become animals - insensitive and full of hubris. I would want this to be escalated to NDTV. We should not spare the MP or anyone.

Sarath C R said...

Thanks..i am with you to take it up with the highest levels and unite to do something substantial to save our Tigers...

PARIN SHAH said...

Hi Sarath. there is a rumour that india is thinking of restricting tiger tourism. What do you think about you think this should actually help in tiger conservation ? I was recently in pench, felt really guilty after going for an "elephant show" - the poor thing was radio tracked and trapped by elephants all day...couldnt help but feel sorry for the cat.

PARIN SHAH said...

sorry i meant it was a "tiger show", where you ride on elephants to get a sight of them. might as well go to the zoo.

Sarath C R said...

Dear Parin,
Tiger Tourism by itself is not negatively impacting the conservation of Tigers, as it is being portrayed in the media. It is 'unregulated tourism', which is the culprit..for eg, too many vehicles in Parks and mushrooming resorts around some Parks. We need to regulate such negative impacts rather than 'throwing out the baby with the bathwater'. Good tourism has a lot of positive benefits for conservation, the foremost of them being local employment and revenues for the Park.

The so-called 'Tiger Show' is also not bad by itself..but can be vastly improved by keeping the Tiger's interest and comfort in mind, instead of unnecessarily stressing the animal, usually because of the Mahout's greed for tips. And the experience given to the tourist can also be vastly improved by better interpretation.

Thanks! Sarath

cvhada said...

Its sad but true that in last 2 1\2 years 4 tigress with cubs are missing from the park…3 of them are dead ”unnaturally”….and 1 moved out of core area…bandhavgarh being the prime park to view tiger’s, there is extra pressure on it…which attracts the “ VIP’S ”..who think that the park belongs to themselves…one of the example we saw last morning when a park ranger goes on foot to show his family tigress with cubs…it shows how irresponsible our park authority is….it’s shame that at first we hear the good news of cubs being born in panna ( where the park officials are trying their level best to protect them ) and at the end get the sad news of tigress being killed in bandhavgarh ( where the officials are found guilty ) …more than justice, I hope we can save tiger’s for future..

Sarath said...

Hi Hada,
You are right..we are losing too many Tigers in B'garh, which is such a fertile breeding ground for Tigers. May be we should be translocating more Tigers to other Parks? Also, the Park officers need to restore public faith in their commitment and ability to protect our Tigers, which are a National treasure. Their mindset that National Parks are their private property should be corrected first!