Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bhopal Notes - 16 :: Tiger at the town's doorstep

For the last few days the vernacular press was bristling with reports of tiger sightings close to Bhopal. Everyday there would be reports of sightings close to human habitation in Kerwa area or near the Kaliasot River. Despite a veritable prohibition on people visiting these areas, the intrepid, inquisitive and the curious could not be restrained. They would assemble in pretty large numbers and many photographs, though indifferently shot, appeared in the newspapers. The tigers also became a little bolder and they were increasingly found in inhabited areas. An elderly lady, a morning walker, had sort of a close brush with one of the tigers as she found it one recent morning uncomfortably close. Knowledgeable sources say there are at least as many as seven tigers in the Bhopal forests of Kerwa, Samardha, Kathotia and so on. No wonder, it has now been claimed that in the last 3 months there have been more tiger sightings in Bhopal than in the state’s half a dozen Tiger Parks.

Thankfully, one of the tigers was nabbed yesterday in the morning. It seems to have strayed into the complex of the state’s Agricultural Engineering Institute where its weight proved to be too much for asbestos-sheet roofing and it collapsed in a heap in an enclosure. Here it was tranquilised, caged and packed off to the Van Vihar National Park, but not before it had given the fright of their life to a few of the Institute workers. It has since been translocated to the Panna Tiger Reserve. The question that, however, arises is the tiger was nabbed more than 10 kilometres north of Kerwa on Berasia Road, that is at the other end of the town and surprisingly the Forest Department seems to have had no inkling that it had skirted the town and covered such a long distance. In doing so it must have passed through densely inhabited areas. A controversy has been kicked up in this regard by one of the retired foresters.

Before the capture that took place the other day, the National Green Tribunal of Bhopal had issued notices to the government and other connected authorities to indicate the measures take for protection of the tigers that were close to human habitation as also protection of humans from the predator. The mandate for the government is to protect both which appeared a trifle tricky. For the last few years there have been constant reports of tigers’ presence close to the city but nothing much seems to have been done. There are claims and counter claims. Some people say that tiger numbers have gone up in the neighbouring Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary and the fresh arrivals are looking for their own territories.. The other view is that the prey-base in Ratapani has collapsed and hence tigers are wandering out of the sanctuary looking for prey. They seem to have found easy prey in cattle near the Bhopal jungles and, therefore, two tigers are reported to have settled down here. The forest department is yet to clarify which of the two claims are close to the actual position on the ground. Apparently, they are yet to scientifically study the problem.

Experts say the Bhopal jungles are part of the Ratapani wildlife area where humans have mindlessly encroached and degraded the forests. The tigers seem to be in no mood to give up their ancestral territories and hence their permanent encampment in the area. Whatever is the truth, the government needs to ensure that no more human establishments are allowed in the area and let the tigers be – leave them alone.

Meanwhile, around the site of the caging of the tiger they have found pug marks of another tiger. Apparently there are more tigers around than what the forest department seems to be aware of.

Photo: from the internet
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DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION Rama Chandra Guha, free-thinker, author and historian Ram Chandra Guha, a free-thinker, author and...