Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bhopal Notes - 17 :: Relocation of Kerwa tigers


Looks like, the forest department is getting frustrated. It has been trying to cage the local tiger that has repeatedly been sighted close to outskirts of the town so that it could be tanslocated to a tiger reserve, but the tiger has proved to be elusive. Even some trained elephants have been commandeered from a neighbouring reserve but those have been of no avail. According to the latest report, they tried a bait to capture it but it was devoured by another tiger.

Obviously, if the department wants to make Bhopal jungles free of tigers it would now have to cage not one but two tigers. The question is whether the department has considered all aspects of the matter. One wonders whether it has looked into the reasons for the tigers to wander out of the Ratapani Sanctuary, i.e. whether the Sanctuary has more tigers than what it can host or whether the prey-base has shrunk forcing the tigers to look for greener pastures. I do not remember to have seen any report to this effect. However, in either case, translocation would not be a solution as after removal of these tigers a fresh crop from crowded Ratapani may come looking to mark their own territory in these jungles.

Because of the seriousness of the effort, though so far failed, of the forest department one wonders whether the intention of the government is to confine the straying tigers in Ratapani and colonise the forests near Kerwa and Kaliasot dams. Already, thanks to the mindless magnanimity of the government, some houses and educational institutions have come up on these forested lands. Apparently, it never thought of the larger issue of impact on the environment of sacrificing forests for progressive urbanization. For years there has been talk of saving forests to absorb the excessive amount of greenhouse gases pumped by us into the atmosphere. In fact, saving the tiger as a species is intimately linked to the efforts of saving forests. Its presence in the forests not only saves them, it also provides a kind of an umbrella for myriad other species to survive and enrich not only the immediate eco-system but the entire planet. In the days of a warming planet sacrificing forests for concrete jungles would seem to be a crime against humanity.

A well-known retired forester has come out in the defense of the Kerwa tigers. He has asserted sighting tigers near Bhopal is nothing unusual. They have been around and have been seen off and on. Sometimes because of excessive poaching in the jungles their numbers might have reached such a precarious low that they were perhaps not to be seen in nearby jungles. If they are being sighted and even reportedly multiplying it only is reflective of the good health of the forests. In any case, the other big cat, the leopard has always the present and had even beeen seen in the Museum of Man and in the Indian Institute of Forest Management complexes. That Bhopal had a lot of game in the area which is now New Bhopal was confirmed by an elderly Pathan timber merchant who once recounted to me how it used to teem with game. No wonder, the local aristocracy used to roam around the town in their customized jeeps with sacks of net hanging from the rear of the vehicles to carry their trophies.

The National Green Tribunal has already taken notice of the presence of the predators close to Bhopal and a case has since been filed in the MP High Court against the supposedly unauthorised efforts to cage the animals with a view to translocating them elsewhere. A very large number of local people seem to feel that the tigers should not be disturbed and that Ratapani sanctuary should be declared a tiger reserve, the government of India having already approved the proposal in principle. It seems, rehabilitation of tribals residing inside the Sanctuary is holding up the matter. It is, however, not understood if the tribals can live and thrive in the Sanctuary with tigers all around why they should not be allowed to continue to live there after conversion of the Sanctuary into a tiger reserve. After all despite their presence the tigers in the Sanctuary, from all accounts, have shown a healthy growth in their numbers.

Perhaps, the proper course of action would be to let the tigers be. Suitable action needs to be taken to ensure that they do not advance further and stray out into inhabited areas threatening human life. This seems to be the most practical and easy solution. Whatever is being attempted is, in Shakespearian language “Much ado about nothing.” 

*Photo from the internet
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