Lack of professional wildlife management and paucity of funds in the state wildlife wing have made tigers vulnerable to poachers in Vidarbha.
Nine tigers have been killed in the buffer zone of the famous Tadoba Tiger Reserve alone since January 2011. A mutilated body of a full-grown tiger was found in Tadoba and another tiger was trapped by poachers and killed in the reserve in the last months. In the last 10 years, 13 big cats have been killed with in Tadoba’s core areas. of these, two tigers were killed in 2002-2003- one was poisoned by poachers in Mohrali jungle while another was killed in 2011- 12 in the core area of the reserve.
Source believe an inter-state poachers’ gang operates in the area, in cahoots with the help of locals and forest personnel. Five people were arrested on Friday, including there Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) employees, for poaching a tiger whose body was found in Tadoba last month.
The ongoing mess, particularly growing poaching cases in Tadoba and other reserve, are the result of inexperienced officers posted in the region, who possess hardly any knowledge about the wildlife management, said a senior forest officer, who once worked in Tadoba.
The state wildlife wing recently replaced Tadoba field officer VK Sinha with an inexperienced Virendra Tiwari, who had never worked in the wildlife wing in his two-decade service in the state forest department.
The situation is no better in neighbouring Pench tiger reserve. The man at the helm of affairs, A Ashraf, too has no previous experience of working in a wildlife sanctuary or tiger reserve.
Moreover, none of these officers who were recently appointed by the state wildlife department underwent training at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
Only a few officers have either worked in wildlife sanctuaries or tiger reserves, or have been trained by the WII. These include Sunil Limaye, CCF Borivli National Park Mohan Karnard, CCF (Wildlife), Kolhapur and field director of Chadoli Tiger reserve and KP Singh, the field director of Melghat tiger reserve.
“There are 20 seats for wildlife training in WII. Not a single officer from Maharashtra attended the training, said Kishore Rithe, member of national Board for Wildlife.
He cited staff crunch as a reason why the government could not spare officers. “Without proper training, how can we expect appropriate wildlife management in sanctuaries and national parks?” he asked Lack of funds is another reason hindering scientific wildlife management, he claimed.
“The state forest received just Rs. 176 crore as plan budget in this financial year. Of this, the wildlife wing gets hardly Rs 7-8 crore for its 36 wildlife sanctuary and six national parks in Maharashtra. The wildlife wing also gets an additional Rs. 12 crore from the Central government for conservation and protection of tigers reserves and sanctuaries, said Shree Bhagwan, additional principal chief conservator of forests Maharashtra.
“The budget is a pittance. We tried to convince the state finance secretary to increase the plan budget for state wildlife, but to no avail, “said Rithe, who also runs Satpuda Foundation, an NGO dedicated for the conservation and protection of wildlife in central India.