The spotting of tigers near human habitations in Bhopal and Sehore districts has not only given sleepless nights to villagers but also has raised serious concerns over the movement of tigers from Ratapani wildlife sanctuary.
The recent incidents of tigers hunting near such areas also put a question mark on the fate of the proposal to convert the wildlife sanctuary into a safe tiger reserve.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) gave "in-principle approval" for the creation of tiger reserve at Ratapani in 2008, but the state government is yet to send a final proposal to the Centre. Even environment and forests minister Prakash Javadekar informed the Lok Sabha on August 13, that in-principle approval had been accorded to Ratapani.
The Ratapani sanctuary, spread over 689 sq kms in Raisen and Sehore districts, was set up in 1976. After in-principle approval from NTCA, the state chief wildlife warden had in February 2012 sent a proposal to the state government with regard to the creation of Ratapani tiger reserve and to get its critical tiger habitat/core area notified, but that is yet to happen.
Wildlife experts are worried that in its present form, the sanctuary is proving small for tigers or its prey base is probably coming down, forcing tigers to move out. They allege that the tiger habitat, which has registered tiger mortality, is a victim of official apathy and various lobbies that have vested interests.
Experts point out that tiger reserve would ensure safer habitat and more attention to tigers. In June 2012, a tiger got electrocuted in a set trap at Sehore’s Virpur range, where it had gone for a drink at a waterhole, and was later hacked into two pieces by poachers. Following this incident, the NTCA wrote to MP government, reminding it that as in-principle approval had already been given for the tiger reserve, a "detailed proposal in this regard as per the section 38V of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 should be sent to NTCA at an early date".
In 2011, director Van Vihar National Park, Bhopal, wrote to state wildlife department, expressing concern over "falling prey base at Ratapani" because of which tigers were moving out of the sanctuary, compromising their safety.
Wildlife activist and environmental action group Prayatna secretary Ajay Dubey alleged that the government was not proactive on getting it declared as a tiger reserve, as doing so would disturb the status of the landholdings of many influential people.