The recent mauling of Bandhavgarh tiger reserve deputy director KP Bangar and range officer (Magadhi) OP Bhalavi by a tiger, after the two had gone to investigate the injured animal, has brought into focus the acute shortage of officers trained to handle wildlife in Madhya Pradesh.
On Saturday evening, when Bangar and Bhalavi reached the spot where the tiger was present, it got startled and attacked the officers. Bangar sustained a claw injury on his back while Bhalavi dislocated his arm after he fell in the melee, said park sources.
Of the six tiger reserves in the state — Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Satpura, Panna, Pench and Sanjay — three reserves are not headed by trained officers.
IFS officers volunteer for a diploma course on wildlife management at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, after which they are certified wildlife trained.
Most of the trained officers have been promoted to rank of the additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF), which has made them ineligible for posting as the field director of tiger reserves, which is a chief conservator of forests (CCF) rank post.
Since a bulk of the trained officers is above the CCF rank, three out of the six field director posts are occupied by untrained officers.
“An injured tiger cannot be approached in a casual manner and those who do it do so at their own risk,” said a senior IFS officer posted at the forest headquarters. “By going in an area that has an injured tiger, and that too in fading light, the officer is not only endangering his own life, he is also endangering others under his charge.”
“Specialised wildlife training is not required for this, even basis forest training would suffice,” he said.
The forest department said the tiger was injured in a territorial fight with another big cat and died.
Meanwhile, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has announced an inquiry into the tiger’s death after junior level forest department staff questioned the official statement released, claiming the tiger died during treatment. Another claim suggested that the tiger died after it was tranquillised. The NTCA inspector general, based in Nagpur, will conduct the inquiry.