In the red after nine tiger deaths since January, the Madhya Pradesh forest department will now tie up with Kolkata-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Saving Tiger to fence the open wells in the buffer zone of the Pench Tiger Reserve that have emerged as death traps for big cats.
The Pench reserve is dotted with over 1,700 unfenced wells in the 100 villages located in the buffer zone. These are primarily used for drinking water supply and irrigation.
On January 2, the first tiger death was reported in the reserve when a five-year-old male tiger fell into a fenceless well in Pench’s buffer zone and died.
During a spot check, HT has also found several unfenced wells in the buffer zone, most of which were dry and abandoned.
Seoni’s chief conservator of forest (CCF) Sanjay Kumar Shukla told HT: “These unfenced wells in the villages of Pench’s buffer has become deaths traps for not just tigers, but for other wild animals as well…Recently, wild pigs had fallen in a well. Many of these wells are abandoned and with growth of vegetation around them, they almost become invisible to the wild animals.”
Shukla added that now officials from the forest department, Pench Tiger Reserve and NGO Saving Tiger would erect three-feet high fight fences around these wells in the sensitive areas closer to the core area.
“This will not only protect tigers, but also other wild animals”, he said.
Field director of the reserve, Shubranjan Sen said many young male tigers were moving out into the buffer. “So we have decided to collaborate with a Kolkata-based NGO to fence wells closer to the core where chances of tiger movement is more,” he said.
Pench reserve is home to around 40 to 45 tigers in the core and 16 in the buffer, according to wildlife officials. Since January 1, nine tigers of Pench have died, including five in the buffer area.