Madhya Pradesh government announced on Thursday the formation of a committee headed by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to monitor the protection of tigers in the forests of Bandhavgarh, considered among the safest reserves for big cats in India.
The decision came a day after HT reported concerns expressed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) about the safety of tigers in the reserve. It flagged sloppy patrolling, shrinking prey base, increasing territorial battles among the big cats and poaching as some of the reasons for a spike in tiger deaths in Bandhavgarh, which has about 70 of these animals.
Alarm bells rang for the NTCA after the killing of two tigresses earlier this year, including a radio collared tigress in Bandhavgarh. It then asked its regional office in Nagpur to look into the cause of growing tiger deaths in the reserve.
Although NTCA's regional office submitted its report in June, state authorities took their time to react.
In between, NTCA's assistant inspector general Vaibhav C Mathur wrote to the state's chief wildlife warden and the field director Bandhavgarh reserve on June 24 asking them to "take note of the recommendations as certain inadequacies have been found in prevailing systems in the Bandhavgarh tiger reserve".
Mathur had stressed in his letter that the state government should "report compliance" on the recommendations at an "early date" to NTCA.
While the issue of safety of tigers remained tangled in bureaucratic red tape, two more tigers and two cubs were found dead since the June report.
The new 12-member committee will have the state forest minister as its vice-president as well as five official members, three wildlife experts and two members of the tribal advisory council.
The three wildlife experts will be HS Panwar, Anish Aandheriya and Ujjwal Sharma.