The Centre wants state governments to improve the forest cover around tiger habitats following Wildlife Institute of India’s (WII) report that tiger population in Central India has declined by over 50 per cent.
A senior environment and forest ministry official said the states have been asked to look into the problem area — falling green cover outside the tiger reserves. “The green buffer area around the tiger reserves has shrinked,” said Q. Quereshi, a senior scientist with the institute.
A recent WII report stated that tiger habitat in most parts of India has declined by over 50 per cent, endangering the survival of the big cat.
A need to develop forest corridors between Kanha and Pench tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh (MP), Satpura and Tadhohari in MP, Melghat reserve in Maharashtra and Indravati in Chhattisgarh has been laid down for the state governments.
Conservation experts on Thursday discussed the measures to protect the tigers including strengthening the field-level mechanism to combat poaching.
The average age of forest guards is close to 50 years and a large number of posts are still lying vacant, an official said, adding that the weapons with the guards are outdated.
Blinda Wright of Wildlife Protection Society of India said that anti-poaching measures are key to prevent tiger killings. “There is a huge demand for tiger body parts all over the world. The only way to save them is to protect them from poachers,” she said.
The government had notified a Wildlife Crime Bureau to check inter-state crime related to tiger body parts but it is yet to begin work. “The Cabinet will soon decide on the strength of the bureau,” an official said.
The finance ministry has asked the Tiger Conservation Authority to reduce the bureau’s manpower. The institute recently detected a huge shortage of prey for the tigers resulting in more intense human-animal conflict. A number of cases of tiger poisoning have also been reported from Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Quereshi said, the core area of tiger reserves cannot hold more than a particular number of tigers and therefore, providing enough prey outside the core area is important.
Chandrawut, a tiger expert, termed the decline in tiger population as a ‘serious crises’ and said the Prime Minister should issue direction to states to redress the issue.