The Panna tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh is threatening to go the Sariska way, where th big cats vanished in 2004. Officially, it has just eight surviving male tigers, down from 24 in the 2006 tiger census. Unofficially the figure is one.
Alarmed, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NCTA) has asked the Madhya Pradesh government to airlift two tigresses from the Bandhavgarh tiger reserve, NCTA member-secretary Rajesh Gopal told Hindustan Times.
Panna is the second reserve seeking relocation of tigers. In July, a tiger and a tigress were airlifted to Sariska from Ranthambore.
The decision means the genetic pool would have hybrid characteristics. “The next generation would have features from both the Panna and Bandhavgarh landscapes,” said tiger expert Raghu Chandawat.
A tiger count by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in November-December this year had put the population at eight but independent experts like Chandawat reckon it is just one. “Over 30 WII cameras have been able to capture just one tiger picture,” Chandawat said.
MP Wildlife Board member Shyam Inder Singh has sighted only one tiger in the last three months.
An internal NCTA note blamed poaching and the dacoit menace for the decline. “The anti-dacoit operations have caused considerable disturbance to the habitat, leading to displacement of tigers, apart from poaching.”