Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh on Sunday accepted that an organised poaching syndicate thrived in the country, and said the involvement of local communities was essential to save the tiger.
The organised poaching network is the “root cause” for tiger killings, and “not only in Uttarakhand”, Ramesh, who was in the state capital to participate in a function, said. “Tiger mortality across India in 2009 was abnormal — it was 20 per cent more than the average,” he said.
Eighty-six tiger deaths were reported last year, according to the National Tiger Conservation Authority and Wildlife
Protection Society of India.
Uttarakhand lost 11 tigers in 2009 as per official records — the highest big cat toll in the state’s history. In the first six days of 2010 alone, three tiger deaths have been reported in the country, including one from Uttarakhand. On January 5, a six-year-old tiger was found dead in the Dhikala range in the state’s Corbett National Park.
Ramesh said he had suggested increasing the entry fee for national parks and using the collected amount for the benefit of local communities.
A ‘Van Gujjar (Forest Tribal) Social Protection Corps’, empowered to save the tiger, would be launched in the state, he said. The minister, however, said Uttarakhand had done a better job of protecting tigers “in comparison with other states such as Orissa”.
Ramesh admitted that 17 of the total 37 tiger reserves in India were on the verge of losing their tiger populations.
This year, tiger conservation might be a bigger challenge as 2010 is the Chinese year of the tiger — there will be a huge demand for tiger parts in China, the minister pointed out.