Relocation of a tigress from the Kanha sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh to the neighbouring Panna tiger reserve, where the animal population has recorded a drastic fall in the last four years, got caught in the electoral politics on Sunday.
Led by BJP’s Member of Parliament Faggan Singh Kulaste — one of the members who flashed currency notes in the Lok Sabha during the July 22, 2008 trust vote —legislator Narayan Patta and a minister, locals didn’t allow the big cat to be flown to Panna.
The protesters, which also included hoteliers and guides, said relocation would hit tourism. “In four years, Panna has lost 28 tigers. We’re protesting as safety of tigers in Panna is still under cloud,” Kulaste told HT from Kanha.
He quoted a report submitted to the Supreme Court by tiger scientist Dr Raghu Chandawat. The report blamed poaching for tiger deaths in Panna. Sunday’s protest was the first after Chandawat moved the SC in 2004.
“The tigresses being relocated are radio-collared for monitoring through satellite systems and manually through a dedicated team of forest guards,” L.K. Chaudhary, field director of Panna reserve, had told HT on Saturday.
Maheshwari Navneet, a wildlife watcher, who moved the Madhya Pradesh High Court for a stay on relocation, said the tigress was being relocated from the core area in violation of the guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority. “Moreover, a pregnant tigress is being relocated to show that the animals mated within days of reaching Panna. This is a cover-up,” he alleged.
The view found an echo in a letter sent to the Prime Minister by experts like Belinda Wright, Valmik Thapar and Bitto Seghal. They said the relocation was being done in most “unscientific” manner and demanded a CBI inquiry into tiger deaths in Panna.
The forest department, however, will go ahead with the plan. “Once we catch the tigress, she’ll be relocated to Panna,” a senior official, who didn’t wish to be identified, said. Principal conservator of forests H.S. Pabla could not be contacted.