A wildlife conservationist seeking justice for the tigress and her two cubs found dead in MP’s Pench reserve is taking the fight online.
Aditya Shakalya, 32, initiated an online petition on change.org titled “Murders at Camp 38: Seeking Justice for the Murder of A Mother & Her Cubs” demanding an independent, high-level investigating committee to look into “the high frequency of unnatural tiger deaths in India”.
The tigress, named Baghin-Nala or canal tigress, and her two seven-month-old cubs were found poisoned in the Pench Tiger Reserve on March 28. Shakalya contends that illegal movement of construction workers in the core area of the forest resulted in the deaths.
“There was a lot of movement of migrant workers inside the area where the tigress was rearing her cubs,” he said. “The workers were using heavy machinery such as tractors, JCB and bulldozers. This is not permissible at all as tigers are very shy animals and they don’t want to be put in public.”
He holds the forest department equally responsible for the 11-year-old tigress’ death, alleging that it affected the movement of the wild cat forcing it to move into an area with a poisoned water body. He also questioned the need of digging a well in an area where a tigress was rearing her cubs.
Regarding how the poison found its way into the water body, Shakalya said, “It is a common practice among villagers living in a forest area to poison a water body to catch a kill... [The villagers] had no idea that the tiger would venture into that zone.”
The forest department arrested four people for poisoning the water.
The online petition also lists a number of tiger deaths in Pench since August last year. Shakalya said high-handedness of the forest department and ignorance of the people were the reasons for the deaths.
Shakalya, who has been running an eco-resort for two years, said he plans to take up the matter nationally.
“I and a couple of locals had approached the forest department after we found that the records were missing of the people who were deployed to work in the area, but were not given any information...It is a serious matter, which needs to get proper attention,” he said.
The online petition had received 4,123 signatures as of filing this report.
Field director Subhranjan Sen, however, denied the allegations. “We have not allowed any heavy machinery inside the core area... We are inquiring into this matter,” he said.