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Sunday, Aug 18, 2019

HT Exclusive: Fact-finding panel seeks details of tiger census from Corbett officials

dehradun Updated: Aug 03, 2017 20:49 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times
Tiger skins command high prices in the black market due to demand from trophy collectors.
Tiger skins command high prices in the black market due to demand from trophy collectors.(PHOTO FOR REPRESENTATION PURPOSE)

DEHRADUN: A fact-finding committee investigating a tiger skin seizure case has written to the principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) demanding whether all 163 big cats of the reserve were photographed in the Phase IV monitoring of tiger population.

Recently, the Uttarakhand government had announced that the tiger population at Corbett was up from 163 in 2015 to 208 in 2017.

The letter, a copy of which is with Hindustan Times, has asked PCCF RK Mahajan to answer all queries at the earliest. Mahajan received the letter on August 2 and forwarded the letter to chief wildlife warden Digvijay Singh Khati. “I have received the queries from the committee and I will ask the wildlife wing to reply,” Mahajan told Hindustan Times.

The annual Phase IV monitoring is held in all tiger reserves on the basis of photographic evidences. This stage of survey helps to establish a minimum number of tigers in the reserves.

“If all 163 tigers are photographed again in 2017, it means there was no possibility of poaching inside Corbett. But, if there’s a difference, Corbett will have to justify the numbers. During the seizure of five tiger skins, 130 kg of tiger bones were also confiscated, which indicates more than five tigers were killed,” a committee member asserted.

The Special Task Force had seized five tiger skins and nearly 130 kg of tiger bones from a poacher, Ramchander, in March 2016.

In 2015, the Corbett management had conducted the monitoring in association with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII). The wildlife wing did not conduct the monitoring in 2016. In December 2016-January 2017 , the monitoring was conducted with the support of World Wide Fund For Nature, India which found at least 208 tigers in the reserve.

“We have asked the Corbett management why it didn’t conduct monitoring in 2016, especially when till 2015 the WII was doing it. In addition, we have questioned why it took assistance from a NGO when the WII is willing to support Corbett,” the committee member said

Additional principal chief conservator of forest Dhananjai Mohan was the first to investigate the case. In his report, Mohan mentioned that the accused took officials to a spot where there was no direct or indirect evidence of tiger poaching.’Sources claimed his report ‘kind of’ gave a clean chit to the accused. “There is a possibility of poaching of few tigers as the accused is well versed with the area,” Mohan wrote in his report.

Former wildlife warden Rajeev Mehta had accused the chief wildlife warden and the forest officers of ‘erasing’ evidence. He had also alleged the top forest officers did not investigate the case throughly. He had written to the chief minister, the forest minister and also the Prime Minister’s Office. Following his plea, the fact-finding panel committee was constituted about two months ago.

First Published: Aug 03, 2017 20:49 IST

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