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Forest dept says ST-5 may be dead, FIR to be filed soon

About two months after tigress ST-5 went missing from the Sariska Tiger Reserve (STR) and intensive combing operations were taken up to search the big cat, the forest department on Saturday said that the tigress is likely to be dead and an FIR will be filed soon

jaipur Updated: Apr 21, 2018 22:11 IST
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
Rajasthan news
The last pugmarks of tigress ST-5 were reported on February 24, 2018, while the last photographic evidence of the same was obtained on January 19.(HT File)

About two months after tigress ST-5 went missing from the Sariska Tiger Reserve (STR) and intensive combing operations were taken up to search the big cat, the forest department on Saturday said that the tigress is likely to be dead and an FIR will be filed soon.

“For investigation purposes we are presuming that ST-5 is dead. In case, it is found alive, we will file an FR (closure report),” said G Vishwanath Reddy, chief wildlife warden, Rajasthan.

Gobind Sagar Bhardwaj, the chief conservator of forest (CCF) and field director, STR, said, “Orders have been issued for registering of FIR against unknown persons under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 to conclude what happened to the tigress. An officer of the rank of assistant conservator of forest will carry out the investigation,” he added.

A meeting of the standing committee of the Rajasthan State Wildlife Board was held in Sariska on Saturday. Issues about STR such as staff crunch, radio collars for all tigers, strengthening of monitoring and implementation of the recommendations of the VP SIngh committee were taken up in the meeting.

Former Rajasthan director general of police Ajit Singh is the chairman of the standing committee. Other members are Valmik Thapar, Dharmendra Khandal, Girish Kushwaha and Charles Ratnaswami. The standing committee was formed to manage the day-to-day issues as the State Wildlife Board, which functions under the chief minister, meets twice or thrice a year.

The forest department officials have also expressed unhappiness over the Wildlife Institute of India’s (WII’s) uncooperative attitude. In three letters written by Bhardwaj to the WII, the department had sought experts to help trace the missing tigress. However, there was no response from WII, said Bhardwaj.

In his latest letter to the WII director dated April 20, 2018, the CCF has alleged that the WII’s monitoring teams misinformed the Sariska administration, which led to delay in registering of FIR and subsequent investigations.

Bhardwaj’s wrote if a timely concluding opinion about the ST-5 tigress had been conveyed by the WII, then it would have saved the forest department and the state government from embarrassment in reporting about the status of the missing tigress.

In addition, he said that a WII team gave its professional opinion on Friday in the presence of CS Ratnasamy, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, and Valmik Thapar, both members of standing committee of Rajasthan Wildlife Board.

“Your experts stated that the reality behind the intermittent signals could be from signals of ST 13, but not ST 5. The reason your experts quoted behind this was very close frequency of radio signal of ST 13 and ST 5 viz. 150.150 MHz and 150.100 MHz respectively,” read the CCF’s letter.

The last pugmarks of the tigress were reported on February 24, 2018, while the last photographic evidence of the same was obtained on January 19. The radio collar on the tigress was installed by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and was being monitored by its team. As per the information provided by the team, the collar was functional till February 7.

However, on March 28, the monitoring team of WII gave a message about the receiving of radio signal of ST-5 and reported receiving intermittent signals of the tigress till April 17. The STR administration wrote thrice to the WII earlier this month requesting them to send experts who would help them in locating the tigress but the experts were never sent.

The WII is being paid by the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India (NTCA) under an MoU to protect and conserve tigers in STR. But the institute is facing criticism for negligence.

First Published: Apr 21, 2018 22:11 IST