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‘Ranthambore lobby preventing tigers’ shifting to Sariska’

Wildlife lovers, former forest officials and NGOs are unhappy over chief minister Vasundhara Raje’s direction to the forest department not to shift tigers to Sariska till remedial measures were taken to make it a safe habitat for the big cats

jaipur Updated: Apr 30, 2018 22:07 IST
Devendra Bhardwaj
Devendra Bhardwaj
Hindustan Times, Alwar
Rajasthan News
The SBWL standing committee visited Sariska following the death of tiger ST-11 and disappearance of tigress ST-5 (in picture)

Wildlife lovers, former forest officials and NGOs are unhappy over chief minister Vasundhara Raje’s direction to the forest department not to shift tigers to the Sariska Tiger Reserve (STR) till remedial measures were taken to make it a safe habitat for the big cats.

Raje’s order came after the standing committee of the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) pointed out loopholes in security and upkeep at the reserve. Among others, the SBWL panel had in its report recommended immediate relocation of 26 villages from STR.

Wildlife lovers said the CM took the decision under pressure from the Ranthambore tourism lobby that does not want Sariska to thrive as a competitor.

The standing committee visited Sariska on April 19, 20 and 21 following the death of tiger ST-11 and disappearance of tigress ST-5.

The CM’s direction put a brake on the plan to relocate a male sub-adult big cat from Ranthambore to Sariska, permission for which has been granted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the top body on issues related to the big cats.

“Sariska is finding itself as an orphan due to indifference of the state government,” said former principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) RN Mehrotra who was at the helm of the state forest department when the efforts to repopulate Sariska began in 2008.

“They have not ensured an inviolate space in Sariska for tigers to breed. No village has been shifted out of the reserve despite a very lucrative relocation package of government of India,” he said. “All other reserves in the country are availing of this package and shifting out villages from the core critical habitat with good results. Procrastination is killing Sariska slowly – first the habitat, then the animals.”

Condemning the decision, STR Tiger Foundation secretary Dinesh Durani alleged the tiger death and disappearance of the tigress were being investigated by people who had never visited the reserve before.

“This decision is the result of pressure from the tourism lobby of Ranthambore. This lobby was against the relocation in 2008, too. Although three tigers have died in one month in Ranthambore, nobody is bothered about it.”

Durani said recently a tigress produced a litter of two cubs at STR and this spoke about the development story of the reserve. “But the Ranthambore lobby has become successful in hampering the progress of STR,” he added.

Former deputy conservator of forest of Sariska, Sunayan Sharma, said the agenda of the lobby was to stop Sariska from developing as a competitor to Ranthambore.

“These are the same people who did not want to follow VP Singh Committee’s recommendation for relocation of tigers in 2008. But that time the government didn’t listen to them,” he said.

Sharma said the bitter truth was that the Ranthambore lobby, top forest officials and the state government wanted to see Sariska without tigers again.

“This is a one-sided decision by the state government. The reality is that Ranthambore tourist lobby does not want tigers to be relocated to STR due to its proximity with the National Capital Region,” said Sanjeev Karagwal, secretary Jungle Watch, an NGO.

“If STR thrives, the entire tourism traffic from NCR and adjoining areas will be diverted to STR. STR has constantly been neglected in comparison to Ranthambore.”

First Published: Apr 30, 2018 22:07 IST