Tiger attacks: Pilibhit death toll climbs to 22, but no solution in sight
Forest officials have blamed the deaths on man-animal conflicts due to the absence of a reliable buffer zone along the core area of the reserve.lucknow Updated: Jan 19, 2018 19:11 IST
The death of yet another man in a tiger attack near the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR) on January 16 has once again swung the spotlight on the growing problem of man-animal conflicts in the region.
The Pilibhit forest area, situated on the Nepal border, was declared as a tiger reserve by the then Samajwadi Party government in 2014. Tiger attacks have claimed at least 22 lives in the region since then.
“There’s nothing worse than being killed by a tiger. It is neither an accident nor a murder. Your disfigured dead body is the last memory your family will have of you,” said Durga Prasad, a close relative of 50-year-old Mathura Prasad, whose remains were recovered from a spot near the PTR on Tuesday. A post-mortem report confirmed that he was killed a tiger.
A day before the incident, a 28-year-old man – identified as Rajesh Kumar – was killed by another tiger in a sugarcane field six kilometres away from the place where Prasad’s body was found. Forest officials confirmed that two different cats were involved in the attacks.
“It is a sad incident. It seems like the victim simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” an official said.
Lack of buffer zone
Three people were killed in tiger attacks between October and December 2016, two years after the PTR was inaugurated.
Forest officials blamed the deaths on man-animal conflicts due to the absence of a reliable buffer zone along the core area of the reserve. “At some places, people have agricultural farms hardly five metres away from the boundary of the reserve,” said PTR divisional forest officer Kailash Prakash. “This, along with the non-fenced 670-kilometre-long boundary of the tiger reserve interspersed by 275 villages, increases the chances of man-animal conflicts.”
Assurances, no action
The state government has failed to come up with a practical solution to the problem despite frequent protests by local residents.
Union minister for women and child welfare Maneka Gandhi, who is also the member of Parliament from Pilibhit, had announced last August that the forest would be fenced off. Though the forest department received Rs 50 lakh for the purpose, work is yet to begin.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath held a meeting with local forest and district administration officials on the issue when he visited Pilibhit last year, but no concrete plan was chalked out. Even experts seem to have shunned the reserve.
“Not a single study has been carried out on the forest’s ecosystem since the time it was declared a tiger reserve. The forest department had announced one such project in 2017, but it is yet to begin,” said forest conservator VK Singh.