Maharashtra, Goa failed to check unnatural deaths of leopards, tigers: Petition
A wildlife conservationist has filed a criminal writ petition in the Bombay high court (HC) asking for an investigation into the rising number of unnatural deaths of tigers, leopards and other schedule-1 animals in Maharashtra and Goa.
There have been 21 tiger deaths in Maharashtra in 2018 — the highest for the decade and second highest in India.
A total of 23 leopards died in road accidents in the state — the highest in the country.
The public interest litigation (PIL) was admitted in court last month and notices have been issued to all respondents, including the two state governments, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, and Zoological Survey of India.
The next hearing has been scheduled for January 7.
The PIL wants a special investigation team under HC supervision to probe the causes of deaths of animals listed under schedule 1 (highest grade protection) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, in the states over the past decade.
The PIL has asked for the prosecution of government agencies which failed to investigate the deaths by not following the standard operating procedure.
HT has a copy of the petition that calls for action against state officials for alleged negligence and dereliction of duties regarding the lack of protective measures along wildlife corridors.
The petitioners have mentioned the controversial killing of tigress T-1, suspected to be a man-eater, in Pandharkawada forest in Ralegaon, Yavatmal. They want action against the Maharashtra government following NTCA’s report establishing that the tigress’ killing violated laws.
“Guidelines issued in 2011 by the Union environment ministry to tackle human-animal conflict, especially with regard to emergency response mechanism, crowd management, capture, handling, and translocation of big cats are not being followed by state governments and there is no evidence to prove such compliance,” said Nitin Deshpande, petitioner and member of Thane Environment Committee, which is constituted by the Union environment ministry.
The petition mentions statistics from the Wildlife Protection Society of India.
Unnatural deaths of leopards in India increased from 118 in 2014 to 159 in 2017 and that of tigers increased from 26 in 2015 to 50 in 2016.
“This clearly establishes the increase in the unnatural killing of schedule I animals. Our plea seeks a time-bound investigation in cases over 10 years based on judicial discretion and action against negligent officers,” said Sujay Kantawala, a senior lawyer who heads the team for the petitioner.
With a forest area of 50,650 sq km, Maharashtra has four tiger reserves, six national parks and 35 wildlife sanctuaries administered by 14 forest divisions. Goa’s forests cover an area of 2,151 sq km. It has one national park and six wildlife sanctuaries.
“Since the matter is sub judice, we would not like to comment about it. We are making utmost efforts to protect wildlife and will present our defence in the next hearing,” said Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forest (Mantralaya), Maharashtra forest department.