Friday, July 13, 2007

PM worried about vanishing tigers, seeks timely action

Thursday, July 12, 2007

From correspondents in Delhi, India, 10:02 PM IST

Expressing concern over the vanishing tigers of India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked wildlife authorities to ensure that villagers living inside tiger sanctuaries are offered an attractive package for relocation.

In a review meeting held Wednesday, the prime minister called for time-bound action to relocate 270 villages in the critical and core areas in sanctuaries by offering attractive packages to villagers. He also directed that states be requested to fill vacancies of frontline staff urgently.
While relocating human habitat from sanctuaries can save the big cats, villagers have in many cases opposed such a move.

'In an effort to revitalise Project Tiger the government has created an autonomous National Tiger Conservation Authority with effective powers. The government has also sanctioned the National Wild Life Crime Control Bureau aimed at strengthening anti-poaching activity,' said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office Thursday.

Wildlife experts believe tiger numbers have dwindled drastically - from about 10,000 fifty years ago to 3,700 in the 2003 census to perhaps no more than 1,000 at present.
A count in 16 reserves in central Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan showed depletion of tiger population by up to 50 percent, according to officials of the Wildlife Institute of India.

Destruction of natural habitats and rampant poaching were cited as the main reasons behind the disappearing tigers. Poaching was spurred by a thriving trade in tiger skin and parts in China and Southeast Asia where they are used for robes and for preparing traditional medicines.
Other follow-up measures discussed at the meeting included strengthening protection and anti-poaching activity through a Tiger Protection Force of local residents and ex-servicemen.
Manmohan Singh pointed out that it would be effective to develop a model where ex-servicemen train and create a tiger protection force using local, mostly tribal residents in nearby villages, thereby providing them with income opportunities and create a bond between them and the park. This could be piloted in major tiger sanctuaries.

Another measure discussed at the meet was the creation of a Park Development Fund (PDF) and Park Development Committee (PDC) for every wildlife sanctuary. A model for this already exists in the Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh.


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