Kawal re­serve sees in­crease in pres­ence of tigers, poach­ers

Poach­ers had killed a tiger and five lo­cals ar­rested had ad­mit­ted to their crime.

The Sunday Guardian - - COVERT - S. RAMA KR­ISHNA HYDERABAD

Sus­tained ef­forts by the Cen­tral and state for­est de­part­ments have en­sured in­creased pres­ence of tigers in the Kawal Tiger Re­serve (KTR) in Mancherial dis­trict in the north­ern tip of Te­lan­gana over the years, but in a sad de­vel­op­ment, the pres­ence of poach­ers, too, has gone up re­cently. The bru­tal killing of a three-year-old tiger by elec­tro­cu­tion in the forests last month has re­vealed this shock­ing fact.

For­est of­fi­cials in a joint op­er­a­tion with the wild life crime con­trol bureau have found a 3.5 km long elec­tri­cal fence con­nected to a 11 KV power line in the thick jun­gle. This fence is used to trap and kill tigers roam­ing the area for their prey an­i­mals dur­ing nights. The tiger, recorded in the CCTV cam­eras in the for­est, dis­ap­peared since last week of Oc­to­ber 2018.

Ini­tially, it was thought that the big cat might have gone to ad­join­ing forests in Ma­ha­rash­tra or Ch­hat­tis­garh where, too, some areas have been declared tiger sanc­tu­ar­ies. How­ever, on a tip off, for­est of­fi­cials found that a gang of poach­ers had killed the tiger and five lo­cals ar­rested in this con­nec­tion had ad­mit­ted to their crime. They sold the skin and claws of tiger to the traders in Hyderabad.

The ac­cused had shown the place where the car­cass of tiger was buried and con­fessed il­le­gally ar­rang­ing an elec­tri­cal fence. It is still to be probed whether they had the sup­port of any for­est staff in con­nect­ing the fence to a high ten­sion power line. As the tiger re­serve closes for tourists after 7 pm, the mis­cre­ants give power con­nec­tion to the fence to tar­get the tigers which roam around mostly in nights.

The ar­rested had also told the of­fi­cials that they had killed the tiger for the sake of its skin and claws which com­mand a huge price in the mar­ket and they were in touch with some smug­glers who had links with the traders out­side the coun­try. One of the ar­rested Guglavat Prakash, a lo­cal tribal, was ar­rested in con­nec­tion with poach­ing of a nil­gai in Kawal forests. The un­earthing of this tiger killing has dis­mayed the Te­lan­gana for­est of­fi­cials who only a month ago were cel­e­brat­ing the in­creased pres­ence of tigers in the Kawal Re­serve which came into be­ing since 2012. This 2,015 sq km tiger re­serve is con­sid­ered to be a global hub, con­ducive for the growth and sur­vival of tigers, thanks to its ter­rain and cli­mate. They es­ti­mated pres­ence of 12 tigers in the area.

This is not the first a tiger has been killed by poach­ers in Kawal re­serve. In De­cem­ber 2016, of­fi­cials re­cov­ered a tiger skinned body burnt in­side the for­est and reg­is­tered a case. There were in­stances of tiger killings in 2014, 2012, 2011, 2008, 2006, 2003 and 1985. The pres­ence of tigers was less be­fore Kawal was just a wildlife sanc­tu­ary since 1965 be­fore it be­came a tiger re­serve six years ago.

The for­est de­part­ment reg­is­tered 84 cases of killing of wild an­i­mals by poach­ers in 2015-16, fol­lowed by 79 cases in 2016-17, 78 cases in 2017-18 and more than 70 cases in the cur­rent year, till Jan­uary first week.

For­est of­fi­cials ad­mit­ted that most of the killings of dif­fer­ent kinds of wild an­i­mals go un­re­ported as there is no in­for­ma­tion from the lo­cals, mostly trib­als. Poach­ers en­cour­age lo­cals to kill an­i­mals for meat, while they take away skin and bones, claws etc.

The thick forests that con­nect three states—te­lan­gana, Ma­ha­rash­tra and Ch­hat­tis­garh—and the flow of ma­jor river Go­davari and its half a dozen trib­u­taries through the area and the avail­abil­ity of a large num­ber of small an­i­mals and its rich flora and fauna have made Kawal an ideal tiger re­serve. How­ever, lack of aware­ness of lo­cals in some vil­lages in the for­est and poach­ers have be­come a threat to tigers.

Chief Con­ser­va­tors of Forests Shar­a­vanan told this news­pa­per on phone from Mancherial that the Kawal has emerged as a big habi­tat for tigers in the coun­try and their pop­u­la­tion has reg­is­tered a jump in the last six years. The pop­u­la­tion of other wild an­i­mals, too, went up, thanks to sus­tained ef­forts by both the Cen­ter and states. He ad­mit­ted that crime against tigers and other wild an­i­mals, too, went up over the years.

Poach­ers from Mumbai and Hyderabad have made it a point to visit Kawal and hire lo­cals to kill tigers of late. It was dif­fi­cult for them to en­ter the tiger zones from Ma­ha­rash­tra and Ch­hat­tis­garh due to their in­ac­ces­si­bil­ity. Kawal tiger re­serve is 60 km from Mancherial and 280 km from Hyderabad and is well con­nected by road.

Poach­ers have been re­sort­ing to prac­tices like poi­son­ing of an­i­mal killed as prey to the tigers and elec­tro­cu­tion and shoot­ing by guns dur­ing nights. Though the pres­ence of tigers went up in the last few years, there was no im­prove­ment in the vigil and surveil­lance in the forests, due to inad­e­quate staff and in­fra­struc­ture. The lat­est killing of tiger is ex­pected to see some move­ment among the of­fi­cials.

The Kawal Re­serve is con­sid­ered con­ducive for the growth and sur­vival of tigers.

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