Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Another tiger killed in Karnataka

It is frustrating that another young tiger has been poached in Kollegal taluk, bordering the Billigiri Ranga Temple wildilife sanctuary in Karnataka, which boasts of having the highest population (290) of this critically endangered species. The pelt of a young tiger, which had probably just about weaned away from its mother, was recovered this morning (Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010). The seller, Mahadeva, has been arrested. The forest cell is on the trail of two others who apparently sold the pelt to Mahadeva.

As many as five tiger skins have been recovered in the last nine months, indicating that the trade in wildlife products is bigger and larger than what the lackadaisical Karnataka forest department believes. Tigers, leopards and elephants are being poached with impunity, the poachers virtually cocking a snook at the authorities who seem content to laze in the comfort of their officers.

The less said about the forest minister (FM), who is incidentally also the chief minister of Karnataka. That he has barely visited the tiger reserves since taking charge 20 months ago, reflects that he cares very little about wildlife and forests. For some (rather obvious) reason the FM has never commented on the death of a tiger or a leopard. Instead, he has fired those who have espoused the cause of widlife and ecology, putting the fear of reprimand (tranfers) in the hearts of the Indian Forest Service (IFS) cadre. That is the state of affairs of Karnataka's dwindling wildlife and its shrinking habitat.

The forest cell may have nabbed Mahadeva (he has confessed that he bought the skin from a duo from Tamil Nadu), but it will imperative that they get to the root of the trade and crack the poacher-seller-buyer nexus. In the past, arrests of sellers have been made. But the poachers have seldom been traced or arrested.

A year ago, the pelt of a tiger (poached in Bandipur) was recovered by the forest staff near Bagarhole. Two conduits (seller in this case) were arrested. Though they spilled the beans, neither the forest department nor the police could arrest the thug who had shot the tiger. Th ereason: he is a local politician's son. Intriguingly, the files are gathering dust. The poacher reportedly is active again.

In such a scenario, where the poacher walks free, only God can save our wildlife.

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