Poaching resurfaces at National Park?

The Hindu , Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Correspondent : Lalit Shastri
BHOPAL, DEC. 20. The poaching menace has raised its ugly head inside the Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh where the remains of a tiger, said to have been killed by poachers, were found on Sunday. This is the second poaching incident inside or in the vicinity of the Pench Tiger Reserve within a short span of just one week. In the earlier incident, a tigress and her cub were slaughtered by poachers. Their carcass was found lying just outside the Park area on Friday.

The latest poaching incident surfaced following interrogation of Vijay Singh, a villager from Bichwa-Kurai. He was rounded up on December 17 after he was found having four tiger nails. On the basis of information provided by him, the remains of a tiger were found from a spot at Kurai Ghati overlooking the lush forested valley. This place is about five kilometres from Rukhad.

The area is also being projected as Mowgli Land by the Madhya Pradesh Government to promote eco-tourism and attract foreign tourists. This verdant setting formed the backdrop of the popular Jungle Book authored by Rudyard Kipling. This book is based on Robert Sterndale's Seonee— "Camp Life in the Satpuras". The State Government had even organised a three-day Mowgli Festival here from October 29 to 31 to build the necessary hype to promote eco-tourism.

Some senior foresters here said that poaching would acquire alarming proportions when forest officers at the ground and territorial level show slackness in tracking and field visits. On being contacted, the former State Director General of Police, R.P. Sharma, who is now the Chairman of the NGO, Crusade for Revival of Environment and Wildlife (CREW), stressed the need for tightening the wildlife Protection Act. He said that the killing of endangered species has continued but convictions under this head have been highly unsatisfactory, if not negligible. If endangered species were to be saved, the legal process would have to be given more teeth and proper investigation should become a priority. He said that killing of endangered species, especially tigers and elephants, should be treated by inserting Section (a) to the Indian penal Code sections like Sections 302, 325 and 326. If this was done the killings of endangered species would get proper priority and the culprits would be booked and accounted for.

He especially pointed out that no extra workload was likely to be added to the existing workload of the police because the total number of such cases would be negligible as compared to crime against the public. The Pench National Park was also in news recently due to the sudden spurt in illegal fishing in the Totladoh reservoir on the Madhya Pradesh side of the Pench tiger reserve. This despite a ban on fishing imposed by the Supreme Court. Fishing activity had continued in this reservoir even after the Apex Court order but was stopped by the Maharashtra forest department, which had acted on the April 22, 2002 order of the Nagpur bench of the Maharashtra High Court and forcibly removed the villagers who had settled near the Totladeh Reservoir and were engaged in illegal activity. While the situation remained under control for over two years, reports reaching here by August 2004 confirmed that once more there was large-scale illegal fishing activity in this area.

SOURCE : The Hindu, Tuesday, December 21, 2004

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