For the first time since it was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1955, the Sariska Tiger Reserve has been closed till September end. Officially, the reason cited is the onset of monsoons, but forest department officials admit the real reason is their inability to prevent poachers who step up activity come the rains.
According to a communiqué received from the state government, the reserve has been closed for effective enforcement against poachers. Another reason given is to ensure tiger breeding and identification of tiger habitats in the reserve. The Rajasthan government has cited increased tourist influx as a reason for the low reproduction rate of tigers in the reserve.
Sariska has been in news because of disappearance of tigers from the reserve. The government constituted a task force to look into the issue and suggest remedial measures. The state government says it wants to ensure effective patrolling as poachers are said to be very active during rains, senior ministry officials told HT. “During monsoon, spotting and catching a tiger is very easy as they can be seen near waterholes, officials say, poaching increases by 50-60 percent.
Besides closing the sanctuary, a strong force of 100 home guards and 30 personnel of Rajasthan Armed Constabulary has been deployed in addition to local staff.
The state government’s action is part of the monsoon patrolling scheme of the ministry. In all, 11 tiger reserves have been allocated Rs. 75.74 lakh for patrolling purpose. But Sariska is the only sanctuary that has been closed down. “It appears the local authorities have felt that they may not be able to cope with the onslaught of poachers if they have to regulate visitors,” an official commented.