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Ashutosh Mishra

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: If reports in a section of the media are to be believed the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has decided to suspend the tiger translocation programme that had brought the Satkosia tiger reserve into focus.

The NTCA is apparently miffed with the state wildlife wing officials’ mishandling of the project that led to the death of male tiger, Mahaveer and forced the confinement of tigress Sundari. Both the animals had been brought to Satkosia from Madhya Pradesh to kickstart the translocation programme which, however, turned controversial soon after.

Now the NTCA wants Sundari, currently lodged in a small enclosure at Satkosia, ‘withdrawn and brought to Ghorela centre at Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.’ The country’s apex body for the conservation of striped big cats has let its displeasure at the handling of the project be known and expressed reservations about the decision to confine the female tiger within an enclosure on the ground of ‘being dangerous to human life’ without following the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

The NTCA has also referred to the death of Mahaveer within the boundaries of Satkosia Tiger Reserve last year and underscored the preliminary finding of experts about the tiger has been poached. All this has made the NTCA conclude that in case of both the animals monitoring and management was not in keeping with the authority’s protocol.

The NTCA has, therefore, decided to suspend the tiger translocation programme at Satkosia till the ground situation improves in keeping with its guidelines and subsequent feasibility study by the authority. Embarrassingly for the state wildlife authorities, the project has been dealt a blow at a time when they were thinking of putting it back on the track following consultation with experts and the local villagers in Satkosia.

The project had started showing signs of losing its way after the residents of villages on the periphery of Satkosia reserve raised a hue and cry over the predatory raids of Sundari on their habitations. There were protests in the area and the locals blocked a major road after the tigress mauled an old man.

At their wits’ trying to curb her habit of wandering into human habitations wildlife officials were finally forced to capture her and put her back into the enclosure that had been her home for a few weeks after her arrival in Satkosia from Madhya Pradesh. In short Sundari never really got acclimatized to her new environs in Satkosia and her behaviour remained a cause of concern for the wildlife authorities as well as the residents of villages around the sanctuary.

This was seen as a failure on the part of state officials handling the project. There were no such problems with tiger Mahaveer. But as luck would have it he fell into a snare laid by poachers on the outer fringe of the sanctuary and succumbed to a wound caused by the ropes in his neck. Apparently the officials managing the sanctuary and the project had not accounted for the presence of poachers in the area. They had failed once again. Hence the NTCA cannot be faulted for its decision to suspend the project irrespective of the embarrassment the move has caused to the state authorities.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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