Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tiger Numbers

I was in Panna Tiger Reserve last week and came across something quite disturbing.

While the official figures for the number of tigers in the Park is around 35, locals and forest guides who track tigers say that only 6-7 have been sighted/presence ascertained in recent times. Liberal estimates place the number of tigers in the Park at around 15.

While I have no authority on reporting these numbers, one of the reasons for these figures not being reported from other directions, seems to be this:

* Forest officials are posted to a particular reserve for a fixed amount of time (3 years?). During this period, if they report any change in tiger numbers, they are liable to be questioned and pestered by the media and law enforcement officials. So even if an official inherits a reserve with lesser tigers than documented, he is not likely to report it.

* Researchers in the park depend on the forest officials for permits and for access to the forests. They cannot go against the forest officials by reporting this.

So that leaves nobody to actually report figures, which is disturbing.

The law and media somehow, convolutedly, seem to right now act as a deterrant in the conservation process. What tigers have gone, have gone. The need of the hour is to preserve what is left rather than punish those who have erred.

If there was some way of emancipating the forest officials once, so that figures are voluntarily disclosed truly (with the guarantee that no action will be taken against them), we may be able to get the correct numbers, and remedial measures can be undertaken with speed. Right now, the problem areas never come to light until past the time of debacle.

Additionally, researchers should not have to depend on forest officials for their permits. I think there is already something being done in this direction, though I do not have the details.

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