RAIPUR: An investigation by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has exposed the Chhattisgarh forest department’s false claim regarding recovery of a tiger skin in February.
The state police had arrested two men in possession of a tiger shin in Gariyaband, some 90 km south-east of Raipur, in February. The forest department reportedly claimed at that time that the big cat did not belong to the state’s Udanti-Sitanadi tiger reserve (in the Gariyaband-Dhamtari region) and that the tiger was poached in Odisha.
However, the NTCA, through its National Tiger Database, matched the seized tiger skin and concluded that the big cat inhabited the Udanti-Sitanadi reserve.
Pointing out shortcomings in the forest department’s approach, the NTCA said, “There is a lot of confusion, secrecy and (consequently) misreporting in the media. The chief wildlife warden of Chhattisgarh may issue an official version about the incident.”
Strangely, the forest department let the police investigate the case despite the fact under Section 55 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 that it’s not empowered to do so.
The NTCA had written to the state forest department on February 16 and 21 to probe the tiger skin seizure and submit an Action Taken Report on how wildlife protection and anti-poaching activities had been strengthened in the area.
A letter issued by NTCA’s Assistant Inspector General of Forests stated that the investigation officer should adhere to the Wildlife Crime Investigation Manual of the Wildlife Conservation Board and the standard operating procedure issued by the NTCA.
However, during a field visit to Udanti-Sitanadi reserve on March 25-28 to review the case, the NTCA team found that the progress of the case was not satisfactory”.
The Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (wildlife) R K Singh was not available for comments.
But wildlife enthusiast Nitin Singhvi, said, “I was forced to lodge a complaint to the NTCA on February 17 following the wrong claim by the forest department that the tiger whose skin was recovered was from Odisha and about why the forest department, instead of investigating itself, allowed the police to probe the case in contravention to the Wildlife Protection Act.”