The killing of the tiger by forest officials in Kerala, which was already shot with tranquilizer darts has kicked up a fresh controversy.
The setting up of a steering committee to oversee conservation efforts for the striped cat, as proposed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority would have helped the state to deal with the man-animal conflict in Wayanad more effectively.
The state government in Kerala is yet to set up the committee, as envisaged by the Wildlife Protection Act.
Several states including Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Arunanchal, Mizoram, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh have already set up the panel.
Section 38 of the Act which deals with tiger protection and related issues has proposed the setting up of such a committee in the state. As per Section 38 (u), the state governments may set up steering committees for coordination, monitoring, protection and conservation of tigers, co-predators and prey animals in the tiger range states. The steering committees should have the Chief Minister as the chairperson and the Wildlife Minister as the vice-chairperson. One of the objectives of the committee is to foster better coordination among various agencies and departments.
The killing of the tiger by forest officials in Kerala, which was already shot with tranquilizer darts has kicked up a fresh controversy. Wildlife conservationists in the state are demanding that the National Tiger Conservation Authority should probe the incident as the killing of a tiger would amount to the violation of the Wildlife Protection Act.
The incident has also brought to the fore the widely-discussed issue of the setting up of the Wayanad Tiger Reserve. With its rich tiger population and proximity to other wildlife sanctuaries like Nagarhole, Bandipur and Mudumalai, Wayanad had found itself as a contender for the status of a tiger reserve. The Ministry of Environment and Forests had expressed its willingness to consider a tiger reserve in Wayanad, provided a proposal comes forward from the Kerala government.
There was widespread opposition from the locals against the move to declare Wayanad as a tiger reserve. However, the issue came to an end after Chief Minister Oommen Chandy recently made it clear that the state government does not want a tiger reserve in Wayanad.
The incident has also raised questions on the violation of the Wildlife Act. “The officials were well within their powers to do what they did. As per Section 11 of the Wildlife Act, if the officials find any animal causing threat to human life, they can take an action in good faith.
Moreover, it was an action taken to address the social concern in the region. It was essential to address the social concern as otherwise, the issue would have created more havoc,” opined wildlife expert Dr P E Easa. Regarding the setting up of the Wayanad Tiger Reserve, it is essential to win public confidence and the public should be educated on the various aspects, he pointed out.
There is a need for ‘perception management’ as far as tiger reserves are concerned, opined conservation observer and expert James Zacharias.
“The authorities should take up the matter seriously. There is an urgent need for perception management regarding the issue of the tiger reserve and tiger conservation,” he said.