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Authorities roll up sleeves to save tigers

After the recent episodes of two tiger deaths due to poaching via electrocution within two months in Maharashtra, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has swung into action to implement a comprehensive set of preventive measures.

DNA had reported the deaths of two tigers and three leopards within the first fortnight of 2017. Of these, deaths of the leopards and a tigress (at Khapa) were linked to poaching.

On Tuesday, NTCA officials, led by Inspector General Debabrata Swain, met officials from the forest department, police, Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MahaVitaran), and wildlife activists.

A senior forest official said measures were discussed to control poaching, electrocution, and wildlife trade and monitoring the movement of certain nomadic communities, which are said to be involved in illegal hunting.

“While tiger populations have risen, mortalities too have increased. Natural deaths are not a concern, but unnatural deaths, especially those due to electrocution and poisoning are,” the official said.

“What makes these deaths more serious is that they have occurred in agriculture dominated areas. Lack of proper corridors may force tigers to disperse areas with human presence where threats of poisoning and electrocution remain,” the official said.

Vulnerable areas will be mapped and joint patrolling will be undertaken by forest and the MahaVitaran staff. Height of electricity poles will be increased to prevent hooking (using a hook and wire to tap into the power supply). These poles will be shifted from forest and agricultural areas wherever possible.

Water holes will be monitored and the water will be tested to detect poisoning. “Water bodies will be developed in forests during the summers to prevent animal movement towards human areas,” the official said. Also, Solar power fencing would prevent crop depredation by animals. The threat of these losses forced farmers to electrify their fences at times, the official said.

“We will form a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to deal with these cases. Insulated cables and underground installations will prevent electrocutions by overhead wires. Awareness and capacity building will be conducted for forest staff and an automatic SMS and call-based system will generate alerts about illegal line tripping, which occurs when an animal is electrocuted,” he added.

Kundan Hate, honorary wildlife warden, Nagpur, who was present at the meeting, said joint patrolling by MahaVitaran linemen and forest officials had revealed live wires before animals were harmed.

Police patils in villages would be asked to keep a record of people who stayed there overnight to monitor the movement of nomadic communities who are said to be involved in poaching.