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Red Threat on Tiger Census

Ahead of the ambitious tiger census in 2022, there are disturbing reports of disruption in the counting of the big cats in Palamu tiger reserve located in Jharkhand where  Naxalites have yet again threatened the tiger estimation work. Last year there were reports that the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) officials were allegedly taken hostage by the left wing ultras in Palamu when they were carrying out the work of setting up cameras in the jungle to capture the images of the tigers for the census. However, they were released later.  Palamu is not the only tiger reserve  in India facing the red threat. Indravati national park in Chattisgarh, now considered as a Naxal hotspot, and Similipal in Odisha are some other national parks where the Naxals  have affected the wildlife conservation projects. 2022 is an important year for tiger conservation as the tiger range countries – mainly the countries where the big cat is found  in South East Asia  and the Russian Far East - had  decided in

From Unknown Tigress of Kanha to Mother of Panna: The Untold Story of T2

Tigress of Kanha, Panna National park, tiger reserve, UNESCO, tigress of Panna, delivered 7 litters with 21 cubs, Pench National Park with 29 cubs in 8 litters,

As Panna National park reverberates with the roar of tigers, there is one tigress in the park that has contributed almost 33% population of the tiger reserve, now included in the global list of UNESCO biospheres.

T2, the 15- year old tigress of Panna has so far delivered 7 litters with 21 cubs, one of the most fertile tigresses of central India after Collarwali, the superstar of Pench National Park with 29 cubs in 8 litters . But T2’s success story assumes more significance over Collarwali because the former populated Panna when all the tigers of the emerald forest vanished in 2008.

 Also read : World Awaits Another 'Good News' from Collarwali of Pench

Not T2, her Sibling was Scheduled to Fly

Tigress of Kanha, Panna National park, tiger reserve, UNESCO, tigress of Panna, delivered 7 litters with 21 cubs, Pench National Park with 29 cubs in 8 litters,

People may not be knowing that T2, named so after it landed Panna by an Indian air force chopper in March 2009, was not scheduled to be translocated from Kanha National park to Panna .After suspected poaching of all the big cats in Panna national park in 2008, when a tiger reintroduction plan was chalked out , the Madhya Pradesh forest department decided to translocate  two tigress in the first phase–one each from Bandhavgarh tiger reserve and Kanha. The one identified in Kanha was a popular tigress of the core area  and sibling of T2 . The moment people came to know about this, a  major controversy erupted.

“ The chopper of India air force had landed in Kanha and the pilots had a deadline to meet. But at the last moment, the tigress went missing”, reminisces HS Pabla, the then PCCF (Wildlife) who had supervised the whole operation. When the tigress could not be located, her sibling was shifted swiftly . And the rest is history. But before it could be done, there was a lot of drama unfolding behind the curtains. The then Chief Wildlife Warden Dr HS Pabla later revealed in his book: Wildlife Conservation in India -2 Wardens in Shackles

Differences with NTCA, Politicians’ Protests and Court Case

Tigress of Kanha, Panna National park, tiger reserve, UNESCO, tigress of Panna, delivered 7 litters with 21 cubs, Pench National Park with 29 cubs in 8 litters,
When the tiger reintroduction started ,the criteria for selecting the tigress was that she should be about 4 years of age, must be from a large litter, preferably consisting of 4 siblings, so that it has the potential of producing large litters in Panna and not be an isolated animal but, rather, be an animal which is vying for space with its siblings or mother, so that its removal does not create a vacuum in the population.

He writes: “ I was also keen to take a young mother, rather than a virgin tigress, that would have given me the assurance that the animal had no gynecological or other breeding problem. However, I did not pursue this idea as it would have reduced our choices. I also knew that the purists would hate me even more if I disturbed the existing land tenures of tigers.

But when the NTCA approval for the project came in December 2008, it came with the condition that the animals to be translocated should be dispersing animals, approximately two years old, preferably from the buffer zone. By then we had already identified candidate animals, one each in the core areas of Kanha and Bandhavgarh. Changing the selection at this stage would have delayed the project until the following year, as we were already heading into the hot summer.

We wrote to NTCA in this regard, but before our differences could be resolved the two tigresses had been translocated. Although this was only a minor deviation, our critics and the press made quite an issue of our violation of the NTCA guidelines, and it became one of the main planks on which people tried to stall the project later.

Besides, there were a lot of protests taking place in Kanha and Bandhavgarh parks against the translocation. The local politicians including an MP and an MLA also joined hands with the tourist lobby and guides apprehending that it would affect tourism in Kanha . Even there was a petition in the High court to stall the translocation and the case was being heard in the bungalow of a High Court judge in Jabalpur.

“There was another reason for the urgency to shift a tigress from Kanha to Panna national. After a petition to stop the shifting, a judge was already hearing the case in his bungalow in Jabalpur and we had to airlift the tigress before an order was passed or the translocation stayed. We hurriedly shifted the tigress “, a senior official reminisces. However, he said, later the judge also gave his goahead to the project.

After their relocation, first it was T1 that delivered the first litter of cubs in April 2010, followed by T2 in October of 2010. By the end of 2010, there were eight new tiger cubs in Panna along with T1, T2 and T3.

Also read: UNESCO's "Hope for the Planet" Cry doesn't Gel with Ken Betwa Project

Ken Betwa Link Project: A Perpetual Threat

Tigress of Kanha, Panna National park, tiger reserve, UNESCO, tigress of Panna, delivered 7 litters with 21 cubs, Pench National Park with 29 cubs in 8 litters,
Set up in 1981, Panna National Park, Madhya Pradesh, became a tiger reserve in early 1994. Fifteen years later, in 2008, Panna’s official tiger count stood at a shocking zero.

The revelation created a public furore, with forest department officials facing a nationwide backlash. In the last 11 years, the number of tigers has gone up from zero to more than 50, one third of it belongs to T2. In fact there are about 90 tigers in the Panna landscape -the forest divisions surrounding Panna Tiger Reserve- North Panna, South Panna-, Damoh, Sagar and Chhatarpur.But for the past few years, the park is inching towards an existential crisis. The Ken Betwa Link (KBL) Project may spoil all the good work done by the likes of Dr Pabla , R Sreenivasa Murthy, former director of the park and other field directors who carried out wonderful conservation works to make Panna a success amidst lot of anthropogenic pressure around the park.

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