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Are Lion Tailed Macaque More Fortunate than Panna Tigers: A Tale of Two Projects

Almost a  year after the Karnataka high court stayed the project that had further threatened the already endangered lion tailed macaque (LTM) ((Macaca silenus), endemic to the Sharavathi river valley nestled in the Western Ghats; the sword of Damocles continues to hang over the primates. The Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) had launched a geothermal survey  with heavy machines to ascertain if the 2000 MW underground pump storage hydro-electric project was feasible. Besides LTM, the Sharavathi river valley is also home to a diverse array of species and sustains very rich biodiversity. Though the  court stay continues, the south Indian state has not yet withdrawn the project. For the time being, the power project may not have been in the priority list of the government after the change in the political guard, it continues to stare at LTM menacingly. Sharavathi Valley, a Jewel in the Western Ghats The project was proposed within the core area of 902 sq km in the Sharavathi Valle

8- Year After Tiger Killing, Poachers Get Jail Sentence in MP


In a rare success against the tiger killers, ten poachers were convicted by a court in Katni, a small town surrounded by thick jungles, in Madhya Pradesh. It took over 8 years’ of investigations and numerous  court hearings to bring the guilty to the book. The Chief Judicial Magistrate of Katni, Indukant Tiwari pronounced rigorous imprisonment of 5 years  and a fine of Rs 10,000 on each,on February 8 this year.  On a cold wintery night in December 2012,  the full grown tiger was  killed by  passing electricity from a 10000 KV supply line passing over the farm field of Pappu Kol, an electrician in a small village of Badwah ,Barahi, barely 12 kms away from Katni town. The only crime of the big cat was that it was visible  in fields straying from the thick forest area in Badwah. Kol along with his nine other accomplices watched the tiger for few days and then decided to kill.

Electrocution Leads to Painful Death

The forest department learnt about the incident almost 30 hours after the death of the tiger. A team of two veterinarians – Dr Nitin and Sanjeev Gupta posted at the nearby Bandhavgarh national  park inspected the  crime scene. The daring advocate  from Katni  Manjula Shrivastava who  ensured that wildlife criminals go to jail said quoting the court order,  “  the tiger body had sever burn and internal body parts including the heart, lungs, liver   and brain had damaged”.  She has been representing the state forest department in many cases and some of the dreaded wildlife criminals are punished after her hard work in courts. Kol told the court that the wires were spread to almost 300 meters of distance and the current was spread to kill the tiger. Over 500 meters of GI- wire and other material used to poach the tiger were later recovered from the   village and farm fields. 

Also read: Fresh Tiger Crisis in MP Midst Favourable Poaching Conditions

Strategically placed between Bandhavgarh and Panna tiger reserves, Katni is one of the biggest junctions of India. “ It has been a heaven for wildlife smugglers who are involved in trafficking of  body parts of the animals as large number of trains crisscross  the railway yard,” a senior police officer posted in the district said.  A large number of professional poachers also live around Katni who have been actively involved in tiger and leopard killings across Indian jungles. “ Many of them have been in  and out of jails  but they are still engaged in poaching. During the poaching season in winters, many of them get contracts for tiger killings from international syndicate”, cops said. 

Myths Behind Tiger Killings

Tiger scare  might have been the reason behind  the killing of the majestic animal by Pappu Kol and his accomplices , Ramdas Kol ,Rajju Lunia, Munda Kol, Sukhdeen ,Gulzari , Sandeep Lunia , Uday Singh, Buddhu Kol ,Rajesh alias Durbal Yadav.  Experts claim such killings come under “the category of man -animal conflict.” The Kol tribals thought the tiger would harm them”, said a senior IFS officer posted in the district.  He said that “in the next few years, atleast 4 more tigers were killed near the same spot”.

Also read : Tiger's Epic Walk Raises Serious Environmental Issues

This also highlighted the fact that the tigers are “unsafe” outside the national parks  and that they need “ safe passage or  forest corridors” to  travel from one jungle to other.  “The way human population is increasing, we also need to have more protected areas”, he said.  Besides consumption of tiger bones in traditional Chinese medicines and their hides, the tigers are also killed for its nails, teeth and whiskers, said Manjula Shrivastava, the senior advocate who specializes in wildlife crime.  Many people believe that they get vigor by wearing lockets   carrying tiger   teeth and nails. The tiger whiskers are very tough like plastic wire and there is a superstition that they are poisonous. There is a “belief” of using them as a murder -weapon by making people consume it “unknowingly”. “It may be sharp and pointed and may lead to bleeding but I wonder why anyone would want to eat a tiger whisker !!”, asks a veterinarians associated for long with tigers in a national park.   These body parts are also used for sorcering in many parts of India. “ Such  stories”, said a senior  IFS officer, “ are  far far  away from truth and reality and their propaganda only leads to more tiger poaching”. 

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