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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

Another tiger loses life in eco-sensitive rail zone connecting India

 Photographs of tiger- carcasses lying on railway tracks could never evoke a feeling of happiness. It saddens the wildlife lovers who would always want to see the majestic animal in the wild, freely taking strides or stalking a prey. But carrying such somber details become necessary to shake up and wake -up the agencies involved in development and the officials accountable  for striking an equilibrium  between environment and economics. Another young tiger died in the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ )of Balaghat-Gondia-Ballarshah  railway tracks on March 8 . Identified as a  T14, about 18 month old tigress of Navegaon national park ,located in Gondia district of Maharashtra. The Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Navegaon is home to almost 60% of the bird species found in the entire Maharashtra. Every winter, flocks of migratory birds visit the lake.

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

T14 was run over by a goods train around 8am to 8.15 am on March 8. The young tigress s had died of internal injuries as a post mortem report indicated backbone injury. Her right paw was missing and sniffer dogs were deployed to look for the missing body part to rule out trafficking . Though the tigress was cremated around 3 pm on Sunday, two of its siblings- both males were being tracked by the forest department officials.

Wake up Railways , Wakeup

This is one of the many deaths of  wild animals including the tigers due to frequent train hits on the Gondia-Ballarshah section, the South East Central Railway (SECR) has failed to take any wildlife mitigation measure, especially the track that falls in the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of Tadaoba- Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR).After the past incidents, the  several mitigation measures were promised and orders issued, but the  railways' whistle has refused to wake up its own officials. We do need trains but can’t kill tigers and other animals also. We need to strike a balance between the much needed development  but without  derailing  the efforts of the forest department  to while managing the  green cover to the country , very important in the times of Global Warming.According to the official data, over a decade, over 50 wild animals have died in train hits. These deaths include 5 tigers, 3 sloth bears, 2 leopards, 4 hyenas, 4 gaurs, over 20 wild boars, several nilgais and a deer. In June 2020, when the lockdown was in force, 13 wild boars died in train hit.

Gondia-Ballarshah: The Death Trap for Animals 

All these deaths have occurred between Ballarshah-Junona-Sindewahi-Talodi-Nagbhid-Brahmapuri section. The death toll may be even high if the section near Navegaon National Park is taken into consideration. Several wild animal deaths also go unrecorded. “After the death of 3 tiger cubs on November 15, 2018, in Junona area by a speeding train, the then chief conservator of forests (CCF) Chandrapur SV Ramarao had ordered a survey on mitigation steps to be suggested to SECR and also recommended a five-pronged strategy. Ramarao had recommended new underpasses in most vulnerable forested ranges of Mamla, Junona, Sindewahi, Chichpalli, Talodhi, Balapur and Nagbhid ranges in Brahmapuri and Chandrapur divisions.  “We identified at least 19 railway poles where trains should run with a caution of 40 kmph. These patches fall under Junona, Mamla, Babupeth, Lohara, Mindala, and Brahmapuri,” state wildlife board member Bandu Dhotre, who was part of the survey, had  informed the media in Nagpur .“However, none of the measures are being followed and no mitigation steps like underpasses are being taken,” Dhotre added. The Gondia-Chandrapur-Ballarshah section has 60km of the railway line passing through dense forest patches inhabited by wild animals and more importantly, it is a corridor used by tigers. Forest officials have been writing to the railways since 2012 but till now, no efforts have been taken to mitigate the damage. SECR’s chief public relation officer (CPRO) Saket Ranjan, Bilaspur, had said, “We have already issued instructions to train drivers to restrict speed on tracks around Tadoba landscape. They have also been told to blow the whistle continuously and blink lights on forest stretches so that animals are alerted. Though there is no special plan for physical mitigation measures as such. We are ready to discuss with the forest department.”Senior forest officials in Maharashtra said , “Frequent deaths of wild animals in train accidents are a cause  for concern. We will take the follow up of the report submitted by Ramarao. Most of the tracks around Tadoba landscape fall in the environmental sensitive zones and hence, strong mitigation measures by railways are the need of hour.”

Also read :Tale of Missing Tigers of Ranthambhore: 4 More Takes the Count to 34

A regional empowered committee (REC) member of the Union ministry of Environment and Forest said, “This was for the first time that the survey was done after the Gondia-Ballarshah broad gauge was fully commissioned in 1999. In the years to come, the number of trains will increase and apparently will affect more animals.” Dhotre said this is one of main reasons why greens are opposing the up -gradation of the railway line through the Melghat Tiger Reserve in Amravati. 

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