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A Cheetah By The Tail

 Cheetah  rescue operations after they stray  away from the  safe confines  of  congested  Kuno national park  have been reported   regularly in India  since  September 2022 when  the  maiden  batch of African cat landed in India  amidst much fanfare. But the latest visuals of yet another such action- this time in  a crowded Rajasthan village in Karauli district-put a question mark again  on the safety of the animal.   This cheetah had to be handled physically in order to prevent it from falling into a ravine as it cornered at the crest of the ravine after darting amid a gathering of an huge crowd nearby. Pawan's Life Was At Risk  Rajasthan forest  department officials alerted Kuno  National Park authorities  about the cheetah leading them to a rescue operation. Pawan, the male cheetah had wandered into Rajasthan through Chambal river bank and was spotted by the local villagers who in turn informed the  local authorities. “Male cheetah Pavan was rescued from Karauli district in Raj

Tiger Parts Seizure in Assam Shows Unprotected Areas Are Poachers' Paradise

Tiger skin and bones

Recent seizure of bones and skin of a tiger in Assam leading to arrest of poachers and a  tiger part trader ,former employee of the Wildlife wing  of Delhi forest department ,should be a wake up call for the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) . Body parts of the tiger  from Chandrapur -Gadchiroli districts in Maharashtra were confiscated   more than 2000 kms away in Assam in the last week of June. Poachers killed the tiger outside protected area of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) , skinned it and  placed the bones in a sack. Almost 40% of  India's tigers – more than 1000-live outside the protected area and the region where the Maharashtra tiger was killed is considered as a conflict zone with large cases of man tiger conflict. People here just hate tigers.

Hunted and Hounded, The Tiger Runs for Life

tiger skin

This episode, an eye opener for the investigating agencies, has all the elements which pose serious threat   to the survival of the tiger and also a major challenge to the country’s tiger conservation programmes.  Assam where the body parts were confiscated shares borders with Mizoram, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland and these four states share borders with Myanmar, a major trade route for international syndicate involved in the wildlife trade especially tiger. Perhaps, the  consignment of the 19kg bones  and the skin would have crossed Myanmar to reach the markets in the Far East countries where tiger body parts are consumed in traditional Chinese medicines and liquor but timely  action of  Indian agencies  prevented it. Still, the  smugglers were able to cross so many hurdles  and successfully  smuggled out  the consignment from Maharashtra to  the north eastern extrteme   close to Myanmar . " This  would have not been possible  without  the help of some people within the system", an officiala  quipped.  While working on my book  Breathless, Hunting and Hounded ,the tiger Runs for its Life; I found  at many places in India , the  forest department staff and  those in police are hand in gloves with the poachers and its syndicate. 

Also readRising Tiger Numbers Midst Shrinking Forest Cover Makes No Sense 

Few months ago, after a tip off by Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), an NGO working for tiger protection, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau  (WCCB)  sounded an alert that  poachers were active in the national parks across the country . Almost during the same  time tiger poaching cases were reported from  Chhattisgarh and  Madhya Pradesh  among other places . When the investigations of the Assam case started, it was revealed that the tiger belonged  to  Maharashtra and was killed by a  gang of Bawarias, one of the tribes involved in crime and poaching. Surprisingly , an 81 year old man  Mishram Jhakhad was also arrested. Thirteen years ago he had also  worked with WPSI. Nitin Desai, Central India’s WPSI director said, “this man was introduced to us by two inspectors of Delhi government who requested us to give him a job before he was removed in 2010 after budget constraints.”  

Also readTiger In Chain, Arunachal Forest Minister Goes For Walk

 The consignment was smuggled out from Maharashtra to Assam and would have crossed Myanmar border. WCCB officials said Jakhad controlled and directed a tiger poaching network and illegal trade of tiger body parts. He not only sponsors the illegal trade syndicate but also earns huge money from the poachers and smugglers by blackmailing them. He  would blackmail them, accordidng to  sources,  by saying  he ( Mishram)  could get them ( poachers) arrested.  According to sources, WCCB officials knew Jakhad as he used to share intelligence with them.  "Many times he had double crossed poachers and got them arrested",  sources in the investigating agencies claimed. Interestingly, his younger son had also worked with WCCB, sources claimed . On July 31, 2023, the special investigating team (SIT) of WCCB along with the team from Gadchiroli raided his premises in Dwarka locality of Delhi. Jakhad was arrested with cash 14.8 lakh suspected to be linked to illegal trade in tiger parts. He confessed that he worked in the Delhi government’s wildlife wing. WCCB constituted an SIT to investigate the case. The preliminary interrogation of all the accused showed that the tiger body parts came from Gadchiroli. 

Tiger Unsafe Outside Protected Area 

tiger translocation

Besides the poaching aspect, there is another angle of the episode. This demands the attention of the MoEFC&C.  Outside the protected areas, tigers are facing  three issues-   deforestation, conflict with  humans and  risk of being  killed. Hunted and hounded, the tiger is running for its life. Of the 444 tigers found in Maharashtra, 250 are found in Chandrapur , also known as the tiger capital of Maharashtra. . But the famous TART  houses only 97 tigers and the rest roam outside the protected area . There are  estimated 120 tigers found in Bramhapuri forest division, a territorial forest  area,  and its fragmented forest area between Chandrapur and Gadchiroli district. Brahmapuri is  one of the most volatile  regions as far as man tiger conflict is concerned.“People here just hate tigers and the state forest department minister belongs to this region. Fearing unrest among  the voters, he  had ordered several times the capture of tigers  ”, officials recalled.Gadchiroli did not have records of more than two tigers until 2018. 

Also readBringing African Cheetahs to India a Wrong Decision ?

After the forests in Chandrapur were  overcrowded with tigers , additional big cats migrated to Gadchiroli in the past few years . Surviving on cattle, they seem to have adapted to the presence of humans. The situation in western Gadchiroli is similar to that in Bramhapuri  where tigers are also surviving primarily on cattle. Both districts have lost a sizable chunk of green cover. The 2021 India State of Forest report confirms rapid deforestation is turning swathes of forests into fragmented, small patches, which affects the movement and migration of tigers.  The surplus tigers are finding habitat in non-forest areas, near human settlements in both Chandrapur and Gadchiroli. After  frequent tiger attacks, people are up in arms against  the big cats. In 2022, one life was lost almost every week in wildlife attacks, mostly by tigers, in Chandrapur, according to  the government data in Maharashtra . 

Also readAnother Cheetah Dies  in Kuno as  African Experts Plea the Sc for Transparency in the  Project

The data also shows that in the neighbouring Gadchiroli district, one  tiger related death was recorded every 15 -days in the same year.  And the situation  is aggravating every passing day. The  data of the  state  forest department shows 51 people died in tiger and other wildlife attacks in Chandrapur, in 2022. In 2021, 46 people died and in 2020, 32 died because of the same reasons. Similarly, in the neighbouring Gadchiroli district, the total number of people who died in such attacks was 29 in 2022; 17 in 2021; nine in 2020, and one in 2019. The data indicates an increasing trend of deaths in man-animal  conflicts . A senior scientist of the Wildlife Institute of India  Bilal habib has been quoted in media saying, “ Carnivore conservation outside protected areas in human dominated landscapes is possible, only when it is financially attractive to co-inhabitants, economically sustainable to policymakers and managers, and appealing to politicians leading to the continuation of paws to be with claws,.”None of these factors are visible in this conflict zone of Maharashtra. Rather people here are unhappy with tigers making it easy for the poachers to kill the predator.

By Deshdeep Saxena

Banner Image: Bones and skin of the tiger poached in Maharashtra, representative image of  tiger skin after popaching and Tiger shifted from Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve to Nawegaon Nagzira National Park in maharashtra

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A Cheetah By The Tail

 Cheetah  rescue operations after they stray  away from the  safe confines  of  congested  Kuno national park  have been reported   regularly in India  since  September 2022 when  the  maiden  batch of African cat landed in India  amidst much fanfare. But the latest visuals of yet another such action- this time in  a crowded Rajasthan village in Karauli district-put a question mark again  on the safety of the animal.   This cheetah had to be handled physically in order to prevent it from falling into a ravine as it cornered at the crest of the ravine after darting amid a gathering of an huge crowd nearby. Pawan's Life Was At Risk  Rajasthan forest  department officials alerted Kuno  National Park authorities  about the cheetah leading them to a rescue operation. Pawan, the male cheetah had wandered into Rajasthan through Chambal river bank and was spotted by the local villagers who in turn informed the  local authorities. “Male cheetah Pavan was rescued from Karauli district in Raj