Controversy dogs translocation of Indian bison

February 9th, 2011 - 12:03 pm ICT by IANS  

By Shahnawaz Akhtar
Bhopal, Feb 9 (IANS) The translocation of 19 gaurs, or the Indian bison, an endangered herbivore, from Kanha to the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve has triggered a controversy with a wildlife volunteer group accusing the Madhya Pradesh forest department of violating norms in awarding the coverage rights of the exercise.The large animals were shifted between Jan 17 and 31 from Kanha to Bandhavgarh, a distance of around 200 km.

Wildlife volunteer group Prayatna has filed a complaint to the state chief secretary and union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and demanded a high-level probe into the matter.

In the complaint to Chief Secretary Avani Vaish, Ajay Dubey of Prayatna cited media reports and claimed that the state forest department (SFD) recently translocated gaurs in collaboration with two African companies - andBeyond (previously known as CC Africa) and KZN Wildlife.

“We have come to know about major irregularities committed in the process of giving rights of filming and photographing exclusively to andBeyond,” Dubey alleged.

The wildlife volunteer said that the information sought from the state forest department revealed that Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife) H.S. Pabla allowed andBeyond to film and photograph the gaur translocation in contravention of norms.

“Surprisingly the forest department awarded these rights without the required process. They did not invite tenders for selection of the party. The andBeyond company has already photographed and videographed the process of translocation,” claimed Dubey.

He alleged that the process seemed to be “dubious” as the state forest department’s wildlife unit has “repeatedly issued contradictory replies” to RTI queries over the tendering process of the gaur translocation.

“First the wildlife wing denied having the desired information, later the unit replied that the Kanha field director’s office has the required information. However, it recently came up with a mail forwarded by representatives of andBeyond to the principal chief conservator of forests and claimed that the Kanha forest department’s office did not have any such record,” alleged Dubey.

He said the contents of the e-mail suggest that the company has declared itself as the co-owner of the footage of the gaur project, alongside the state forest department.

He also alleged that three national dailies have reported that the forest department and andBeyond would share proceeds from the sale of video footage and photographs of the gaur translocation and that the income from the sale of coverage would be shared between them equally.

“Till date, the state forest department has not denied it,” claimed Dubey.

However, speaking to IANS, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Pabla denied the charges. “There was no matter of tendering the translocation as the andBeyond company does the filming free of cost, they arranged all the equipment and gave the recorded film to us. We have the copy of it. If they use it, it will be for their internal works and not to earn revenue from it,” Pabla claimed.

The gaur is a large endangered herbivore and can be seen in protected sanctuaries in India. In the wild its young are preyed upon by tigers and leopards and the loss of its habitat due to human encroachment has led to the reduction in its population across the country. In the northeast a tame version of the gaur, known as Mithun, is used as a farm animal.

(Shahnawaz Akhtar can be contacted at shahnawaz.a@ians.in)

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