Whither ‘Sher Khans’ of Madhya Pradesh?

March 29th, 2011 - 3:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhopal, March 29 (IANS) Rudyard Kipling’s Sher Khan may have been inspired by the tigers that roamed the jungles of Madhya Pradesh. Yet the state has been left licking its wounds after reporting a significant fall in the big cat’s numbers.

The tiger population has gone down from 300 in the 2006 census to 257 in the latest report released Monday.

The state has six tiger reserves - Kanha National Park, Panna Tiger Reserve, Pench Tiger Reserve, Bandhavgarh National Park, Satpura Tiger Reserve and Ratapani Tiger Reserve.

The most significant fall has been registered in Panna where there were 24 tigers earlier but now the number has been reduced to three.

Madhya Pradesh authorities have been quick to shirk blame.

“There have been no lapses in management. Had that been the case, the NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority) would not have rated five tiger reserves of Madhya Pradesh among the top three in the country. We will study the report and identify weaknesses for corrective action,” said Forest Minister Sartaz Singh.

H.S. Pabla, the principal chief conservator of forests, said: “I will read the report and discuss the matter with the concerned officers. I also do not know whether the cubs have been counted or not.”

Activists are fuming at the sharp decline in tiger numbers in the state.

Shrinking tiger habitat and decline in tiger numbers are widely believed to be linked to poaching and development activities.

“It is a shame on the part of the forest department which betrayed the state,” Shehla Masood, a wildlife activist participating in the Delhi meet on the Tiger Census, told IANS on phone.

“It is a message for them to learn and rectify the mistakes of the past,” Masood said.

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