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Tiger Kingdoom

is too much of babudom stifling the environment for felines? Kartikey Dev Singh traces the attitude of sweeping everything under the rug

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Tiger Kingdoom
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Is Rajasthan’s forest department harming its own tigers? Are officials more important to the department than the striped felines? Is there any strategy to stall the investigations, if any, after the death of tigers under mysterious circumstances?

A close overview of actions by the forest department over the past four years is enough to bring out the horror. The department indeed fizzes out any uproar after death of any feline by stalling the probe process.

The recent deaths of two tiger cubs at Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve (RTR) under suspicious circumstances and that of ST-11 at Sariska points that babudom that prevails over animal welfare in the department.

The death of the two sub-adult cubs at Ranthambhore is suspected to be a case of poisoning. However, this would not be the first time such an incident has occurred here. Officials at Ranthambhore were startled in 2013 on finding the carcass remains of a tiger in Khandar area. The officials immediately came to the conclusion that the tiger, claimed to be an old feline, was killed by a rival male tiger in a territorial fight.

“However, as protocol demands, the viscera - of which not much could be gathered - was sent to Wildlife Institute of India (WII) for investigation. The officials were in for a rude shock when the report stated that the feline died not of territorial fight but had been poisoned. What is more is that the animal was slated to be a young animal and not an old one as the department officials had surmised. As the report created ripples, the officials started blaming each other and the matter trickled down to a forest guard who was shot off a letter.

The guard was later given a warning but asked to carry on with his service. The report was selectively put on the back burner, sources at Ranthambhore revealed, adding, “ironically no investigation has been initiated in the matter till date. Also, there has been no probe conducted in the case of tigress T-17 which went missing much the same way as ST-5 at Sariska.”

Now, an almost similar comedy is being played out in Sariska as well. “Immediately on reaching the spot, the officials gave the explanation that the trap was set for a blue bull and later the claim stood thwarted. However, now when it comes to adjudging the fault of a person, the investigation has been handed to the official who himself is part of the entire faulty administration. How is a junior officer supposed to investigate his senior? The investigation should have been handed to someone from outside who would have been unbiased. Instead, it has been handed to those who are part and parcel of the entire controversy,” the sources added.

Interestingly, in 2010, when tiger ST-1 at Sariska was poisoned, the then Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had travelled to Sariska the very day and held a high-profile meeting of officials. Gehlot took stern action resulting in charge-sheeting of half a dozen officials at Sariska and even suspension of the DFO there. “However, now it appears that instead of wildlife conservation, tourism is the main focus area of the forest department and that too only in Ranthambhore,” sources at the reserve said.

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