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Tiger deaths in Odisha: Taciturn of turbulent tiger territory!
Tigers tacitly tell a tale of their taciturn. Odisha Forest Department's wildlife and tiger conservation is a travesty and tall-story. Tiger conservations in Odisha are only thoughtless and thriftless.

Odisha wildlife and forest officials' torpidity and thug are threats for tigers and it gives thump and throe to the timorous tigers. When the tiger territories and trails are turbulent at the same time tigers are thralldom and trifle in the conservation turmoil. Some wildlife conservationists say, "In Odisha, tiger conservations' timpani and toot is only twaddle, the recent story of Satkoshia's Sundari and the death of tiger in Debrigarh's sanctuary is a clear evident." NTCA or Odisha Forest Officials- Who will give tittupp to the tigers and the titular to the tiger territories?

It is controversy time for tiger conservation efforts in Odisha. While the high profile project on relocation of tigers in Satkoshia Tiger Reserve is in the eye of the storm for all the wrong reasons, death of tigers in different forests in Odisha has put a bold question mark on the sincerity of the Odisha Forest Department for conservation of tigers. On one hand efforts are being made to relocate six tigers in Satkoshia reserve forest at a whooping cost of Rs 24 crore, the State is not capable of protecting the naturally existing tigers in different forests of Odisha. At the same time there are gaping holes in the relocation of the tigers project, that has put the tigress Sundari and the lives of people in more than hundred villages at risk. Is conservation the driving motive for relocation, or there are other commercial interests attached to it is what is being asked now. 

Recently a highly putrefied carcass of a tiger of Debrigarh wildlife sanctuary was found in Damodarapada forest in Bhatli block of Bargarh district that comes under Bargarh Forest Division. From the circumstantial evidences it has been observed by the local forest officials that the tiger has been killed for the skin and nails, 10-12 days back. The body of the tiger was hidden under the soil. Tiger nails and blood soaked baskets were recovered from the spot. While the question, 'how the tiger came out of the sanctuary' was still to be answered, the local forest officers were quick to conclude that the carcass seems to be that of a leopard. The Forest and Environment Minister Bijayashree Routray declared that the carcass was that of a leopard. But the PCCF (Wildlife) had a more nuanced assessment. "From the preliminary assessment it seems to be a leopard. For further investigations, the samples have been sent to the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradoon and everything will be clear once we receive the report."

Wildlife experts in the state have condemned such efforts by the forest department to hush up the matter. Wildlife Expert Dr. Biswajit Mohanty has said, "It is deplorable that the forest department could not know about the death of a big cat for so long, leading to decomposition of the carcass to the extent that it could not be identified instantly. It clearly indicated that the patrolling of the forests is not being done regularly. The forest officials and the staff are not performing their duties properly and endangering the lives of the wildlife. That area is notorious for herbivore poaching by live wire trap. The DFO and the Range Officer should be suspended for negligence. Due to rampant corruption in forest department patrolling funds are siphoned off leading to such deplorable outcomes "
 He again said "I am shocked to hear that the Relocated tigress from Bandhavgarh shall be locked up in Nandan Kanan Zoo. We demand its return to MP where it had a free wild living before being captured and released in Satkosia TR"

From the remnants of the carcass it still can be observed that it is that of a Royal Bengal Tiger as there are white patched above the eyes that is typically found in case of the RBTs. Rather the forest department is busy establishing it as a leopard and putting the final identification by WII to a later date. It is deplorable."

Former PCCF (Wildlife) Bijay Ketan Pattnaik has put this controversy to rest by saying, "Whether it is a RBT or a Leopard, the final word is that wildlife – a big cat has died. For both the cases the punishment is the same as per the law. Those responsible should be brought to book"

In the meantime the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has sought a report on the death of the tiger from the state government. It also has instructed the State Forest department to follow the standard operating procedure (SOP) for disposal of the tiger/leopard carcass or body parts.

Under a project, first of its kind in India, jointly implemented by Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) Dehradun six tigers from across Madhya Pradesh are to be relocated in Satkoshia Tiger Reserve in Odisha. First one was a three year old tiger from Kanha Reserve. This was followed by the release of a 27 month old tigress Sundari into the forests of Satkoshia. While Kanha, the tiger, went inside the forests, Sundari started moving nearer to the human habitations, killing domestic animals and within a month's span two human beings. After this the peaceful forests of Satkoshia was on fire. Local people were up in arms against the tigress Sundari, demanding for withdrawal of the tigress for the security to their lives. Even there was demand to declare Sundari a man eater. Now the district administration, local political parties want the tigress to be removed. Even the state Forest and Environment Minister Bijayashree Routray has declared that after being tranquilized, Sundari will be brought to Nandan Kanan Zoological Park. But how? Since more than a week, the experts from Odisha University of Agricultural Technology (OUAT), Similipal National Park and Nandan Kanan Zoological Park have been trying in vain to tranquilize Sundari. Now two tranquilizing experts from Madhya Pradesh have been pressed into service. Even though there is no success in tranquilizing the tigress, the poor level of preparedness of the OFD for the much hyped relocation project has been exposed.

After the failure of the six tranquilizing experts in taming Sundari, two experts from Madhya Pradesh Sandeep Agrawal and Akhilesh Mishra have been pressed into service. But these experts were shocked after seeing the arrangements for tranquilization at Satkoshia. The tranquillizing guns and the tranquilizer chemicals available here are not at all reliable. The quality of the tranquilizer chemicals is not at par with the quality that is required. These also have not been properly stored. Whether these chemicals will be effective or not one cannot be sure of. The allegations that the tranquilizers were not provided by the forest department, the experts themselves have procured the same from private sources is still more shocking. So, there is no assurance on the effectiveness of the tranquilizers.

As per the experts, for the process of tranquilization, a rescue van is to accompany the team. And this rescue van should be equipped with stretcher, oxygen and other life saving equipments along with equipments for the security of the team in case of any eventuality. The tranquilizing team that was working earlier was not accompanied by any such vehicle. Only a stretcher was being kept in the back of the SUV they were travelling with. Without a pair of trained elephants, tranquilization of the tigress could not be done, as it might pose threat to the life of the tiger as well as the tranquilizing team. But, till date neither the elephants have been made available nor quality tranquilizing substances have been procured.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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