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Tiger trouble: Tigers' threnody and tizzy in Odisha
The failed effort for tranquilization has exposed the poor level of preparations or no preparation at all by the Odisha Forest Department for the implementation of this high profile tiger relocation project.

It has exposed how ill prepared the OFD was for not only tranquilization but also for the other aspects of implementation. It has been said by one of the experts on the condition of anonymity that release of the tigers to the wild without doing proper preparations and taking safety measures for the community is treachery with the population living within Satkoshia. There should have been systematic awareness building amongst the villagers before the release of the tigers.

But on the other hand the forest department and the ruling dispensation are blaming the local villagers for making the situation so tense. Forest department offices were vandalized and burnt and the traffic on the NH was stalled for long, the Police officials also were attacked that has deteriorated the situation. But, those in the know of the ground reality blame it on the inadequate handling of the situation by the forest department and the instigation by the timber mafia.

Agneya Misha, a forest and wildlife Guide has said, "Fear for their lives and livelihoods has agitated the local villagers. But, at the same time the timber mafia is working overtime to fan the fire. Their interest, they will be able to continue their loot of the forest in the absence of the tigers. With the tigers in the forests, which too one charged with two human killings, they will find it difficult to smuggle valuable teak and other valuable timber as the labourers will not work under the threat to their life. And the local villagers who have a nexus with the timber mafia as well as some officials of the FD also have a stake in this. With the support of timber mafias and tiger poachers one day the villagers will definitely kill the tigers because the state forest officials are not sincerely doing their duties and there is an unholy nexus with some forest officials with these mafias group. In Odisha wildlife patrolling and watching is very poor, recent suicidal death of seven elephants and one tiger poaching are the big example of it. This recent tiger poaching proved that tiger poaching is in Odisha."

But, now the villagers like Biren Dehury of Purunakot, residing within Satkoshia reserve, squarely blames the forest department for such a situation. He has alleged that the forest department does not want the villages within the forests. This is more so after the Forest Rights Act, as it is apprehensive that the villagers may demand for individual as well community rights. So in its desperation to drive away the people, it is using the tigers. If the FD wanted peaceful co-existence of the wildlife and the people, it would have made elaborate arrangements for it. Rather than doing this the FD and the government tried to push up the first death of women by the tigress. The government is not at all sensitive towards the people residing inside the Satkoshia.

These allegations and counter allegations apart, there is no doubt that the life of people living within and around Satkoshia has been endangered. Along with them the life of Sundari, the 27 months old cub, also has been threatened. All this happened due to poor planning and faulty implementation of the project. It is said that the state government has been planning for relocation of the tigers in Satkoshia reserve since last three years. But on the ground, no such effort is visible. Neither the communities have been prepared and secured nor was the selection of the tiger done judiciously.

Before releasing the tigress Sundari, the sanctuary authorities of Bandhavgarh and the Forest Department of MP had shared about the behavior of Sundari with the Forest Department of Odisha. They had categorically mentioned that Sundari likes to move in the buffer zone to be seen by the tourists. It does not move away from the tourists. Sometimes it also gets closer to the human habitations. The authorities there also had given tips about the management of Sundari. They had advised the forest authorities of Odisha that a 20 member team should be formed to guard the tigress. They will set up temporary camps in the forest and regularly track the movement of the tigress and accordingly inform the people in the nearly habitations. When the tigress comes in the range of two kms from the villages, the villagers should be warned and efforts should be made to drive tigress away into the forest. The MP authorities also had informed Odisha FD to get two elephants in place so that in case of need they could be used. But the forest department has done next to nothing in this regard. Though a team has been formed for monitoring of the movement of the tigress, they are neither properly equipped, nor are technically sound. Even the radio collar information is not made available to them. Even the forest guards did not have proper shoes and were using chappals and were scared of the tigress, the experts rued. 

And still, the administration and the concerned ministers continue with their lackadaisical approach. The Forest and Environment Minister Bijayshree Routray had said earlier that after tranquilization Sundari will be shifted to Nandan Kanan zoological park, oblivious of the fact that as per the norms a wild animal cannot be captivated. May be later on being briefed about this aspect, he warned (as if Sundari cares a hoot to it) that if Sundari does not behave properly she will be sent back to Bandhavgarh. The concern is that this policy maker has not been sensitive and careful in his reactions and public posturing. Immediately after a woman was killed by Sundari, he had retorted that the women has not been killed by the tigress, may be by any other animal that instigated the people. And his insensitivity cuts across the geographical and species barrier. Here the death caused by tigers is hushed up, and Royal Bengal Tigers are converted to Leopards with ease.

The tigers in the state of Odisha are not safe. It is not the isolated case of the tiger in Debrigarh, even in Satkoshia too ten tigers are yet to be accounted for (based on the tiger census). Most of them have been killed by the hunters as per the forest officials of the state. Again the state government has failed to get the final notification for Similipal Tiger Reserve, despite it being the first one and the one being better experienced and better equipped. Here too human settlement within the reserve seems to the stumbling block. In this back drop, relocation of tigers in Satkoshia without adequate ground work at best could be called an ill conceived and badly implemented plan. And this is compounded with the insensitivity of the officials and the policy makers. Presently Sundari does not know where she is heading for? To special enclosure at Raigad, to Nandan Kanan, to her birth place Bandhavgarh or death? Similar is the fate of the villagers within the Satkoshia sanctuary. They cannot live in their homes in the villages as the police are looking for them to arrest them for their venting out anger and vandalizing. They cannot even go to the forests, their second home, as the tigress is on the prowl – a real Hobsonian choice. The victor and the vanquished have the same fate, though it is yet to be ascertained who is what. A lose-lose game? 

You can also read: Tiger deaths in Odisha: Taciturn of turbulent tiger territory

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 In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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WHO WILL FEEL THE PAIN OF SUNDARI? WHO WILL PROTECT SUNDARI'S LIFE?? WHY SUDNARI SUFFERS??? Forest Minister Bijoyshree Routray is one of the most learned members in Naveen’s Cabinet, but the way ‘He spoke lies’ on Bargad tiger death it is really shameful. Sundari is not a ‘man-eater’ but the manner in which the State and its forest officials are attempting to capture it is no less than that of the recently-shot Avni in Maharashtra. Four teams are in hot pursuit to tranquilise Sundari and then put it in the Nandankanan Zoo. The Minister has made it apparently clear that the tigress’s place is in the zoo. After Bargad tiger poaching now Sundari’s life is not secure. Even before this in same Satkosia forest as per reports 10 tigers have already killed. Who will protect Sundari’s life is a big question mark? And why Sundari will go to a Zoo that is another question? The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NCTA) has put in place standard operating procedures to deal with emergency arising due to straying of tigers in human dominated landscapes in 2013 vide their notification No. 15-37/2012-NTCA dated 30th Jan 2013. In the Annexure-II of the guidelines for Declaration of Big Cats as ‘Man-eaters’, it states: “A differentiation should be made between ‘human kill’ due to chance encounters and ‘habituated man-eaters’. As most of our forests outside protected areas are right burdened, the probability of chance encounters is very high. Further, tigers often use agriculture fields while hinting for prey or livestock, which may also cause lethal encounters with human beings. Such animals should not be declared as ‘man-eaters’.”
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