Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray shoots down forest dept proposal to sterilise tigers

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday shot down a forest department proposal for a tiger sterilisation drive in Chandrapur district to control the rising tiger population. Instead, Thackeray, who was chairing the first meeting of the newly constituted state wildlife board, directed the setting up of a high-level committee to further strengthen tiger management and the exploring of other options, including their translocation to Gadchiroli, Buldana and other districts.

The forest department had suggested the sterilisation of 20 male tigers in Chandrapur district through laparoscopic vasectomy, to control their population. It had also mooted the temporary sterilisation of females to check their numbers in the Brahmapuri division and the surrounding Chandrapur district. These moves were expected to help in wildlife management as well as reduce human-tiger conflict.

However, Thackeray tweeted, "The State Wildlife Board has rejected the proposal moved by the forest department with regard to launch of sterilisation/ vasectomy of tigers in Chandrapur district. I have instead, directed improved tiger management in the district.’’

The forest department had suggested that controlling the tiger population in Chandrapur district is necessary, as 160 of the total 312 tigers in the state can be found in Chandrapur alone. Furthermore, about 20 of these are within a five-km radius of Chandrapur city. There was a need felt to control their number as more than 150 people have died in encounters with tigers since 2007.

"Strict protection and management have enabled their number to grow every year. If these efforts are kept up, this number will also increase in the next two to three years. This is evident from the fact that increasingly, tigresses with litters of three to four cubs are seen,’’ according to department authorities. This phenomenal rise in the tiger population in Chandrapur district, coupled with the rate of survival of cubs to adulthood, has resulted in an alarming situation. There are more human-wildlife conflicts, with lethal consequences for the former, often occurring as the young tigers move through human-dominated landscapes.

According to the department, the local populace has been largely tolerant so far but rumbles of discontent are evident of late because of frequent encounters with the tigers.

The department had suggested a "conservation translocation’’ of 50 tigers from Chandrapur to potential sites in the state in phases, in two years. This will free up space for the young, sub-adult tiger population in Chandrapur-Brahmapuri. Translocation would also ensure generic diversity amongst the felines. Such a move could be permitted by the National Tiger Conservation Agency, to those areas with a suitable habitat, where there are not enough tigers.

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Free Press Journal