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No tiger in Goa’ claim falls flat

The Pioneer, Panaji, 22nd April, 2013

Finally, official records will prove years of insistence by the Government that there are no tigers in Goa wrong, with a spotting being confirmed by the forest officials in the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary recently.

Officials have said that motion sensor cameras they placed along what they suspected to be a tiger trail, have captured a fully grown tiger.

“Our informer tipped-off that a wild boar has been killed in one location in north-west side of the sanctuary. Accordingly, we started tracking and finally got pugmarks of tiger,” senior range forest officer Paresh Parab said, adding that the forest officials were tracking this tiger since April 9.

The admission is likely to bring huge relief to the environmentalists and wildlife enthusiasts in the State, who have been repeatedly insisting that there is tiger presence in Goa. However, the Forest Department led by its former chief had repeatedly insisted that there were no tigers in the State.

The Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary located in the Western Ghats, nearly 70 km from here, has previously had a case where a tiger was found slain-caught in a trap and had its belly ripped open by the barbs.

The feline was snared in a trap laid by hunters for wild boar in the Mhadei sanctuary. The tiger’s wails brought the hunters to the spot who put the animal out of its misery, by shooting it dead.

While the poachers were arrested, they are still being tried for their alleged crime.

In an effort to track the majestic cat, forest officials had to hunt through thick undergrowth for nearly two weeks. The Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary like the Netravali and Bhagwan Mahaveer wildlife sanctuaries, has several open cast iron ore mines located in its vicinity.

Wildlife activists have alleged that the Forest Department had been denying the presence of tigers, with the fear that if their presence is spotted, would lead to shutting down of mines that are located in the area.

“It is beyond doubt that these forests were always a home for tigers. The forest officials have denied this because the presence of tigers mean setting up of a reserve. And that in turn would mean mining has to stop in those areas,” said activist Rajendra Kerkar, who first documented the tiger poaching in the same sanctuary in 2009.

Locals believe that due to the mining ban with the machinery having fallen silent, the wildlife is increasingly finding courage to make its presence felt.

The appointment of Richard D’Souza, who replaced his predecessor Sashikumar, as the Principal Conservator of forests for Goa is also believed to be another reason behind the ready admission.

D’Souza was the architect of the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, which was notified amongst much political opposition over a decade ago during a stint of Governor’s rule in the State.

D’Souza was only too elated with the news of the tiger sighting.

“We did have some indirect evidence in form of big animals being brought down by a tiger. Some pug marks too. But this is in the face, direct irrefutable evidence,” D’Souza said.

D’Souza said that the evidence of a sighting could go a long way in convincing the Central Government to upgrade the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary as a wildlife reserve.

Sashikumar had rejected possibility of there being tigers in Goa and said that the reports of spottings could be attributed to sorties of tigers from the neighbouring forests of Karnataka and Maharashtra.