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Centre seeks action against Kerala tiger- slayers

                                                                                         31st March, 2013, Sunday Pioneer, Kozhikode

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has instructed the Kerala Chief Minister to take action against those responsible for the killing of a tiger in Wayanad district in December last year.

The instruction is based on a report from the National Tiger Conservation Authority that there was no situation that necessitated shooting the tiger to death.

The authority has reportedly recommended a judicial probe into the intervention by political organisations that had contributed to the creation of the situation that led to the tiger’s killing. It has also asked for an investigation into the approach adopted by the media towards the situation.

Kerala Forest officials, assisted by a crowd of local residents, had shot dead a tiger at Thelampatta near Moolankavu, Sulthan Batheri in Wayanad district on the morning of December 2 after a long chase at the end of a 13-day “mission”. The tiger, which had allegedly killed several cattle, was shot dead on the ground that it had been a threat to human life.

The MoEF instruction would bring trouble to the Wayanad District Collector who had ordered the killing of the tiger, senior Forest Department officials who supervised the killing and those who had shot the cat dead. There were reports that the tiger was shot dead even after it had collapsed under the effect of the two tranquilizer darts that hit it earlier.

The authority’s report also found fault with the one-month-long agitations various organisations had held in Wayanad demanding immediate action to save the people from the tiger threat prevalent in the Sulthan Batheri area. It alleged that the agitations were based on political motives.

That the MoEF instruction was addressed to none other than the Kerala Chief Minister himself was absurd, said wildlife enthusiasts. In fact, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who had visited the area where panic was at the height of the anti-tiger campaigns, had indirectly permitted the killing by saying that priority was to let humans live in peace.

Various ruling and Opposition parties had organised agitations for over a month demanding immediate action to end the threat of the tiger. It was said that the agitations were aimed at thwarting a reported move by the Centre to declare the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWLS) as the third Tiger Reserve in Kerala.

The 344-sq km sanctuary, lying contiguous to the Bandipur Tiger Reserve of Karnataka and Mudumalai Tiger Reserve of Tamil Nadu, is said to be home to about 80 big cats. However, the State Forest Department had denied reports on the possibility of the WWLS being transformed into a tiger reserve.

The tiger was shot dead on December 2 at the end of a 13-day “mission” which had actually started on November 20 after the killing of the first cattle was reported. The subsequent hunt for the tiger was conducted by a 100-member Kerala Forests team, an eight-man special task force from Karnataka and crowds of local residents.