4 yrs later, case of 4 tiger deaths hasn't reached closure

4 yrs later, case of 4 tiger deaths hasn't reached closure

It was in the first week of January 2020, that a carcass of a sub-adult male tiger was discovered deep in the forests of Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in Golaulim village. Two days later three more big cats -- a tigress and two cubs, a male and a female -- were also recovered after combing the area by the Forest officials.

The deaths of these four tigers in one go, due to poisoning, shocked the State and the country's tiger conservation community. A case was filed against members of the Dhangar families that lived deep in the forest in that village accusing them of poisoning the kill of these tigers, their buffalo.

Vhito Zipo Pawane (60), Malo Nago Pawane (55) and Gomo Nago Pawane (46), were arrested and a local court remanded them to police custody for three days. In due course within days,  the Pawane trio who were accused of poisoning their buffalo killed by the cats thus leading to their death, got bail.  

The script indicates that the shocking episode was the result of man-animal conflict but not everyone in the Tiger conservation ecosystem bought this theory, especially after the post-mortem report of the sub-adult male tiger pointed to its "missing claws" raising suspicion that they may have been removed..Tiger claws fetch a premium in the black market. 

But four years later, the case has seemingly been forgotten and the Forest department has made little or no progress in managing the tiger corridor -- a core 200-odd square kilometers of the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary. 

Worse, the  State government continues to remain adamantly antagonistic to the proposal to notify this corridor, contiguous with tiger reserves in Karnataka and Maharashtra, a tiger reserve to the extent of challenging before the Supreme Court of India the judgement of the Bombay High Court directing notification of tiger reserve.

On paper, however, the State government did move to take serious steps after the January 2020 tiger deaths. Less than a year later, it issued a fresh proclamation to cover 29 villages including Golaulim in the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary where trespass by people or cattle is banned. 

The sub-divisional magistrate (Deputy Collector) of Sattari invoked section 21 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 to issue this proclamation in which he said no rights over land or forest produce was permissible in these notified areas of the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, except by succession or grant of contract.

Fresh clearing or breaking of land either for cultivation or any other purpose was also banned in the nearly 208.5 square kilometers area these 29 villages covered.

Tiger reserve proposal  (subhead)

Nearly a decade ago, the Goa government was directed to formulate a proposal for a 'tiger reserve' in the core area of the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary which is contiguous with reserves in Karnataka and Maharashtra by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change but the State did little. 

Late last year, the Bombay High Court at Goa, allowed the petition filed by Dr Claude Alvares seeking a direction to the State government to notify the tiger reserve. The High Court in its judgement gave a three-month deadline to the State government to issue the notification but the directive was not followed, for which it faces a contempt petition even as it challenged the order before the Supreme Court of India well after the deadline.

The Apex court is yet to take up the Goa government's challenge of the Bombay High Court judgement directing it to notify the Tiger Reserve in the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary although notices have been issued to the parties concerned. 

To have or not to have a tiger reserve in Goa's Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary notified is a question that will play out in the Apex Court for some more time but a decision one way or the other is guaranteed in due course.

Share this