A red alert has been sounded in the Lakhimpur Kheri-based Dudhwa Tiger Reserve (DTR) and patrolling has been intensified within its confines after the Uttarakhand forest department shared inputs about poaching activities along state borders. As many as four tigers died within a span of one and a half months, with three of them occurring in the past few days. Forest Minister Arun Saxena's investigation into the recent tiger deaths in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri has revealed that the negligence of the forest officials was one cause for the tragic tiger deaths in Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. The consecutive deaths of four tigers within a span of one and a half months, with three of them occurring in the past 15 days, created a stir in the state. Dudhwa Tiger Reserve Field Director B Prabhakar has been removed from his position, following the removal of the chief wildlife warden, as per the authorities. As per information, Bareilly Chief Conservator of Forests Lalit Verma, has been appointed as the new Field Director of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. According to reports, appropriate action will soon be taken against other officers and employees of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve who have been found negligent in their duties. The government is determined to hold all responsible parties accountable and ensure that such incidents are not repeated in the future.
“Poachers’ groups are active on the southern end of Corbett Tiger Reserve, particularly areas that we share with Uttar Pradesh. I request the parts of Uttar Pradesh forest close to Corbett Tiger Reserve be also put under surveillance and with joint operation of the two states, we can stop any unwanted element in forest area,” chief wildlife warden Uttarakhand, Dr Samir Sinha, wrote to additional principal chief conservator of forest (APCCF), project tiger, Uttar Pradesh, Sunil Chaudhary. Following the intel, forest officials in several districts were put on alert -- including Bareilly, Meerut, Moradabad, Saharanpur, and Bijnor. Besides, search operations are ongoing and the use of gadgets -- including metal detectors, infrared cameras, smart cages, drone cameras, camera traps, and M-STrIPES -- has increased. M-STrIPES uses Global Positioning System (GPS), General Packet Radio Services (GPRS), and remote sensing to collect information from the field and to provide inferences that allow tiger reserve managers to better manage their wildlife resources. UP and Uttarakhand shares land boundaries in Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Moradabad, Rampur, Bareli, and Pilibhit. Forest staff of the two states is now conducting joint operations to nab any poacher/unwanted person in the forest area.
“Since the border areas in the forest between the two states are not marked as wild animals move from one place to another and they should not find any hindrance in movement, hence, the border remains porous both for animals and humans,” said a senior forest official. Search operations are being conducted day and night by different teams. Officials of two states are in conversation to ensure that no unidentified man passes through and no items such as big boxes go unchecked. A protected area established in 1977, the Dudhwa National Park was declared a tiger reserve in 1987. The area is found to have a significant population of Bengal tigers. The reserve is habitat to a diverse range of wildlife -- including tigers, leopards, elephants, sloth bears, and over 450 species of birds.
The death of the tigers sparked widespread anger and concern among the public. Responding to the gravity of the situation, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ordered a comprehensive inquiry into the matter. Following a high-level probe ordered by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath into the deaths of four tigers in Dudhwa since April 21, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve (DTR) field director along with several other forest officials were transferred from their respective posts. Field director, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, B Prabhakar has been transferred to the biodiversity board, people familiar with the matter said. Lalit Verma, the chief conservator of forests (Rohilkhand zone) has been asked to take charge of Dudhwa field director. The four tiger deaths were reported between April 21 and June 9. An investigation by the probe team headed by forest minister Arun Saxena stated the cause of deaths was ‘infighting’ between the animals as was confirmed by the post-mortem reports of three tigers. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) will also probe the death of four tigers at the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve (DTR) in Uttar Pradesh. An NTCA team, comprising retired IFS officer Shailesh Prasad, wildlife conservationist RK Singh and NTCA official Hemant Singh, are expected to reach DTR soon, days after chief minister Yogi had ordered a team, which included the state forest minister, to probe the issue. The NTCA has asked the team to submit its report within 15 days, said a letter by Md. Sajid Sultan, assistant inspector general of forest (NTCA). Prasad, who retired as the principal chief conservator of forest and had served in the DTR as a field director for several years, will be heading the inquiry committee, the retired IFS officer confirmed. The committee has been asked to find out the reasons and circumstances that led to the tiger casualties and ascertain if the standard operating procedure (SOP) and guidelines of the NTCA were observed while managing the ‘conflict situations’. The NTCA was constituted under section 38 L (1) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. It is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change constituted for strengthening tiger conservation, as per powers and functions assigned to it under the said Act.