Man-animal conflict rages in Pandharkawda as grazier killed

Nagpur: With two human kills by tigers in seven days in Maregaon range under Pandharkawda forest division in Yavatmal district, toll in the last two years has gone up to 12, putting a question mark over department’s efforts and reluctance of locals to venture deep into the forest.
On Saturday evening, a grazier, Waghuji Raut (60), from Vihirgaon was killed in compartment number 652 of territorial forest when he had gone with cattle. The spot is close to the area where shepherd Gulab Mokashe of Vedshi was killed on August 5.

In the last 7 months this year, 17 humans have been killed in the state. Of these deaths, most of them are by tigers and leopards and 11 occurred in Bramhapuri-Chandrapur, three in Pandharkawda and one each in Sawantwadi, Sangamner and Kinwat.

Perturbed by the deaths, forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar has called a meeting on August 21 in Mumbai to discuss the issue with locals MLAs and senior forest officials.

There seems to be no end to the flared-up man-animal conflict despite forest department spending over Rs30 lakh in the last 8-9 months to monitor and the problem tigers in Pandharkawda.

According to sources, from the injuries, it seems to be the handiwork of two cubs of the problem tigress. “If this is true then the cubs too have turned problem animals. It’s is a very dicey situation now,” said a wildlife expert.

“The body of Raut was traced 400 metres away from the village boundary in the reserve forest. The victim was warned by monitoring staff about presence of tigers. While three shepherds gave it in writing that they will not enter forest, Raut ventured inside and was killed,” says in-charge deputy conservator (DyCF) Bhanudas Pingale.

The compartment where Raut was killed has been given to locals under community forest rights (CFR). “Many areas under CFRs are overlapping with tiger territory here. After report of tiger presence in Vihirgaon forest on August 8, as a matter of precaution, foresters had alerted sarpanch and police patil asking to restrict movement of graziers in jungle, but there seems to be deliberate attempts by some of them to enter the forest risking lives,” said Pingale.

After series of human deaths, PCCF (wildlife) AK Misra had issued shoot orders for the tigress in January. These orders were challenged by NGOs in the high court here. After the tigress delivered two cubs, it turned difficult to capture the carnivore. Yet, several unsuccessful attempts were made till monsoon but every time tigress gave a slip.

“Now it is rainy season and forest has grown dense. It will be more difficult to capture the animal. A rescue team with a wildlife vet from Brahmapuri has reached the spot on Sunday to monitor the operation,” said Pingale.

The latest killing by tigers has sparked a political storm with former Ralegaon MLA and minister Vasant Purke leading a morcha to SDO’s office demanding capturing/shooting of problem tigers, fencing of forest area, and making available land for grazing cattle.

On the other hand, sitting BJP MLA Ashok Uike told TOI, during the last one year awareness has been created on the issue. While farmers are learning to live with tigers, the issue is with graziers who still venture deep into the forest despite warning.

“Mungantiwar has gone out of the way in implementing Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Jan Van scheme and sanctioned Rs2.5 crore for villages here. The money will be utilized to fence the forest to stop tigers entering farms,” said Uike.

“I don’t agree with Purke on agitational path on the issue. I have full sympathy with kin of those killed and no doubt people are living under threat. The tigers need to be relocated by capturing them. We also plan to intervene in the ongoing legal case in the high court,” said Uike.

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