Save Kawal Tigers

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Respected sir,
Writing this petition with extreme grief about the manner in which tigers are poached at Kawal Tiger Reserve in the state of Telangana.

A male tiger that made inroads to Kawal Tiger Reserve, on Dec 15, 2018, ended up poached; in less than 40 days after its first appearance in the state of Telangana.

The movement of the male, that seemingly arrived from Tadoba forests, was in Kadem range around Dec '18. An article in Telangana Today witht the heading - "Tiger lurking near injured tigress K4 a new threat" dated 12th Jan '19, mentioned that the forest sources confirmed the movement of the tiger close to Kagaznagar .

The very same male tiger now ended up poached in less than 2 weeks, and skinned; the skin was confiscated from a person in Mandamarri town of Mancherial district, 100Kms away from Kadem, where the tiger was first seen.

With snares and traps set for killing wild boars and deer, and also, with some active poaching gangs seemingly working in Kawal, no tiger that enters Kawal seems safe now. This is the second reported skin seizure in less than a month now. The last skin seized was that of a male tiger from Bela region that again seemed to have come from Tadoba forests and which went missing in Nov '17.

Forest department has totally and miserably failed in safeguarding the tigers.

History of poaching, missing tigers and other issues at Kawal ::

Kawal, in a DERELICT condition, DOESN'T have a single tiger, despite attaining the status of a Tiger Reserve in 2012, with an aggregate area of 1100 sq. Km (including buffer).

Previously, a tiger skin was confiscated on Jan 5th, 2019 seems to have settled (cam-trapped) around the Bela area, around 50 Kms East of Adilabad (as per the newspaper reports (and the FD reports) of the only tiger found in and around this area.

The Hindu Newspaper even ran an article stating that 'The tiger is safe among a few tribes', where tigers are worshiped by local tribes.

The tiger was first seen in June '17, while it went off the radar in Nov '17. Officials believed that the tiger could have returned, or probably was living along the MH-Telangana border.

With ZERO ACCOUNTABILITY as public isn't aware of the tiger movement, Kawal is turning into a death trap, mostly for the spillover tigers.

-> Around 20 tigers disappeared from the reserve since 1996.

- A male and female went missing in 2016.
- A male tiger called 'Jyestha' was killed and buried in Nov. 2016.
- A tigress K4 has been moving with a snare around its waist for 2 years (in Chennur forests) and despite many efforts, it wasn't captured or treated.
- A tiger skin was seized in Nov. 2016 from Bejjur, and the skin went missing later on, only to be seized again in Jan. 2018.
- Phalguna's (resident of Sirpur-Kagaznagar corridor) previous litter tigers (other than K4) are missing.
- 3 tigers missing in 2014.

-> Wildlife crimes too are highest at Kawal in the state of Telangana, with the following figures.

- In 2017-18, 26 cases in Kawal out of 78 cases in Telangana.
- In 2016-17, 20 cases in Kawal out of 79 cases in Telangana.
- In 2015-16, 29 cases in Kawal out of 84 cases in Telangana.

-> In addition to this,
- illegal timber logging/smuggling,
- teak wood smuggling,
- illegal grazing (an estimated 4000 grazers live in the entirety of Kawal TR),
- illegal mining of sands along the streams/river inside the reserve,
- illegal felling of trees (for linear development),
- illegal encroachments (with local leaders having allegedly directed forest officials NOT to ‘harass’ encroacher)

-> The ungulate population at Kawal stands as below (as per Hindu article - 'Here, green grass is a prized item for thieves' dated Dec. 2018) in the 900 sq. Km area.

- Chital : 1500 to 2000
- Nilgai : 1200 to 1500
- Sambar : 300 to 400
- Chinkara : 100 to150
- Chowsingha : 200 to 300
- Black buck : 100 to 150
- Gaur : 60 to 90

-> There were many articles that floated in various newspapers with the below headlines which only speak about the NEGLIGENCE and the APATHY of the forest department.

- Big cats die while field officers go missing (from duties), TOI, 2016.
- Kawal Tiger Reserve going to the dogs, The Hindu, 2017
- Tiger all but extinct in Telangana, TOI, 2014
- Encroachments go unchecked at Kawal Tiger Reserve, The Hindu, 2018
- Here, green grass is a prized item for thieves, The Hindu, 2018.

With a few tigers from the nearby Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary reaching subadult stage and also a spillover from Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Gadchiroli and other forest ranges, there SHOULD be an influx of tigers to Kawal and surrounding corridors, but can Kawal SUSTAIN this population in the wake of the above mentioned issues? And will the forest department ever wake up?

In 2005, Sariska was wiped off the tigers, and in 2009, Panna was wiped of its tigers, to poaching. If not for the efforts of the government and forest department, these tiger reserves would have remained empty. Today, tigers are reintroduced and properly tracked and monitored. We need a proper tracking and monitoring system at Kawal.

What is needed/what needs to be done to save tigers of Kawal?

1. The forest department should be accountable and responsible for each and every tiger in Kawal and its corridors. Monitoring and tracking the tigers have to be done with due diligence, and the reports submitted to NTCA and the chief minister of Telangana state on a regular basis.
2. Special Tiger Task Forces/ Quick Response Teams need to be deployed.
3. Proper anti-poaching units/protection camps need to be set up, after identifying areas known for poaching and illegal snaring.
4. Fields with electrified fences (illegally drawn from overhead high tension lines etc) have to be identified and strict notices have to be given to prevent future electrocution incidents.
5. Strict vigil needs to be maintained on active poaching gangs.
6. Sensitizing locals/ creating awareness and promoting tourism. (tourism, in addition to generating revenue for locals, will also help in maintaining vigil in these forests)