Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Retired army personnel to fight poachers in Bihar

Patna, Nov 7 - Retired army personnel will be recruited in Bihar in a bid to save the dwindling population of big cats at the state's only tiger reserve.

'A dedicated protection force will be set up with retired army personnel to stop poaching at Valmiki National Park,' Bihar's chief conservator of forest-cum-wildlife warden Murariji Mishra said Wednesday.

He said a proposal in this regard, which was put forwarded by the state government to the centre, has been approved.

'In the first phase, the protection force will comprise 50 retired army personnel. It will be expanded later,' he said.

Valmiki National Park in West Champaran district near the Nepal border is regarded as one of the best-maintained tiger reserves in the country. But of late, this tiger reserve has become a haven for poachers.

At least 23 big cats have disappeared from the reserve in the last three years, according to a recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

The number of tigers has declined to 33 in 2005 from 56 in 2002, the 2006 CAG report said.

Neither the officials of Valmiki National Park nor the state government has any information about the missing tigers.

The report also said the estimation of tigers in the park was irregular as the census was conducted only thrice between 2000 and 2005.

The ratio of male to female tigers is also alarming. In 2002, there were 35 males, 17 females and four cubs, but by 2005, the number of males was 10, females 22 and there was only one cub.

In 1990, there were 80 tigers and 31 leopards in the park. But their population decreased due to poaching.

The report recommended that tiger counts should be conducted at regular intervals by using scientific techniques for their long-term protection and conservation.