Dehradun: Rajaji National Park and Corbett National Park brought Uttarakhand on the world map for tiger conservation. While the 2008 census put tiger population at a 178, the latest on-going census shows more positive results with over 235 tigers in the hill state alone - news welcomed by wildlife enthusiasts. The news has, however, kept the state Forest Department on tenterhooks as it also means that poachers might make Uttarakhand a lucrative hunting ground.
"The National Tiger Conservation Authority has alerted all the tiger reserves across the state about the Bagadi tribe - known for hunting down tigers. And we has increased the security in all the reserves," said RPS Rawat, Principal Chief Conservator.
But there is a flip side as well. The records of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) and the Forest Department for the last two years say that 22 tiger deaths were reported in 2011, and 14 tigers have already died this year. When asked, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said the government has ordered an enquiry.
"There is a big gang which is operating. The police are supporting the Forest Department and whoever is found guilty will be punished," said Mr Bahuguna.
But the Opposition is not convinced. It has blamed the ruling government for inaction and lack of security for the feline species.
"This government is insensitive towards tiger conservation. And we've even raised the issue in the Assembly. An international poaching group is active in the state and tiger skin and its teeth are being smuggled out of the country through Nepal. The government has agreed for an enquiry but we are not satisfied with the assurance. We will launch an agitation," said Ajay Bhatt, leader of Opposition.
With latest tiger census bringing good news to the already dwindling tiger count in the country, 36 tiger deaths over a period of 24 months has set alarm bells ringing for better tiger conservation in the state.