HYDERABAD: The deaths of two tigers and a leopard within a month in and the catchment area falling under tiger corridor and surrounding areas reflects the sorry state of conservation in the state following the division of the tiger reserve into four districts.

Four District Forest Officers (DFOs) and other low-ranking officials have been assigned the task of collecting grass seeds, plantation and other tasks that do not focus on wildlife conservation. Foresters have also stopped patrolling the forests on foot and are depending more on technology such as camera traps to keep tabs on illegal activities.

“Conservation efforts went haywire after the Kawal Tiger Reserve was divided into four districts during the reorganisation of districts in 2016. Besides wildlife conservation and jurisdiction of surrounding areas, DFOs also have to focus on other areas of forestry like plantation, grass seed collection, sowing of grass seeds due to which their attention has been diverted. They no longer patrol the area on foot but use motorcycles and jeeps. It is difficult to stop poachers if there is no foot patrolling. Technology can help only to a certain extent but there is no alternative to foot patrolling,” an expert on tiger conservation told STOI on condition of anonymity.

Foresters are required to patrol at least 12 to 15 km of the reserve area on foot.

Besides, funds are also not being utilised properly. “Authorities are not utilising the available funds of Rs 10 crore to Rs 12 crore. Only Rs 5 crore to Rs 6 crore of these funds have been utilised so far. There is no shortage of money but only a lack of commitment,” added an official. However, Kawal Tiger Reserve field director Saravanan could not be reached for comments despite several attempts by STOI.

Although around 13 tigers have been caught on camera so far in and around the Kawal Tiger Reserve, there is no continuous monitoring of the except in Bejjur area.

Munindra, additional principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) of , told STOI: “We had already come out with certain strategies even before the poaching incident had occurred and will implement them soon. Foot patrolling will be done regularly in the area. The staff will not be given any other work except for management of wildlife.

“We are introducing metal detectors which can help spot snares and electric wires. Making water available for herbivores and carnivores during summer is also on our list. A tiger tracker will be put behind every big cat so that it can be monitored continuously. Further, tigers keep moving from one place to another before they finalise the area of their jurisdiction.”

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