Young tiger

For the first time in over a year, two tiger cubs and their mother have been seen in the Valmiki Tiger Reserve.

Finally, some good news about tigers in India. As a brief respite from news of poaching and industrialized tiger cruelty, Valmiki Tiger Reserve has apparently welcomed two recent arrivals.

According to the Times of India, two tiger cubs – along with their mother – were seen in the Manpur area of the reserve. Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel and villagers reported that they spotted the tiger family just last week.

Tiger cubs were last seen in Valmiki Tiger Reserve in March 2008, when they were caught on camera.

Guarded optimism

Despite the good news about the new cubs, all is not well in Valmiki Tiger Reserve.

It appears that government officials have not yet followed the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s missive on core critical habitat identification. Reserve personnel fear that mining interests in the area are to blame.

In fact, Valmiki Tiger Reserve official said he thinks the birth of the tigers has more to do with the natural conditions of the forest than anything the forest department has done for the tigers:

How can we take credit when we have not been able to notify even the core critical area of the reserve despite the fact that the National Tiger Conservation Authority has already issued a directive to this effect?

The directive he refers to states that tiger reserves have to identify core critical areas, giving wide-ranging powers to forest officials to check human interventions in the area. But it turns out the proposal covering Bihar’s 900 square km area has not been undertaken.

One of the problems is the mining activity in the Bhikna Thori area. And some are saying that the government is being influenced by parties who do not want to curtail any mining activities.

We have proposed to include Bhikna Thori area in the core critical area to put an effective check on mining activities in the area which serves like a junction for three protected areas – Royal Chitwan National Park, Parsa Wildlife Sanctuary of Nepal, and Valmiki Tiger Reserve of Bihar – which the wild animals use to move from one area to another.

Ramji Rishideo, Bihar minister of state for forest and environment, has refused to give any time frame for the core critical area notification, apparently saying only that no decision has been made as of yet.

Mining activities? Core critical habitat for critically endangered tigers (and other wildlife)? And a minister who doesn’t want to “make a decision”?

Let’s hope for the best – but in the meantime, say a prayer for those tiger cubs.

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