The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sariska not fit for tigers

New Delhi, June 27: The government has conceded that the Sariska national park in Rajasthan is no longer fit to be home to tigers.

Union environment secretary Prodipto Ghosh said today the habitat in Sariska has been completely destroyed because of invasive human presence and thinning green cover.

The ministry’s admission means that the Rajasthan government’s request of relocating tigers to Sariska from nearby reserves stands rejected, at least for the time being. Ghosh said the relocation of big cats would be possible only after the habitat is restored.

Conservationists have expressed concern about the destruction of the tiger habitat in Sariska, from where the big cats have been wiped out. Jolted after a CBI probe he had ordered revealed a nil tiger count, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year set up a task force to undertake reforms.

The Wildlife Institute of India, at the behest of the ministry of environment and forests, conducted an ecological analysis of the reserve. The findings were shocking. Not only had Sariska lost almost 11 square km of forest cover, tigers have not been able to reproduce in the park for the last seven to eight years.

Ghosh said the International Union for Conservation of Nature had recently assessed the condition of all the tiger reserves in the country. The report found that of the 28 tiger reserves two ' Sariska and Indravati ' were highly unsatisfactory, the secretary said. Kanha, in Madhya Pradesh, was rated the best.

The conservationists have been blaming uncontrolled tourism in Sariska. There are also 12 villages and the Alwar-Tanagiri tehsil road inside the reserve ' factors that contributed to the disappearance of the big cats.

Ghosh, however, scotched fears that poaching would increase after the Nathu-la opens on July 6 for trade between India and China. He said security forces guarding the pass would be trained to identify tiger body parts.

He said the government had taken several steps to check illegal trade of animal parts, including smuggling of tiger parts like skin and nails. He added that the Chinese government has also implemented laws banning use of tiger parts in medicine and disallowing display of products made by using endangered animals.

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