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Palamau reserve gets guardian

Ranchi, Jan. 28: The big cats of Palamau Tiger Reserve (PTR) can roar in joy.

Finally, the state forest department has notified the long-awaited tiger conservation foundation — an autonomous body mandated by the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972 to eradicate bureaucratic bottlenecks in transferring funds from the Centre besides ensuring better management and ecological development — for the reserve.

Although the Hemant Soren-led cabinet gave its nod for setting up Palamau Tiger Conservation Foundation last month, the notification was issued around three weeks later on January 20. PTR officials received a copy of the same yesterday.

The foundation, which will be headquartered in Daltonganj, will also oversee a wolf sanctuary located in Mahuadanr as it comes under the reserve area. “It’s a big achievement. Big cats will praise me for it,” joked chief wildlife warden A.K. Mishra, who is set to retire on January 31.

According to National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) guidelines, the foundation will have a governing body and an executive or working committee. The forest minister will chair the 15-member governing body, while the working committee, which will have five members, is to be headed by PTR director.

“Rules and regulations have been defined for both the bodies that will ensure greater transparency and cross-checking of works or decisions taken by the independent entity,” said D.S. Srivastava, a wildlife biologist and tiger expert.

Under the Wildlife Protection Act, it is mandatory for all states with reserves to have a tiger conservation foundation.

But since its inception, Jharkhand had been dodging the much-needed initiative, leading to shoddy management of day-to-day affairs and poor implementation of schemes at PTR. Funds released by the Centre would invariably get stuck at the state-level. No wonder, the 1,129.93sqkm reserve, which once boasted more than 30 tigers, today has only around 10 big cats.

“Tiger conservation efforts will become more transparent now. No cut or commission will have to be paid to babus in the forest department for getting funds meant for tigers,” pointed out an PTR official.

While tiger reserve director S.H. Kazmi couldn’t be contacted for comments, another senior official welcomed the move. “Besides directly getting grants from Centre or state, the foundation will have the authority to raise its own funds for maintaining biodiversity, ecology and health of the tiger reserve by linking it with eco-tourism, livelihood schemes. It will also make direct recruitment,” the official added.