Wildlife in West Bengal is the poorer with the death of a tiger in the Sundarbans. This is the singular feature of the tragedy that has a degree of clarity. There is much that is fogbound; far too little in terms of an investigation. Confusion gets worse confounded with the semantic quibbling over wire-trapping and poaching.
There is a tendency to obfuscate the second; for, if true, it reflects poorly on the forest authorities. It has been admitted nonetheless that wire traps had been laid in the area to capture what they call “smaller animals”, including the deer. The tiger is suspected to have been caught in one of the traps. No arrests have as yet been made, though two persons have been detained for interrogation.
The forest department ought to have realised by now that so hideous a procedure to track down the regal species in its tracks has seldom been put to effect. So hideous indeed that a mesh of galvanised iron wires was found entangled in the carcass. And it would be pointless to labour the obvious in the manner of a forest official in the Sundarbans, i.e. that the “tiger got caught and failed to free itself”.
It now transpires that the wire traps are put in place with calculated malevolence. Whether it is a tiger or a deer, the creature gets still more entangled as it tries to free itself. By all accounts, the tragedy points to a well-organised racket not the least because “snares”, for catching birds or mammals by forming a noose with wires, were seized from the city.
For once, poachers from the riverine areas of Bangladesh have not been suspected. This time, the needle of suspicion, to use a cliche, points to the local residents who sell the meat of deer and wild boar, not to forget the enormously precious tiger skin. Palpable is the forest department’s failure to ensure that the Wildlife Protection Act is rigidly implemented.
The death of the tiger signifies the failure to ensure that the chief provision of the legislation is implemented… specifically that hunting is banned. As an endangered species, the tiger is listed in Schedule I of the Act. Hunting, poaching or trading in skin and bone can incur a prison term ranging from three to seven years.
Ineffectual as the forest authorities occasionally are, the tragedy has placed the forest department under a cloud. Not the least because the worst has happened before the 2018 tiger census report is advanced by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
The latest killing follows a similar tragedy on 13 April last year, when a tiger was done to death by a group of hunters at Lalgarh in Midnapore. The forest department has stumbled all too often, whether the tragedy befalls a tiger, a deer or an elephant flung to its death by a speeding train.