palamau tiger reserve


This was a letter I had written to PTR’s Field Director to which he gave a very positive reply.

To end it all, when there is hope, there is a way, and where there is a way, there is no looking back.

Sir,

I have recently returned from a visit to the Palamau Tiger Reserve (PTR) and I would like to share certain things from you. This is not a complaint letter because I realize the enormous problems faced by PTR. This is just some of the things I would like to bring to your notice, which am sure you must be already well aware of.

I have read so much about PTR and have been enamored by the likes of Sir S P Sahi since long. I know of the problems plaguing the reserve and also well aware of the efforts by the authorities to provide a governing framework despite all odds. I have no doubts regarding the sincerity of the ground staff or the officials who work in the unfriendliest of terrain, habitat and amidst constant danger. I salute all the people who are tirelessly working for the betterment of the reserve. The flora, fauna, the people associated with the forest, the nation and humanity at large feel blessed for having people like you working for a cause like PTR despite being well aware of the fact that most Indians do not even care to find about the health or problems of PTR.

I would nevertheless like to bring out certain reservations I have regarding PTR (Betla NP, Palamau WS and Mahuadanr WS)

a) I witnessed grave anomalies at the Garu Police check-post. Locals carrying goats and chicken were openly “looted” of their belongings. Incidents like this anger the localites and I am sure the insecurity harboured would be further fueled by the extremist groups breeding in the area. I was a tourist so I would not have much news on the effectiveness of policing in this area but considering the very fact that corruption and bribing is rampant in Indian police forces I would not hesitate to say that this is one of the gravest areas that require checks and balances.

b) While at Mahuadanr, I got to hear from certain shops that on the name of conservation of the Indian Wolf, police and forest officials alike, collected goats from the local villagers (which I don’t understand why) but instead of using that as bait they themselves partied on it. This was one of the most shocking things I came across. Considering the management of Mahuadanr Wolf Sanctuary is a prerogative of PTR I am sure such a thing would be known to the higher authorities and it would be very kind if the last (and as such, the only) bastion of protection accorded to the vulnerable animal stays safe. I fear to think the kind of impression such news would create on the mind of wildlife enthusiasts. I didn’t have the time to look or inquire further into the health of Mahuadanr WS but I would return back for more field work at a later point of time.

c) The brochure on PTR mentions that the Budha Ghagh (Lodh Falls) is situated inside the PTR. It is definitely a reality but the fact could have easily been done away with. There is also a board of the waterfall outside the PTR check post at Betla giving an impression that it is very much nearby. Not only the brochure and the board keep a degree of secrecy on its location, it also fails to mention that people must go there at their own risk. Most drivers from Daltonganj, Ranchi or Netarhat have no idea whatsoever regarding where the waterfall is. There are no signboards even at Mahuadanr to help hapless tourists who defy all odds to come to such a place. I would have missed the highlight of my trip had it not been for my tiger-willed determination or the information I had collected before hand from my friends. Countless stories of loot, murder, danger and rape abound in this part of the world but no such mention of caution is made anywhere.

d) Checking with the prices mentioned in the information booklet I am shocked to say that despite no surety of food, water or electricity, hotels near the immediate vicinity of Betla ask for at least double the price. I can understand that tourists hardly visit the place but asking for such exorbitant price from tired tourists who come in the middle of night hardly serves the purpose of the park’s dying popularity.

e) Almost all the rivers and water sources within the park had dried up (understandable since it was almost the end of May) and the provisions provided were adequately sufficient for langurs, macaques and chitals. I was wondering about what would happen to the larger animals? What about them straying in villages and thereby enhancing the chances of Human Animal Conflict? Stumps of trees smuggled away didn’t leave a good impression on tourists though I perfectly understand that PTR has had to suffer a lot in the past and is still suffering owing to apathy and neglect from the government and civil society at large and to add to it the problems of left-wing extremism.

f) The safari elephants, Anarkali and Juhi, were in terribly bad condition with inadequate supply of food, water or medical intervention. I was shocked to see them being fed water by a hand pump. They go without bath for days (maybe months). The caretaker (Mr Mohammed Sharif) is poorly paid but I must laud his utmost dedication and passion for serving the pachyderms. I am thinking of collecting funds for the elephants and the caretaker.

g) The information brochure and the newly built Nature Interpretation Centre, though beautifully laid out, have certain gross anomalies in terms of grammatical mistakes and the information provided. PTR had 38 tigers a long back ago but the time period is not mentioned keeping tourists in dark. The estimate of 215-260 elephants as of 2004 doesn’t help seven years hence. The presence of 60 leopards, 250 gaurs and chausinghas is taken with a pinch-of-salt. Moreover, I am unsure if tourists to the tune of 15,000 to 20,000 visit the park annually. Most alarmingly, the problem of water scarcity is hidden and a picture of “all-is-well” is painted which is far from reality. I agree that not everything needs to be told to tourists who come picnicking but there ought to be greater transparency.

I can understand that with close to 1 lakh people living in some 200 villages and with a cattle population of some 86,000 the biotic pressure on the park is immense. Too add to it, the problems of not getting funds on time and insignificant tourism. It would be unwise for me to comment on the workforce of PTR considering the dangers of left-wing extremism.

I also realize that it is easy for me to write such a lengthy note on the anomalies and concerns and not be present in person to face the daunting task of revamping things and bring back PTR to its previous glory. But I write in the capacity of a person who has immense love for our nation’s wildlife, forests and heritage and would do anything to bring about a positive change. I also write because I believe in change and share the optimism harboured by the governing authorities of the park.

Palamau, am sure, in times to come, will take center stage yet again. Problems and challenges are many but if we all are untied then a solution would be forthcoming.

Sorry for the overdose of enthusiasm on my part and kindly excuse me if I went overboard on certain issues. It’s plain and genuine concern, nothing else, and I would be more than happy to provide any kind of assistance (in my own personal capacity) in the near future. It is an earnest request from an anonymous wildlife enthusiast who loves visiting the unknown and dying forests of India, “Please don’t let Palamau die.”

N.B. The two email ids mentioned in the PTR information brochure (dtj_fdptrpal@sancharnet.in and fdptrpalamau@yahoo.co.in) don’t work

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Anonymous on 20/06/2011 at 2:15 pm

    is the director of the PTR father of one of your friend? ( i dont remember the name exactly 😦
    nice summarization anyways 🙂
    your issues and concerns are up to the point and it would be of worth if your concerns directly reaches to him..
    i wish your post let him to think about the listed issues and concerns so that an immediate step could be taken to secure PTR..

    Reply

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