The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court has expressed concern over the rising deaths of big cats in Maharashtra. The court has directed the state government to gather elaborate data and spell out the efforts being made to curb the deaths of tigers and leopards in the state.
Responding to a public interest litigation (PIL), a division bench comprising Justice Vijay Daga and Justice Arun Choudhary, also asked the state to submit a report in this regard within two weeks.
The court treated a letter by local environmentalist Avantika Chitnavis as PIL and directed the state to initiate all necessary steps to minimise the man-animal conflict around the protected forests in Vidarbha region.
The state wildlife wing informed the court that 35 leopards and few tigers died till August this year while 60 and 48 leopards died in 2008 and 2009 respectively in Maharashtra. The forest department admitted the death of big cats despite Tadoba, Melghat and Pench tiger reserves having good forests.
The state informed the court that the process of relocation of villages inside the tiger reserves has begun. This, the government contended, will minimize the man-animal conflict in the area. “The buffer zones of these reserves have been widened,” it added.
The state refuted the petitioner’s contention of no transparency in the procedures to deal with cases of death of a tiger or a leopard. It denied that the department has inexperienced forest personnel to tackle the man-animal conflict near forest areas.
The forest department assured the court that they would take “all possible measures” to protect and conserve the forest and its eco-system of which tigers and leopards are a part.