Chandrapur (Maharashtra): Alarmed at the rise in tiger poaching, wildlife lover Bandu Dhotre will start a fast unto death in Nagpur from Monday to seek protection for the big cat in Maharashtra.
The 32-year-old founder president of Eco-Pro, an ecology protection NGO here, says that measures taken by the government to protect tigers are confined to only reserve forest areas, while the buffer and territorial forests in the state continue to be the hotbeds of poaching activities.
"The recent spurt in tiger poaching cases is alarming. Over 100 volunteers of Eco-Pro work closely with the forest department and we feel that only the tigers in the forest reserve of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) are getting protection from poachers," said Dhotre.
"There are many more tigers in the unprotected buffer and territorial forests and that is where the poachers get a free hand to kill them," he added.
The core area of TATR is spread over 624 sq km, while the buffer and the territorial forests have an area of 1,100 sq km.
Dhotre, who begins his fast at the Van Bhavan office, the state`s forest headquarters in Nagpur, says Maharshtra was not doing enough to conserve tiger population and that his fast aims at making the government realise of its failure in saving the animal from extinction.
Agrees Dhirendra Mulkalwar, a music composer and producer associated with Eco-Pro.
"Despite announcing several protective measures in TATR, the government is treating the symptoms instead of the cause. The remedy is to treat the area around the reserve at par with the core area," Mulkalwar said.
Mulkalwar said that according to the 2006 tiger census there were 46 tigers in TATR. "The buffer area, however, has over 50 tigers and that is where the poaching activities are taking place," he added.
"Tadoba tigers get VIP treatment while those outside live `below poverty line,`" he lamented.
Although Dhotre`s fast is perhaps the first of its kind to protect tigers, it is not the first time that he is using `Gandhigiri` to save environment.
Three years ago, the animal lover had undertaken a similar fast unto death against allotment of coal blocks to power major Adani in Lohara in the buffer area of TATR.
Dhotre has 16-point charter of demands, which include merging of forests in Chandrpaur district along with its employees into Chandrapur, Central Chanda and Bramhapuri forest divisions for more effective conservation efforts.
"The forest areas under the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra should be merged with forests in Chandrapur and around, including the Tadoba large wildlife area," Dhotre said.
"Another of our demand is installation of the electronic eye systems in TATR similar to that in the Jim Corbet Tiger Reserve," he added.
Eco-Pro activists will hold parallel token and relay hunger strikes in Chandrapur, Gondia, Bhandara, Nashik, Jalgaon and Solapur to support the cause.
"We need to ensure that tigers live in a safe environment. Despite several letters and memorandums to the forest minister and other officials in the forest department, poachers continue to kill tigers," Dhotre said.
"It`s time that citizens and animal lovers should get to together to raise their voice against these illegal activities," Dhotre said.