31 October, 2020

That Hunted Feeling

Our best biologists are being hounded and maligned so venal forest officials can keep their dirty secrets secret

That Hunted Feeling
Tiger biologist Dr Raghunandan Chundawat is desperate to return to the wild. Particularly to the dry deciduous forest of Madhya Pradesh's Panna Tiger Reserve. The site where he conducted the first and longest study in our conservation history, from 1995 to 2004, of strengthening tiger ecology in a dry forest; the most extensive tiger habitat in India and also the most vulnerable. But even in the current tiger crisis, Dr Chundawat is barred from entering Panna TR as a researcher, his application for continued research ignored by the MP forest department since February 2005.

His crime? Scientific certainty. "We documented the loss of nine breeding tigers, almost the entire breeding population of Panna, plus 21 young adult tigers," he says. His misdemeanour? "Showing this evidence to the director, Project Tiger." The result? Official action, not against poachers, but against the scientist. Chundawat's research vehicle and radio-telemetry equipment were seized (then returned). A case for recovering Rs 1,80,000 as elephant hire charges was filed with three-year retrospective...


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