Tadoba gates to close for tourists


Nagpur – In a shock to wildlife buffs, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), Maharashtra, has ordered closure of the high-profile
Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) for tourists on “administrative grounds” from November 25.

The move comes after government’s failure to post staff at the country’s premier tiger reserve for several months. According to official sources, the orders to this effect were issued on Monday by B Majumdar, PCCF (wildlife) and chief wildlife warden.

Copies of this letter have been sent to the additional chief secretary (forests), PCCF (General) and field director of TATR. TOI had already reported how vacant posts of range forest officers (RFOs) had played havoc with park management. On June 14, Pachpute had specifically told TOI that PCCF (wildlife) would have a say in postings and accordingly, a proposal was also sent to the minister. Yet, competent persons are not being posted to the reserve.

There are five posts of RFOs in 625-sq km TATR — three for its ranges Tadoba, Moharli and Kolsa and one each for protection and research. Shockingly, three of the five posts (Tadoba, Moharli and Research) are lying vacant. D P Chaundikar, RFO, Kolsa, is on a three months’ training to Dehradun thus making his post also effectively vacant.

Chaundikar was charged with being involved in illicit felling in the adjacent Shivni range of Chandrapur district and was put under suspension. Still, he was posted in sensitive Kolsa range where protection of forest is paramount. G N Pise, RFO (Protection), who has only a year’s service left, has sought VRS and currently holds additional charges of Tadoba, Moharli and Research.

The issue of postings has become so messy that department top brass are now speaking with different voices. Forest minister Babanrao Pachpute on Thursday had promised that new posting orders would be issued in a day or two. When contacted, additional chief secretary (forests), J P Dange, told TOI that RFOs were already posted to TATR but these officials were not joining.