Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), a premier wildlife body, Wednesday slammed a 'wildlife intelligence report' that claimed radio-collaring was the reason for the deaths of around three dozen tigers in Madhya Pradesh's Panna National Park.
In a statement, BNHS director Asad Rahmani said that radio-collaring of big cats and other animals in the wild has been an efficient method in use for over 40 years.
After investigating the issue, Rahmani said: 'The BNHS is horrified to know about the so-called intelligence report which indirectly blames the researchers. The silence of Madhya Pradesh Forest Department on the issue is also shocking.'
The recent report blamed radio-collaring of big ,cats which allegedly hampered their natural movement, caused neck infections and were used by poachers to locate tigers.
Rahmani, who is also member of National Board for Wildlife, said that in Panna, scientists have used radio-collaring and telemetry to study the ecology and behaviour of the big cats with the permission of the government and it has yielded very good understanding of tiger biology.
The last tiger was collared in Panna in 2002 and its radio-collar battery would have exhausted in two years.
That tiger was seen alive as per records till 2005, while Panna became 'tiger-less' in 2007.
It also dismissed as 'baseless' that claim that poachers used radio-collaring to track the tigers since the imported equipment goes through customs checks and the frequencies of every radio-collar can only be tracked by scientists or investigators.
'Hence, there is no way radio-collaring of seven tigers in Panna could lead to the disappearance of 30-35 tigers,' Rahmani said.
Moreover, he said that there are several tiger sanctuaries in India where big cats have gone extinct even without the use of radio-collaring.
He pointed out that a similar irresponsible cover-up by the authorities led to the extinction of Bustards in Madhya Pradesh's Karera Sanctuary though the official figures claimed that 16 birds were still left.
He also refuted allegations that excessive use of tranquilizers could have harmed the tigers since experts from the Wildlife Institute of India were involved in the project.
'To blame radio-collaring is an eye-wash that ignored the actual for the decline in tiger population and seeks a quick-fix scapegoat,' Rahmani declared.
Reiterating BNHS's support to radio-collaring, Rahmani emphasized that besides giving valuable insights into the secretive world of big cats in the wild, radio-tracking actually helps curb the menace of poaching since tiger movement is constantly monitored and the ones which stray or are killed are immediately noticed.