The Tiger (Panthera Tigris) is our National Animal and a Schedule-I Mammal protected under The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. According to a news report in the news magazine ‘The Week’ dated February 17, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi while inaugurating the 13th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species held at Gandhinagar, said that, “India has achieved its target of doubling the number of Tigers two years before the committed date of 2022”. He also informed that the Tiger population in India now stands at almost 2,970.
At a time when one would be glad to learn about the growth of Tiger population announced by our Prime Minister, there are certain elements within his party who are unfortunately trying to politicize the Tigers palate for vested political interests. It has been reported by the media that on Monday, 12th October 2020, one Satya Ranjan Borah, an Assam BJP leader along with his associates blocked the main gate of Assam State Zoo cum Botanical Garden located at Guwahati and forcefully tried to stop vehicles carrying beef for feeding Tigers from entering the Zoo premises.
Tigers are carnivores, meaning that their diet consists of meat, flesh, and fats of animals that they catch. This is where they get all of their protein and other dietary requirements in order to conduct day to day activities. It’s hard to say whether or not Tigers have a preference in what kind of meat they eat or if they are just eating what is available and easiest to catch. This often includes boar, bear, buffalo, cow, deer, etc., including weak or young elephants. When large prey is not available, they are known to feast on lizards, crab, toads, birds, and fish.
In regard to captive Tigers in Zoo’s, there are Central Government guidelines which are followed by the States. In Assam, the ‘Feeding and Management of Zoo Animals Guidelines’ available in the website of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Department, Government of Assam, states that a Tiger weighing around 140-221 kg requires 6-8 kg of beef with bone/ day. (Source: animalhusbandary.assam.gov.in)
Furthermore, according to a news report in NDTV dated 12th October 2020, Satya Ranjan Borah also insisted that Sambar Deer’s should be killed and the meat should be used to feed the carnivores animals. Such comments by a political leader is indeed unfortunate as it may encourage illegal poaching of Sambar Deer’s, which is listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and are protected under Schedule-III of The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
In the above mentioned NDTV news report, the Assam Forest Minister, Parimal Suklabaidya, a senior BJP leader of the state was quoted as follows – “The animals were fed beef as it was “essential” for their nutrition. Some states opted to feed carnivores buffalo meat but since Assam does not have that stock, beef was given as per the centre’s guidelines.”
The attempt by Satya Ranjan Borah and his associates to stop the entry of beef meant for Tigers into the Assam State Zoo thereby trying to starve our National Animal to death as well as his subsequent comments encouraging the killing of Sambar Deer’s are in violation of The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, among other laws.
The concerned authorities, more particularly the State Forest Department, the Central Zoo Authority and the National Tiger Conservation Authority will do well to initiate necessary action in this regard to protect our wildlife as mandated under Article-48A of the Constitution of India.
(The writer is an Advocate at Gauhati High Court and an Environmental Lawyer)