National Tiger Conservation Authority writes to states, asks authorities concerned to stop striped cats' photos and locations from being shared online; wildlife lovers say no logic or legal standing to directive
Wildlife lovers and experts say while the exact location should be refrained from being put up, no harm in photos being shared. Pics/SAROSH LODHI
Even as tigers, the few remaining ones, seem to have gone viral on social media with their locations and photos being widely shared across various networking sites, including WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Twitter, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has taken a serious note of it and expressed fear that sharing of crucial information regarding the striped cats might pose a threat to the animals from poachers.
The NTCA has written to all tiger states in the country to stop the big cats' locations from being shared on social media.
Snail mail appeal
On Saturday, NTCA assistant inspector general of forests wrote a letter to the chief wildlife wardens of all tiger range states, which also went viral on sites and among wildlife groups and pages on Facebook.
The letter, a copy of which is with mid-day, states, "I am directed to say that this authority has received information of tiger photographs as well as camera trap pictures circulating on WhatsApp groups and Facebook, which are highlighting the animals' location. This information has (the) potential of being used for committing wildlife crimes... It is requested that no such photographs or information be shared on WhatsApp groups or Facebook; however, a person in official capacity concerned with tiger conservation may be appraised individually on his/her personal contact details as and when required."
The letter was also sent to the additional director of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, New Delhi, the regional offices of NTCA in Guwahati, Nagpur and Bengaluru, as well as to all field directors of tiger reserves in the country.
No legal standing
Wildlife lover Dr Sarita Subramanian, who has been travelling extensively across tiger reserves and also helping communities staying nearby, said, "The NTCA is shooting the messenger, because forest department is being questioned by tourists and made accountable and responsible for missing or poached or poisoned tigers in popular reserves. Unless it can furnish data to support its claim that 'named' tigers have been poached as against the unnamed ones in non-touristy areas that comprise 80% of reserves, it doesn't have any legal standing to stop sharing of images taken legitimately by tourists, who have paid the required fees."
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There are hundreds of WhatsApp and Facebook groups on which tourists and wildlife lovers visiting the reserves put up pictures. While some post with just a mention of the reserve's name, others have been sharing the animal's exact location, which, according to forest department officials, poses a threat to the wildlife, as poachers too have become tech savvy and are using crucial data available online.
Wildlife photographer Sarosh Lodhi from Conservation Lenses and Wildlife, an independent group of wildlife lovers and photographers on Facebook, said, "It's as weird as traffic cops saying 'since we aren't able to control rash riders, request everyone to stop driving'. I personally think that we should not share the exact location, but there's no harm if the reserve's name is mentioned."
Pench chief conservator of forests and field director M Srinivasa Reddy said, "Yes, we have received the letter from NTCA, and I think it is a really good move. We would like to appeal to tourists and wildlife photographers visiting the reserves that whenever they post pictures, they see to it that they don't mention the exact location of the tigers, and don't share the date or time when the sighting happened, because poachers get to know the movement pattern of a particular tiger based on these photographs and the information shared."
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