Pardhi tribe termed the biggest threat to wildlife
New Delhi, January 6 Authorities have termed the Pardhi tribes as the "number one threat" to the country's wildlife population in the wake of poaching of eight lions in the Gir Forest lately "They are the most skilled of all the poachers. And as the lions are extremely and critically endangered, the Pardhis strike should be seen as a huge and big threat to them," said Belinda Wright, Executive Director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.
It is not only the lions in Gir, even tigers in the neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh are not safe from the Pardhis
"They are the number one threat to wildlife as well as to the tiger population in MP. They are traditional hunters and there are numerous wildlife offences registered against them in the state," said Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) of Madhya Pradesh, H S Pabla.
Wildlife experts attribute hundreds of tiger deaths to the Pardhis over the years and say that as these tribesmen are active across the country, there is no collated data regarding them with any anti-poaching agency, like the forest department, police or NGOs.
Wright pointed out that unlike the tigers, which are found in various parts of the country, the lions have their only natural habitat in the Gir forests.
Recounting the deadly might of the Pardhis, Wright said, "Once they laid four steel-traps in the forests in the afternoon and by evening they had poached three Lions."
The Pardhis, who have sub-tribes like Bawadiya, Mogia, Chidimar and Bahelia, were branded as "criminal" tribes in 1871 by the British for their hunting and poaching activities. In 1952, the tribe was denotified as "criminal" and named a nomadic tribe.
"The Pardhis are present in the Reethi forest range, Vimalkheri, Barhi, Bihrauli and other places. They are traditionally into poaching as they are habitual non-vegetarians," said K P Tripathi, Range Forest Officer (RFO) of Vijayraghogarh forest range in Katni district of Madhya Pradesh.
"They initially hunted wild animals for eating but with time they have become 'specialists' in tiger poaching. They poach cruelly and are a hard nut to crack once we start the investigations," Tripathi added.
Manjula Srivastava, an advocate who has represented the Madhya Pradesh state forest department in various poaching cases related to Pardhis, said, "They have done it all — be it tigers, leopards or wild boars. They are a tough game for the Forest Department as they are always armed."
She added that many Pardhis are known to have voter ID cards, bank balance, television sets and luxury cars too.
Experts opine that lack of education and their laid-back attitude towards work make them an easy pawn at the hands of politicians and mafia gangs. However, the Forest Department is trying to bring them into the mainstream.
"They are expert net makers and can do small business.
We are trying to impart training to the elders and education to their children with the help of the Tribals Department," said Additional PCCF Pabla.