The National Tiger Conservation Authority has refused to give its nod for reintroduction of white tigers in Madhya Pradesh saying they have no "conservation value", a decision that may come as a setback to the state's efforts to secure these rare species.
The decision was taken sometime ago during a meeting of NTCA's technical committee and officials of Madhya Pradesh Forest department here. According to a note of the meeting, the committee perused the response of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to this issue, raised by the Chief Wildlife Warden of Madhya Pradesh, to refuse the approval for reintroduction of white tigers.
"WII has already made it amply clear that the reintroduction of white tiger into natural habitat is not desirable as white tiger is not a separate sub-species of tiger but only an aberration of the Royal Bengal Tiger and hence it has no conservation value," it said.
The note was accessed by Bhopal-based wildlife activist Ajay Dubey exercising his Right to Information (RTI).
"Ministry of Environment and Forests should intervene and ask NTCA to rethink on the matter. We will also write to the Ministry," said Dubey.
The state government has been making several efforts to get a pair of white tigers for Sanjay Tiger Reserve in Sidhi district. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had also written to his Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik, seeking a pair of white tigers from Nandankanan zoo for the state's proposed zoo-cum-rescue centre at Mukundpur, near Govindgarh.
However, the efforts to get the tigers from Odisha could not be materialised.
There is no white tiger in wild or natural habitat in Madhya Pradesh. The state has about three such tigers in captivity. It is said that in 1953, a white male tiger was captured by Maharaj Martand Singh of Rewa, princely state in Madhya Pradesh.
This tiger, after mating with a normal coloured tigress, fathered white tiger cubs in captivity. The breeding programme went on for long, and the cubs were sold or donated to various zoos in India and outside.
Madhya Pradesh authorities have also sought transfer of 11 elephants from Karnataka to the state for monitoring tigers.
The committee which heard the matter said the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW) of both the states should deal with this as "NTCA has no role to play in the matter".
The elephants were needed especially in Panna Tiger Reserve and in other wild habitat of big cats in the state.
"The committee opined that as the issue involves captive elephants it is a matter between two states and therefore the CWLWs of both states should deal with this. Government of India or NTCA has no role to play in this matter," the note said.
The committee has approved Madhya Pradesh government's two proposals -- one is regarding bringing in two adult female tigers to Panna (one from Bandhavgarh and another from Pench tiger reserve) and second is translocation of at least three male sub-adult tigers.