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UDHAGAMANDALAM: The Nilgiris district, which comprises 54% reserve forests with the highest tiger population in the state, lacks a forest
veterinarian. A sanctioned post in the rank of assistant veterinarian, attached to the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, has been lying vacant for more
than seven months. As a result, activists said, treating wounded animals had become difficult. The department has to summon veterinarians
attached to panchayat unions close by or the animal husbandry department in case of emergency and for postmortem too. “The Nilgiris forests, home to tigers, leopards and elephants, besides other animals, should have a permanent veterinarian, and it is compulsory for reserves like MTR,” said K Kalidas, president, OSAI and former member of the Tamil Nadu Wildlife Board. “The main problem is that the forest department has to get veterinarians assigned from the animal husbandry department. Veterinarians in that department show little interest in getting assigned to the forest department for various reasons,” he said. According to Kalidas, veterinarians deputed to the forest department often face activists who come up with unscientific claims. They would not have the freedom to take decisions when it comes to handling wild animals, be it in their rescue or in rendering
treatment. “The veterinarians are blamed for any animal death, be it while tranquillizing or treating them for ailments or wounds. That is
the reason why veterinarians do not opt for deputation to the forest department,” Kalidas said. 

He said experience and skill were needed to handle wild animals. “Leaving the veterinarian post in MTR vacant could be termed a setback to conservation. And it is high time the government took action to fill it up.” He suggested direct appointment of veterinarians to the forest department as an option. Ulaganathan, field director of MTR and Mukurthi National Park, said, “Only if a working veterinarian from the animal husbandry department opts for deputation to our department, the vacancy could be filled. Otherwise, we have to wait until new recruitments are made. As of now, a Kerala veterinarian is stationed in the MTR as three Kerala ‘kumkis’ are being trained.” The MTR houses an elephant camp with 23
elephants at Theppakadu.

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