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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tiger fear stalks Kerwa, Kaliasot villagers -TNN

BHOPAL: A tiger is stalking the dark shadows on the outskirts of the state capital. Villagers residing in the area have got indications to this effect due to two recent incidents.

On August 12, a half-eaten carcass of a cow and its calf was found near the Kerwa Dam-Kaliasot area. Local residents were so terrified that they locked themselves inside their homes during Raksha Bandhan and Independence Day and returned to their normal lives only after the forest department assured that the big cat had gone back into the forests of Ratapani, 40 km away.

However, the fear returned anew when the half-eaten carcass of a buffalo was found there Thursday evening. Pug marks have been traced after both the cattle killing incidents. But the tiger remains unspotted.

"Our concern in on two fronts. First, to guard the local population and avoid any human loss and second, to protect the tiger from poachers that might kill the animal,'' explained assistant conservator of forests Suresh Bagmare. "The spot where the tiger is hunting would be approximately seven km from Kolar Road. This means that the animal is five km from the densely populated areas of Bhopal city.''

Forest guards are guiding the local population on ways to avoid a confrontation with the wild cat. Villagers of Kaliasot have been instructed to avoid the forest areas especially after the sunset hours and to go into the forests in groups if necessary during the daytime.

"Tigers generally do not deviate from their own territory and always follow a track,'' Bagmare said. "Though the tiger has been reported to visit the Kaliasot vicinity in the past two years, it has not come into the human habitations.'' According to the assistant conservator of forests, this is a male tiger which has "presumably'' strayed to Bhopal from the adjoining Ratapani sanctuary. To be sure that it is from Ratapani, the forest department needs to conduct a DNA. If it was a feline, there would be cubs with the tigress and pugmarks of the cubs would also be found. But there were no cub pug marks.

Ratapani's tiger population is close to 20. The 435 sq km wildlife sanctuary is being considered as a possible tiger reserve.

Forest dept. re-establishing tiger corridors: Natarajan

Minister of State for Environment and Forests (independent charge) Jayanthi Natarajan told Rajya Sabha on Tuesday corridors for the safe movement of tigers were being re-established.

The 2010 country level assessment says that as per the status of tigers, co-predators and prey in the country, the tiger landscapes have potential for metapopulation existence but require corridor connectivity.

Cretain areas like Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh), Similipal - Satkosia (Orissa), Ranthambhore - Kuno Palpur - Sheopur (Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh), Indravati - Northern Andhra Pradesh - Chandrapur - Nagzira - Navegaon (Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra), and Bandhavgarh - Sanjay - Guru Ghasidas - Palamau (Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand) are in greater need of such corridor.

Provision exists in the ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of ‘Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats’ for supporting such areas, Natarajan said.

Besides this, active management for tiger translocation is also done on a site-specific basis to repopulate suitable low tiger density habitats from other well populated reserves within a landscape, she said.

Project Tiger to get Rs 6.35 crore in 2011-12 PTI

CHENNAI: The Project Tiger in Tamil Nadu is proposed to get Rs 6.35 crore for its implementation during 2011-12.

A policy note tabled in the assembly said the project, was presenty receiving 100 per cent central assistance for non-recurring works and 50 per cent for recurring works.

According to the latest census, Tamil Nadu has 163 big cats within its territory.

The state also proposes to spend Rs 3.09 crore for implementing various schemes in Project Elephant. Of the 26,000 elephants estimated in India, Tamil Nadu had 4,015 tuskers.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tiger protection hit as staff engaged in recruitment process

TNN | Aug 30, 2011, 03.29AM IST

NAGPUR: Tiger and forest protection in Nagpur division is likely to take a beating with field staff from tiger-bearing areas being pushed for recruitment work.

A major drive to recruit 1,200 forest guards in 11 territorial circles in the state is under way. Out of this, 73 posts will be filled in the Nagpur division. A target of September 20 has been set to complete entire recruitment exercise.

To accomplish the Herculean task, over 100 field staffers including range forest officers (RFOs), forest guards and foresters have been summoned to the headquarters in city to sort out forms, verification and other works, said sources.

Staff from sensitive Bhiwapur, Umred, Kondhali, Hingna, Kalmeshwar, Kuhi, Deolapar and Paoni ranges has been pressed into service in city for recruitment work. All the above areas are not only sensitive but have identified population of tigers, with 15 tigers in the city division.

"If so many staffers are engaged in clerical work, what about tiger and forest protection," asked a section of wildlife conservationists.

On the contrary, deputy conservator of forests, PK Mahajan said employees are not being engaged in recruitment work at the cost of protection.

"Only educated staffers in other ranges are engaged in recruitment work. Till now over 12,000 forms have been received and sorting and verifying them is a tough task," said Mahajan. "It's true that team of RFOs have been made for speedy procedures," he added.

Tiger Reserves

Tiger Reserves
There are 40 tiger reserves in the country.  The details are at Annexure-I.
                        The Biligiri Ranganatha Temple Sanctuary has already been notified by the State as a Tiger Reserve, while ‘in-principle’ approval has been accorded by the National Tiger Conservation Authority for constituting the Kudremukh Tiger Reserve.
                        As reported by the State, there are 504 families residing in the Biligiri Ranganatha Temple Tiger Reserve, and 1339 families in the Kudremukh National Park.  The package for voluntary village relocation / rehabilitation from the core / critical tiger habitat has been enhanced to
Rs. 10 lakh / family in the ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger.
            The funding support is provided to States based on their Annual Plan of Operation / Tiger Conservation Plan, which interalia includes provisions to reduce the dependency of fringe people on natural resources
Sl. No.
Year of creation
Name of Tiger Reserve
Madhya Pradesh
West Bengal
West Bengal
Andhra Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh
Tamil Nadu
Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh
Tamil Nadu 
Madhya Pradesh

Tamil Nadu
Biligiri Ranganatha Temple
This information was given by the Minister of State for Environment and Forests (independent charge) Shrimati Jayanthi Natarajan in a written reply to a question by Shri Abdul Rahman in Lok Sabha today.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tiger fear lurks in Bhopal suburb

August 29, 2011 By LALIT SHASTRI Correspondent BHOPAL
Villagers living very close to Bhopal, in an area which is densely forested and stretches between Kaliyasot and the Kerwan reservoirs on the periphery of the state capital, have spotted pugmarks of a tiger repeatedly between August 12 and last Saturday.
When contacted, chief conservator of forest (Bhopal circle) S.S. Rajput confirmed the movement of a tiger. The presence of a tiger was registered in this area between August 12 and 15. The tiger was spotted once again on August 24 and after that it has been moving in this area. The territorial forest staff on beat duty had sighted the same tiger on the Kerwan hill on Saturday night. Earlier in the afternoon, there was also a cattle killed near the village. This forested area, contiguous with the Ratapani Sanctuary, is so heavily forested that it is difficult to spot a tiger moving in the area even from a short distance of about 20 meters.
Mr Rajput pointed out that this landscape forming the tri-junction of three districts — Bhopal, Sehore and Raisen — has very good quality forest with lot of trees and rock shelters. The forest belt is contiguous with Ratapani Sanctuary, which has witnessed a 70 per cent increase in tiger population from nine to 16 in two successive tiger census operations — one conducted in 2006 and the next in 2010.
On the prolonged movement of a tiger in a territory close to Bhopal, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) H.S. Pabla said that this could be incidental or due to territorial issues as the tiger population has gone up considerably in the Ratapani Sanctuary. Last December and January also, a tigress was seem moving in this area with two cubs, he added. Since there is no pray base in this area, chances of predatory attacks and man-animal conflict are high in this territory, Dr Pabla emphasised.
Two major educational institutes are located in this territory which was proposed to be declared as a PSP (public-semi-public) area in the latest city master plan which could not see the light of day due to court intervention. The state government has tried to declare this area as PSP despite objections raise by the concerned forest department authorities on the ground that this forested belt is contiguous with the forests of Kathotia, Jhiri, Imlana and Delawadi.

Centre rues lack of review at Pakke

- Hydel projects pose threat to the tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh
Guwahati, Aug. 28: The Centre has indicated that there has been no systematic assessment of threats to Pakke tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh from power projects.

This has been pointed out in the management effectiveness evaluation report of Pakke tiger reserve prepared by the Wildlife Institute of India and the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

“The threats have been identified in a systematic way, but there have been no systematic assessment,” the report said.

It said power houses and hydel projects, which pose as new threats, would affect the protection efforts because of the increased biotic pressure, pollution and others.

The biological corridors currently used by animals would also be affected, it said.

The 861.95 square km Pakke tiger reserve lies on the foothills of the eastern Himalayas in the East Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.

A park official said of the four power projects coming up in the vicinity, two would require diversion of the core area of the reserve.

“We have been raising these issues constantly with the authorities at the Centre as these are threats to the reserve,” the official said.

The report said the state government has signed an MoU with Mountain Fall Company based in Delhi for construction of 1,200MW power project across Kameng river near Pinjuli where the Pakke tiger reserve, Eagle Nest wildlife sanctuary and Thenga reserve forest merge.

“Though the Mountain Fall Company has not submitted its report, the pre-feasibility report of the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (Neepco) reportedly suggests 27 hectares of the tiger reserve will be submerged in addition to the expected disturbance during construction,” it said.

“We are being constantly pressurised to give clearance to the projects as MoUs have been signed with the state government,” the official said.

The report said the construction of 600MW power house at Kimi in the north western part of the reserve has brought in thousands of labourers leading to several settlements in the fringes, which could be a threat in future. “A diversion tunnel at Pakke side under the dam will also affect the reserve,” it said.

The tiger population of Pakke, which it shares with Nameri in Assam, is estimated to be nine.

The reserve forms a part of larger landscape with adjoining Sonai Rupai sanctuary and Nameri tiger reserve and also reserve forests such as Tenga, Doimara and Pappum.

The Sessa Orchid wildlife sanctuary and Eagle Nest wildlife sanctuary are also adjacent, though on the other side of the river.

The area is also important in terms of watershed with several streams originating from the landscape leading to Pakke and Kameng rivers. It also forms part of the Kameng elephant reserve.

The area is rich in wildlife with 40 species of mammals, 300 species of birds, 20 reptile species, 8 amphibian species and 12 species of fishes and butterflies.

The report said the communities in the fringe area are exerting some pressure in the form of collection of non-timber forest products and tribal hunting to a limited extent.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

NTCA suggests minor changes in Tadoba plan TNN

NAGPUR: The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) on Friday suggested certain changes in the tiger conservation plan (TCP) of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR).

A meeting to discuss the plan was held at Delhi on Friday morning by the expert committee. The committee appreciated the detailed plan but suggested to incorporate some minor changes and come back again.

A presentation was made by chief conservator of forests (CCF) and field director of TATR VK Sinha.

Talking to TOI, SP Yadav, joint director of NTCA, said the plan has not been approved and the experts have asked to make some changes.

Sinha said that minor changes were suggested though the plan was by and large applauded. "The changes will be made after we receive NTCA communication," he added.

The amended Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 enables provision for preparing a TCP for proper management of a tiger reserve which includes staff development and deployment plan.

Of the four tiger reserves in Maharashtra, TCPs for Pench and TATR were prepared and sent to the state government in 2009. The government approved the TCP for TATR and sent it to the NTCA while TCP of Pench is still lying with the government. Preparation of plan for Melghat is under process.

Once approved, the TCP will take care of ecologically compatible land uses in tiger reserves and areas linking it to another for addressing the livelihood concerns of locals so as to provide dispersal habitats and corridors for spill over population of wild animals from the designated core areas.

Dead tiger may be victim of revenge killing Mazhar Ali, TNN

CHANDRAPUR: Even as the death of a tiger in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserves appears to be a natural death, forest officers are probing the angle of revenge killing. Tiger bones were recovered from Moharli range of the tiger reserve on Thursday on the basis of a tip-off given by Wildlife Protection Society of Indian (WPSI).

Assistant conservator of forests Ajay Pillariseth said that 84 bones were recovered, scattered in 32 clusters, in the circumference of 117 meters in compartment no. 249 in Moharli range. The place is 5km from Karva village. The nearest road is 1.5km away.

The recovered material includes three nails, skull and lower jaw apart from the various bones in the body. "There was no meat left with the bones and the scavengers had scattered them all around. The scene suggests that the tiger might have died 8 to 12 months back. The entire meat and skin of tiger got decomposed and later could have washed away in the rains," Pillariseth said.

He ruled out the angle of poaching stating that had it been poaching for tiger's body part, then they would have not recovered any nail or teeth. "We have found three nails, entire lower jaw and skull along with other bones. If professional poachers had killed the tiger, they would have buried the bones, hence there is little chance of poaching. However, we have not ruled out the possibility of revenge killing," he said.

The place where the bones have been found falls between Karva and Palasgaon villages. Hence, forest officials are probing the possibility of villagers killing the tiger to avenge cattle killings. "Karva is closest to the place where the bones were found. As the village falls in territorial forest, we have sought details of cattle kills in the village from Chandrapur forest division, to evaluate the possibility of revenge killing," he added. Pillariseth, however, maintained that as the tiger reserve is prohibited for grazing, there is low possibility of tiger falling prey to revenge killing inside the reserve.

He said that their prima facie investigations suggest that it was a full grown male tiger. "The large size of skull and sturdy bones indicate that it could be a full grown male tiger. Moreover, there was recorded presence of male tiger in the area," he added. He claimed that they are forwarding a tooth of the tiger for forensic tests seeking confirmation of sex, species, age of the tiger, span since death and DNA profile of the animal from the lab.

When inquired about failure of staffers to report the missing tiger from the particular territory, he explained that the territory is still occupied by a full grown tiger particular area and its presence misled the guard manning the area. "It is likely that soon after the death of tiger, some other male tiger occupied its territory and the staffers mostly monitoring the signs of presence never got a clue that a tiger had died and other tiger had moved in. A tigress with three sub-adult cubs, a male and two female, had its presence in the same area and the chances of its male cub taking up the empty territory after attending adulthood could not be ruled out," he said.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cameras spot `missing` tigers at Ranthambore

JAIPUR: At least three out of five tigers, that were `missing` for sometime at Ranthambore sanctuary, have been found. They were spotted at the Sawai Man Singh sanctuary, adjoining the national park.

"The trap cameras at Sawai Man Singh sanctuary have captured tigers T-13, T-43 and T-34. While T-13 was caught on the camera on August 18, the other two were caught on August 21," said U M Sahai, chief wildlife warden, Rajasthan.

Sahai, however, refuted that the tigers were missing and choose to term it as "natural process of migration of the tigers."

However, T-43, the second Jhailkho male cub, had not been sighted for a long time and one of the tasks in the sanctuary during the recent census was to spot the tiger along with four others -- T-21 or the Chiroli male, T-27 or the Gilai Sagar female, T-29 of Berda and T-40 or the Berda male.

But the census failed to spot the tigers till officials at Ranthambore choose to use trap cameras for scanning the forests. The department has procured 17 additional cameras for the purpose.

"The tigers have not been spotted but that did not mean that they were dead. They might have strayed to some place," said an official. The state government, meanwhile, had ordered an inquiry into the missing tigers.

The hopes of the department come from its new method of tracing tigers through the trap camera method. "Now, three tigers have been traced at the Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary and we believe that if a proper search is done then other tigers too would be traced there," sources said.

There are 26 tigers at the reserve excluding 17 cubs that have been born recently, sources said. However the Wildlife Institute of India ( WII) in its census in 2010 has made a count of 31 tigers in the reserve.

Tiger bones recovered in Tadoba

CHANDRAPUR: The staffers of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) on Wednesday discovered bones of a dead tiger in Moharli range. The search for the tiger bones was reportedly carried out on the basis of information given by NGO Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI).

Sources said that TATR staffers searched for the bones in Moharli range on Tuesday evening, but failed to trace them by nightfall. The search was taken up afresh on Wednesday morning and soon they traced the place, some 2 km from Karva village, where bones were lying. Sources said a total of 70 pieces of bones of tiger have been recovered from the spot. The bones appeared to be that of an old tiger and might be lying there since quite some time. ACF, TATR, Ajay Pillariseth supervised the formalities of inquest and seizing the bones in the jungle.

Sources said that TATR staffers searched for the bones in Moharli range on Tuesday evening, but failed to trace them by nightfall. The search was taken up afresh on Wednesday morning and soon they traced the place, some 2 km from Karva village, where bones were lying. Sources said a total of 70 pieces of bones of tiger have been recovered from the spot. The bones appeared to be that of an old tiger and might be lying there since quite some time. ACF, TATR, Ajay Pillariseth supervised the formalities of inquest and seizing the bones in the jungle.

Prima facie, foresters are treating it as a case of natural death, but other angles have not been ruled out so far. It is also learnt that foresters have recovered a few nails of the tiger from the place, but it is still not clear whether any teeth or piece of skin has been recovered. They are mulling DNA and forensic tests of the bones to confirm the cause of death, sources said. CCF and field director, TATR, could not be reached for comment.

Prima facie, foresters are treating it as a case of natural death, but other angles have not been ruled out so far. It is also learnt that foresters have recovered a few nails of the tiger from the place, but it is still not clear whether any teeth or piece of skin has been recovered. They are mulling DNA and forensic tests of the bones to confirm the cause of death, sources said. CCF and field director, TATR, could not be reached for comment.

Manas link Buxa’s boon & bane Krishnendu Mukherjee, TNN

KOLKATA: Buxa's bane - low tiger density - may prove to be its boon as foresters hunt for a suitable home for tiger cubs that have been abandoned or orphaned. "Apart from Kaziranga, the northeast doesn't have a healthy tiger density in any of its reserves. The same is the case with Buxa. So, these could be preferred sites for the reintroduction," said Y V Jhala of the Wildlife Institute of India, adding the exercise was inspired by the ongoing Caspian tiger reintroduction campaign (to repopulate Iran and Russian jungles).

So far, only Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have reported abandoned cubs. S B Mondal, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), said the Centre was welcome to reintroduce tigers in Buxa. Though a recent study based on fecal DNA analysis by Guwahati-based NGO Aaranyak projected the number of tigers in Buxa at 15, there have been no sightings to back the claim. Based on scat and pugmark analyses, forest officials believe tigers do frequent the park, but never settle down due to pressure from 37 villages within the park. Buxa has excellent connectivity with the larger tiger landscape at Manas Reserve in Assam and Bhutan's Royal Manas National Park, which causes big cats to disperse. Manas has seven to 10 Tigers while Royal Manas has a cat count of around 15.

However, not all wildlife experts are upbeat about the idea to reintroduce tiger cubs into the wild. "You must have infrastructure before carrying out such things. Nobody patrols or even visits low-density tiger reserves and not even the project tiger director. So how can you introduce a young or sub-adult tiger there? Inter-state tiger transfer is another hurdle," said Valmik Thapar.

Rajasthan tiger reserves get thumbs up

Jaipur: Amid the official reports of half a dozen missing tigers and relocation of tigers in Sariska failing to produce any tiger cub, the ministry of environment and forest in its latest report on effectiveness of tiger reserve management has given satisfactory rating to the tiger reserves in Rajasthan.

From June 2010 to July 2011, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in partnership with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) undertook an independent Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of all 39 tiger reserves in the country in which the management of Ranthambhore tiger reserve has been categorised as good. Sariska has earned satisfactory remarks which have recently lost all the tigers but in the same category Panna tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh has been categorised as very good.

The MEE is the assessment of how well protected areas, such as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves, community reserves and tiger reserves are being managed and their effectiveness in conserving the flora and fauna.

"India has not only independently assessed the effectiveness of 28 tiger reserves in 2005-2006, but has taken this process forward, by extending this evaluation in 2010-11 to all 39 tiger reserves. The outcomes of this assessment are encouraging and despite all odds, our park managers and frontline staff are putting up valiant efforts to conserve our natural heritage," Jayanthi Natarajan, Union minister for environment and forest said in the forward of the report released last week.

But the next assessment of the tiger management in the country is going to be more hi- tech.

The NTCA in collaboration with WII and Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has developed a 'Monitoring System for Tigers- Intensive Patrolling and Ecological Status' (MST-IPES) for managers to assess the status of protection, ecological and biotic pressures and when adaptive management is necessary.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

NTCA may clear Tadoba tiger plan on Aug 26 Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN

NAGPUR: The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is likely to approve the tiger conservation plan for Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) on August 26.

The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, was amended in 2006 and a separate chapter added on to the NTCA which replaced 'Project Tiger'. This chapter has provisions (Section 38V) for preparing a tiger conservation plan (TCP), which includes staff development and deployment plan, for proper management of a tiger reserve.

The TCP of TATR will be discussed by NTCA on Friday. Along with TATR, TCP of Naxal-infested Indravati tiger reserve in Chhattisgarh will also be taken up. Prior to this, a meeting is scheduled on August 25 to discuss the TCPs of Satpura-Bori and Pench tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh.

Chief wildlife wardens and respective field directors will attend the meeting. A representative from Wildlife Institute of India (WII) will also be present.

Of the four tiger reserves in Maharashtra, TCPs for Pench and TATR were prepared in 2009. While the government approved the TCP for TATR and sent it to NTCA, it is learnt that TCP of Pench is still with the government.

"TCPs for Melghat and Sahyadri tiger reserves have not been prepared yet," officials said. The objectives of the TCP is to ensure protection of reserves and provide site specific habitat inputs for a viable population of tigers, co-predators and prey animals without distorting the natural prey-predator ecological cycle in the habitat.

Once approved by NTCA, the TCP will also aim at ecologically compatible land uses in the tiger reserves and areas near it for addressing the livelihood concerns of local population, so as to provide dispersal habitats and corridors for spillover population of wild animals from the designated core areas.

"The TCP will also ensure that forestry operations of regular forest divisions and those adjoining tiger reserves are not incompatible with the needs of tiger conservation," officials stated.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Marathoner tiger killed in territorial fight

Subhash Chandra N S, Bangalore, Aug 23, DHNS:

Wildlife biologists have confirmed that the tiger found dead a week ago in Bhadra Tiger Reserve was the same animal released into the wild after much fanfare by former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

The tiger had hit the headlines for travelling a record 280 km from Bandipur to Esoor (Gama) village in Shikaripur.

But the animal has been found dead three months after being captured, radio-tagged and released back into the wilderness in May. Its death has been attributed to a territorial feud with a fellow tiger.

B K Singh, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests - who confirmed the tiger’s death in Mutthodi last week - said the post-mortem had revealed that it had died after suffering serious injuries in a territorial fight.

“The tiger suffered multiple fractures on both its forelegs and hind legs. It also sustained claw and canine injuries on the neck and other parts of the body. During the fight, both the animals have rubbed against each other. Since the ground is wet due to monsoon, we could see a lot of pug marks,” he explained. He said the post-mortem report had revealed that the tiger was healthy and able to hunt before it died.

A wildlife expert confirmed that the dead animal had been matched with the picture of the one released into the wild.

Top wildlife biologists confirmed that it was the same three-year-old tiger that had perplexed scientists by travelling 280 km from Bandipur and had strayed into Esoor village.

The animal killed one person and injured two before it was captured and released back into the forest following consultation with senior scientists of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The tiger was released at Hipla Hadlu in Bhadra reserve on May 7, 2011, by Ramesh, who is said to have voluntarily come to Bhadra to release it.

WCS scientists compared the stripe patterns of the animal by photo-matching it with their database of tiger pictures and confirmed that the beast was BPT-241, which was last camera-trapped in Gundre area of Bandipur Tiger Reserve on February 11 and 18, 2010.
The database of tiger pictures has been the result of the Society’s two-decade research initiative.

A GIS map showed that the “straight line” distance travelled by the tiger from Bandipur to Shikaripur was about 280 km, which the animal had covered since it was captured on camera. However, it could have taken a far more round about route.

This was considered one of the longest scientifically recorded dispersals of a wild tiger in the world, based purely on the camera-trapping data. WCS scientists were intensively camera-trapping the Bhadra area in the hope that the animal would settle down there.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

India's tigers struggle for space

Even as tiger numbers have increased from 1,411 in 2006 to 1,706 in 2010, their habitat has shrunk. According to a report on the 'Status of Tigers in India,' the loss of habitat has been mostly in places outside protected areas. This means that man is literally eating up the forests, and beyond the protected fences, tigers face a certain death, observes Atula Gupta

In March this year, the Ministry of Environment announced that the tiger population of the country had increased from 1,411 in 2006 to 1,706 in 2010.

This caused a flutter among environmentalists around the world, who hailed India’s efforts to finally usher in some good news when most other species under threat were still in the danger zone. But amidst the celebration, what got overlooked was the other revelation of the census - the fact that more than 12 per cent of the habitat of the Indian national animal has shrunk in the past four years.

The combined effect of the two statistics therefore alters the picture in a major way. It signals a warning that if the imbalance continues, it can only lead to further problems for the animal and the entire ecosystem of the country.

The report ‘Status of Tigers in India’ cited two important points. The surveyors found that compared to 2006, the estimates showed a 20 per cent increase in the tiger population. They also found that tigers now occupied an alarmingly lesser area than 2006. From 93,600 square kilometres to just 72,800 square kilometres, their home had shrunk. What further added to the worry is that close to 30 per cent of the  estimated tiger population was outside the 39 tiger reserves and India does not have a strategy to protect the big cats in these areas.

The real picture
For tigers in India today, therefore, the scenario is far from being less threatening. In fact, it has turned more complicated because while the number of tigers has increased, there is not enough space to contain them. According to the report, the loss of habitat has been mostly in places outside the protected areas. This means that man is literally eating up the forests, and beyond the protected fences, tigers face a certain death.

Biologists say this is a rather alarming turn of events because it may not just lead to more human-animal conflict in the future but also restrict the healthy growth of tiger numbers. With no access to different breeding populations in other parts of the country, the genetic exchange will be reduced to zero and inbreeding will eventually weaken the entire tribe of an area.

The greatest fear now is that if the tiger population is wiped out at one place, it can still be re-introduced, but if it does not have any place to live, no amount of re-introduction and relocation can help in its survival.

Y V Jhala, lead author of the report says, “The loss of corridors does not bode well for the tiger. Poaching can wipe out individual tiger populations, but these can be re-established by reintroductions as has been done in the Sariska and Panna Reserves. However, once habitats are lost, it is almost impossible to reclaim them for restoration.”

The most natural progression for the tigers looking for new territories is to roam outside the protected areas and under current circumstances that is what might spell their doom. First they will not find a habitat they are used to and second they will face humans. Looking at India’s history of tackling incidents such as these, the wild animal will unquestionably be the last one to be saved if human life is threatened.

Tiger and its habitat
India is home to half of the world population of tigers with just 3,600 tigers worldwide. We have a significant role in ensuring that the species is protected not just for the sake of the country, but for the whole world.

Within the country, the Nagarhole-Mudumalai-Bandipur-Wayanad reserve forests have 534 tigers, which has the single largest population of tigers in the world. This proves that especially in the Western Ghats belt, the increasing population needs more habitat, and the major hindrance to declaring more protected areas is infrastructure growth.

“Many tiger reserves are under threat from coal mining, hydel power projects and irrigation projects. There is a need for nine per cent economic growth and there is no dispute in that, but we have to reconcile growth with environment,” said former environment minister Jairam Ramesh. The task now is to have a multiple action plan. Reduce poacher insurgency, increase forest cover, reduce human-animal conflict and increase protected areas.

India’s chance to save the tiger is also a chance for the country to save its forests and create a self-sustaining ecosystem. Rising tiger numbers is not a hindrance to growth but a means to sustain it. The problem is not restraining the tigers, but finding equilibrium between development and biodiversity. If India can step up to the challenge, then the country can rightly take pride in its efforts to save tigers.

Tiger bones seized from two suspected poachers

The seizure of a sack filled with tiger bones from two men suspected to be involved in poaching is threatening to turn conservation measures into a myth. The sack also contained five skins of barking deer and spotted deer, all bearing bullet holes. The deer are also protected animals under Schedule III of the Wildlife Protection Act.

Officials fear that the two men arrested are involved in the lucrative, but illegal trade of tiger bones. What is more alarming though, is that officials suspect the animal to have been poached in the vicinity of the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, an area heavily monitored by forest guards. Officials believe that the case would draw the wrath of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau.

Normally, wildlife sleuths stumble on tiger skins. But it’s hard to establish a case of poaching from the skin alone. The bones are a different matter, and is indicative of a true case of illegal hunting. Police have begun investigations in Bangalore and Kushalnagar, where the arrests and seizure were made.

“We were shocked as this is probably the first time we have found tiger bones,” a source, who was present during the seizure, said. “We hope this gives us leads to the bone trade, which is a serious concern.”

The two men arrested in the Bharatinagar police station limits on Sunday were identified as Chidananda and his associate.

Both have a criminal past. Police also recovered deer horns and a skull from them. The tiger bones are said to be of an adult animal. One of the accused claimed he found the contraband in Dubare, Kodagu district. However, officials suspect the origin to be between Dubare and Nagarahole — right in the middle of a tiger reserve.

Police are now searching for the tiger’s paws and other body parts, which will provide more leads into the case. Those found guilty of poaching tigers face a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment under Section 51 (1) c of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act.

“The bullet holes are cause for grave concern,” said Sharath Babu, honorary wildlife warden, Bangalore. “Entering a forest area with an illegal weapon attracts charges of hunting under the Wildlife Act. A thorough investigation has to be done to crack the case and bring those involved to book.”

Pramod Kumar, sub-inspector, Bharatinagar, said, “Yes, we have arrested two people and have seized a bag full of bones and other wildlife products. An investigation is being conducted and details cannot be divulged at this stage.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

After tigers, officials missing in Sariska RAKHEE ROY TALUKDAR

Jaipur, Aug. 21: First, it was vanishing tigers. Now Sariska National Park is grappling with the problem of vanishing officials.

After the zero-tiger-count scandal of 2004-05, big cats have been roaring again at Sariska with six being relocated in 2008. But one has died and the rest haven’t been breeding.

Wildlife observers partly blame the vacant posts at the park at every level, and the repeated change of the top official: the district forest officer (DFO).

Sources say nobody wants to be in charge at Sariska because of the big responsibility and the possibility of more tiger deaths causing another scandal. So, as soon as a new DFO is appointed, the official starts pulling strings for a transfer.

Each DFO has got out of Sariska within two or three months since November 2010 when one of the relocated tigresses, ST1, died. The last, Sharda Pratap Singh, was shifted to the chief minister’s office after just a month.

P.S. Somshekhar, Rajasthan’s chief conservator of forests (CCF), claimed the state wildlife department faced a shortage of senior officials who could be appointed DFO.

But he conceded: “As soon as one moves up the seniority level, they are posted in Jaipur and cannot take up field jobs or are reluctant to take them.”

Former Sariska DFO Sunayan Sharma was more forthright: “They know they will be here for a little while and would rather not do anything than take steps that may backfire. Besides, the protection of the park and the animals is a major issue and nobody wants to take up the big responsibility.”

It isn’t just the DFOs. Three of the six posts of assistant conservator of forest (ACF) are vacant; so are five of the seven posts for rangers who monitor, protect and develop the ranges, each of which is about 250sqkm at Sariska.

At least four posts of foresters — the frontline staff in the park’s protection — are vacant. The required number of forest guards is 103 but there are only 97. Till recently, the number was just 57.

ACF Ghanshyam Sharma was in charge of Sariska for two weeks till the new DFO, P. Kathirwal, took charge a few days ago. Kathirwal, however, has been away in Tamil Nadu since taking over.

Wildlife observers say that if the state was serious about getting Sariska back on track, it would have ensured at least the DFO’s post didn’t stay vacant. A long-term DFO could have made sure there was constant monitoring of the tigers.

The 881sqkm park, about 110km from Jaipur, is surrounded by 26 villages and therefore needs constant monitoring to check poaching and human interference.

Breeding puzzle

The lack of breeding among the five relocated tigers remains a mystery. The animals’ stool samples were sent in May to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, but it has been unable to establish if hormonal imbalance is the cause.

The Hyderabad centre wants a series of stool samples with 10-day gaps, which has not been possible to collect during the monsoon months.

Wildlife experts say the tigers relocated from Ranthambhore are weak, whereas healthy tigers that were already breeding should have been selected. But Ranthambhore’s strong tourism lobby prevented this lest the tourists headed to Sariska instead.

The government seems to have thrown up its hands.

CCF Somshekhar said the authorities were “in no hurry” to relocate more tigers to Sariska. “Sariska is an experiment for us. We are trying our best but one cannot control nature,” he said.

“We too want good news from the park but so far there has been nothing major to rejoice over. The tigers have been mating but unfortunately they have not conceived. It happens with humans too.”

Experts see more big cats than reserve cameras

- VTR officials question counting methodology, to take up matter with conservation authority

Patna, Aug. 20: Experts have questioned the latest tiger count at Bihar’s Valmiki reserve, saying the park could have more than the eight big cats the census says it has.

Authorities at the Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR), in West Champaran district, claim that the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had goofed up in not taking into account the entire occupancy area of the park and instead relied on the data collected over just 444sq km of the 750sq km area the reserve straddles. The data on tiger occupancy was done through the camera trap method laid over 444sq km. Under this system, a camera trap is installed in a site that the animal is expected to visit. When a motion or infrared sensor detects the presence of an animal, a photo is taken.

According to the camera trap data, eight tigers were present within the 444 sq km area of the reserve. However, while carrying out extrapolation work, as has been done in case of other parks (see table), the numbers were kept the same, leading to confusion over the methodology applied while arriving at the tiger count in case of VTR. In the Siwalik-Gangetic plains, under which the reserve falls, camera trapping was done across 31 to 59 per cent of the tiger occupied forest.

Extrapolation is a mathematical term for gathering data from a sample size and then using this data as the base for projecting estimates for the entire area.

“We fail to understand the logic behind keeping VTR figures the same as the result of the camera trapping, while in case of other reserves of this landscape, estimated figures have been increased accordingly on the basis of extrapolation,” VTR field director Santosh Tiwari told The Telegraph.

He said the same report says that tiger density in the reserve is 1.8 per 100 sq km and if one takes into account this figure, the number of big cats would be much more. “We have decided to raise this issue before the conservation authority so that necessary corrections in the tiger estimates of VTR could be done,” Tiwari said.

The country level tiger estimation work is carried out by NTCA in collaboration with Wildlife Institute of India (WII), tiger states and some outside agencies.

WII scientist Y.V. Jhala had an explanation. “In case of VTR we came up with a conservative estimate as this reserve shares a boundary with Nepal’s Chitwan park. There is every possibility of tigers from the Nepal side being counted as those of VTR,” he said.

Asked whether he intended to come up with a supplementary report to clear such points, Jhala said there was no need for any such thing. “One need not come out with such a report for a difference of a few tigers. When one takes into account things at national level, the result would be the same,” he said.

According to estimates, India is home to 1,706 tigers. The estimate has also given a range about the numbers and says that the figure could vary between 1571 and 1875.

Wildlife activists differed with Jhala.

“The system of extrapolation appears to have some serious discrepancies. There is an urgent need to fine-tune the techniques being used to arrive at conclusions about tiger numbers in the country,” said a Delhi-based wildlife activist, who is also a member of the national board for wildlife.

An NTCA member, who too requested anonymity, told The Telegraph that he had already raised questions about the flaws in estimation at a recent meeting of the authority.

K. Ullas Karanth of the Centre for Wildlife Studies, who is at present in the US, in an email reply to The Telegraph’s queries on the apparent flaws said: “My team and I will do a thorough study of the detailed report later this month after I return. I do not want to comment at this stage.”

Karanth has been known to be critical of the methods being used for tiger estimation in the country.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Nod to tiger conservation foundation rules Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN

NAGPUR: In a boost for tiger conservation, the governing body headed by forest minister Patangrao Kadam has finally cleared rules to run tiger conservation foundations (TCF) in three of state's tiger reserves - Tadoba-Andhari, Pench and Melghat.

"The TCF rules are approved with many innovative provisions," said Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary for forests, Maharashtra. He said power to levy gate entry fees has been delegated to field directors and may be increased by 10% per year. Secondly, income of 'project tiger' can be utilised for eco-development but have to targeted at activities that create biomass alternatives for village dwellers - like cooking gas connection and subsidy for cylinders to reduce fuel wood conservation, creation of fodder plots in villages and to reduce free grazing by cattle in open forest.

The official said the foundations would focus on protection activities including incentives to informers and those who help detect poaching. "Now local youths will be employed for fire protection and stake of local villagers will be high," Pardeshi told TOI.

SK Khetarpal, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF), wildlife, Maharashtra, said the foundations would start operation in a day or two. Khetarpal is also member-secretary of the governing body that approved the rules. Apart from Kadam, senior forest officials, MLAs Sunil Kedar from Saoner, Kewalram Kale from Melghat, and state environment minister Sanjay Deotale attended the meeting.

The tiger foundations were set up following amendment to Wildlife (Protection) Act in 2006. Section 38X provides for their establishment in each tiger reserve to facilitate and support management, apart from taking initiatives for involving people in conservation.

The foundations for TATR and Pench were set up on November 25 and December 15, 2008. In Melghat it was set up on February 10, 2009.

Three foundations were ready, no rules were framed to govern them financially, they could not start functioning. A three-member committee of field directors was set up to frame the rules. These rules have now been approved. "Many times funds are released in March and in such a situation, it's impossible to complete proposed works. Now, field directors will be able to deposit these funds in TCF. Gate fee will also go to the foundation," officials said. 'Tadoba Ratna' award will be constituted for conservation works.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

RTI lady killed, stink of tiger mafia

Bhopal, Aug. 16: A right to information campaigner who had raised questions on several tiger deaths across Madhya Pradesh was shot dead as she got into her car moments after stepping out of home this morning.

Shahla Masood, known to be working on alleged malpractice in the state’s wildlife conservation, tourism and other departments, had before leaving home updated her Facebook account, urging people to support Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption.

Police said the 35-year-old was shot by an unidentified assailant as she sat in her Santro in the Koh-e-Fiza locality of the Madhya Pradesh capital.

“Shahla Masood was shot dead around 11am when she was sitting in her car,” senior superintendent of police Adarsh Katiyar said.

The SSP said a massive hunt had been launched to nab the assailant though the motive behind the murder wasn’t clear yet.

Ajay Dubey, a close associate of the slain RTI campaigner, said Shahla had “raised questions regarding several tiger deaths” across the state. “People involved in the racket may be responsible,” he added.

A former model, event manager and later a full-time RTI activist, Shahla was feared by many politicians and bureaucrats.

Dubey demanded a CBI probe into the murder. “We have no faith in the state government, so the matter should be investigated by the CBI.”

The killing of Shahla has again raised questions on the ability of governments to protect whistleblowers or rights activists.

In April this year, Niyamat Ansari, an RTI activist from Latehar, Jharkhand, was killed for exposing embezzlement of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act funds.

“The fact that a lady can be murdered like this in broad daylight outside her own house shows that there is no security worth its name in Bhopal,” leader of Opposition in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly Ajay Singh told PTI.

State police chief S.K. Raut visited Shahla’s residence, where a police force was deployed.

“I am sure…we will solve the murder soon,” PTI quoted IG Shailendra Shrivastava as saying.

Shahla’s body has been sent for post-mortem. Police have seized the car and locked her room.

Sources said the Bhopal-based activist had stayed up the whole of last night and watched the dramatic scenes of Hazare’s arrest this morning.

They said before leaving home, Shahla had updated her Facebook account, urging people to support Hazare’s movement.

Her last status update on Facebook read “Gandhi: ‘the purpose of civil resistance is provocation.’ Anna has succeeded in provoking the government and the opposition. Hope he wins us freedom from corruption. Meet at 2pm Boat Club Bhopal.”

A PTI report said Shahla’s aunt Rubab Zaidi came down to see why her niece hadn’t driven off even 15 minutes after stepping out of home. When she reached the car, Zaidi saw Shahla slumped inside. She then called Shahla’s father.

The activist was single and her only sister lives in America.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cabinet gives nod to cheetahs, more funds for Project Tiger

New Delhi, Aug 11 (IANS) The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) Thursday approved re-introduction of cheetahs in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and hike in Project Tiger estimates from Rs.650 crore to Rs.1,216.86 crore due to rise in cost of relocation of villages from tribal habitats.

The CCEA also approved increased compensation in case of loss of human life in man-animal conflict.

According to a government release, increase in cost of Project Tiger has been necessitated due to "increased action for relocation of villages from the notified core/critical tiger habitats as also inclusion of additional components".

It said there will be a change in the funding pattern in respect of northeastern states by increasing the central share from the existing 50 percent to 90 percent for recurring expenditure.

The release said compensation for man-animal conflict has been raised to Rs.2 lakh in case of loss of human life.

Another component of Project Tiger approved by the CCEA is re-introduction of cheetahs in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Re-introduction of cheetahs in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan would benefit all the 40 tiger reserves falling in 17 tiger states, the statement said.

"Re-introduction of cheetahs in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan under the scheme at a cost of Rs.50 crore after ensuring the historical co-existence of cheetahs with other carnivores, especially the tiger, would benefit all the 40 tiger reserves falling in 17 tiger states, besides the people living in the fringe areas (buffer), as well as communities opting for voluntary relocation from the core/critical tiger habitats," it added.

The tiger population in the country has registered an increase from 1,411 in 2006 to 1,706 in 2010.

India has the maximum number of wild tigers and tiger habitats in the world conserved due to Project Tiger.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) provides a statutory basis to Project Tiger and has an overarching role as provided in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Project Tiger was launched by the government in 1973 in nine reserves of Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal over an area of approximately 14,000 sq. km.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

TATR gets funds for village relocation -Mazhar Ali, TNN

CHANDRAPUR: The relocation of villages located inside Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) is going to get a boost with the receipt of pending funds released by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in the coming days. TATR is expected to receive the installment of Rs2.88 crore to initiate rehabilitation process of village Ramdegi (Navegaon) in the coming days.

Similarly, funds for relocation of Jamni village are expected to be released in October this year, sources said. After being rebuked by the high court in October last year, the government had accelerated the process of rehabilitation of villages out of TATR.

The rehabilitation committee headed by district collector had forwarded the proposals of rehabilitation of Ramdegi and Navegaon villages to NTCA collectively worth Rs43.2 crore. While NTCA readily approved both the proposals, it had released the funds only for Ramdegi village. The first installment of Rs2.88 crore for rehabilitation of Ramdegi was released in the final days of the last financial year.

But by the time it reached the state government for disbursement, the financial year had ended. "The funds cannot be utilized in next financial year unless revalidated by union government. PCCF had forwarded a proposal for revalidation of the funds, so that it could be utilized in current financial year. The funds is expected to be released soon," said CCF and field director, TATR, Vinaykumar Sinha. Funds for rehabilitation of Jamni village are expected by October, he added.

Green groups seek tiger reserve tag for park

- Environmentalists hope status upgrade will help Dibru-Saikhowa get more funds from Centre

Dibru-Saikhowa National Park
Dibrugarh, Aug. 10: Environmental groups have urged the Centre to declare Dibru-Saikhowa National Park as a tiger reserve in the hope that it will attract funds.

According to official data, the national park, spread across Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts with a total area of 765 square km, including the 340 square km core zone, had 31 tigers in 2001-2002.

Although the number has gone down because of lack of conservation efforts and some other factors, it is roughly estimated that the park still has around 15 tigers.

During the 2010 tiger census — reports of which were released recently — pugmarks were found in three areas of the park. “We have seen that the many small reserves with only three or four tigers have been accorded the status of tiger reserve which has helped them receive crores of rupees. It is unfortunate that the Centre and the state government has so far neglected the park compared to other national parks of the state,” the secretary of Dibru-Saikhowa Conservation Society, Joynal Abedin, said.

In 2003, the then state joint secretary of forests and present Lakhimpur deputy commissioner Anwaruddin Choudhury had written to the then chief conservator of forests (wildlife) M.C. Malakar to take up the matter of according tiger reserve status to Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Dhansiri reserve forest in Karbi Anglong.The proposal was forwarded to the Centre by Malakar. However, the Centre has failed to take any steps on the issue, which has irked nature lovers and also given them a chance to press for tiger reserve status for Dibru-Saikhowa.

“Despite being rich in its flora and fauna, apart from being a treasure hub of orchids, the Assam government has never given importance to the park. Therefore, we urge the government to accord the status of a tiger reserve to Dibru-Saikhowa so that conservation efforts can be carried out in the real sense,” Niranta Gohain, director of Wave Eco-Tourism, another NGO, said.

There are five tiger reserves in the Northeast — Kaziranga, Nameri and Manas in Assam, Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh and Dampa in Mizoram.

With the formation of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laying much stress on the conservation of tigers in India, the NGOs feel that according the status of tiger reserve is the only option for development of Dibru-Saikhowa.

However, the divisional forest officer of the national park, Vaibhav Mathur, said, “In the present circumstances it would be totally unscientific to declare Dibru-Saikhowa a tiger reserve.”

“There is a huge human population inside the core zone of the park, which has created a lot of pressure upon the national park. Firstly, this population of over 10,000 needs to be a relocated. There are several other issues like acute shortage in manpower as well which needs to be addressed,” he added.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New Tiger Reserves

Ministry of Environment and Forests

The “in-principle” approval has been accorded by the National Tiger Conservation Authority for creation of six new tiger reserves, and the sites are: (i) Pilibhit (Uttar Pradesh), (ii) Ratapani (Madhya Pradesh), (iii) Sunabeda (Odisha), (iv) Mukandara Hills (including Darrah, Jawahar Sagar and Chambal Wildlife Sanctuaries) (Rajasthan), (v) Kudremukh (Karnataka) and (vi) Kawal Sanctuary (Andhra Pradesh). Besides, the States have been advised to send proposals for declaring the following areas as Tiger Reserves: (i) Bor (Maharashtra), (ii) Suhelwa (Uttar Pradesh), (iii) Nagzira-Navegaon (Maharashtra) (iv) Satyamangalam (Tamil Nadu), (v) Guru Ghasidas National Park (Chhattisgarh), and (vi) Mhadei Sanctuary (Goa). Under section 38V of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 State governments are authorised to notify an area as a tiger reserve on recommendation of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Environment and Forests (independent charge) Shrimati Jayanthi Natarajan in a written reply to a question by Shri Kanwar Deep Singh in Rajya Sabha today.

(Release ID :74171)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tiger population increases in Sathyamangalam forest

The tiger population in Sathyamangalam forest has increased from 10 to 18 in the past two years, Conservator of Forests, Erode District, has said.

D Arun, the Conservator of Forests, said on Sunday that the recent census had shown an increase of eight tigers in the range in comparison with the 2009 figures.

Addressing a meeting organised by the Living with Nature Movement, Mr. Arun said strict vigil in the forest areas in the district had led to the increase in wildlife population.

He said the district has two forest divisions with vast forest cover: Sathyamangalam and Erode. As per the recent census, Sathyamangalam is home to 785 elephants, 564 Gaur, 212 Sambar variety deer, 309 spotted deer, 377 Black Buck deer, 127 wild boar, 19 panther and 18 tigers, he said.

Similarly, Erode forest division has 70 elephants, 20 bison, 645 spotted deer, 208 sambar variety deer and 20 panthers, he said.

Sufficient water and food were available for the wild animals inside the forest, but sometime due to migration, some elephants were entering private lands, causing damage to the crops, he said. In order to prevent such incidents, digging of trenches has already commenced in the forest areas, he added.

Goa not keen on responding to MoEF letter on tiger sanctuary

PTI | 04:08 PM,Aug 08,2011
Panaji, Aug 8 (PTI) Even though the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had asked the Goa government to submit a proposal to declare Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary as a Tiger Reserve, the coastal state might not respond to it as it is not sure whether there are tigers in the sanctuary. State Forest Minister Filipe Neri Rodrigues today hinted at it when he told reporters that the state government might not respond to the MOEF letter. "Why should we reply? We have not been asked to reply?" he questioned. The minister also said that the state government is not sure whether there are tigers existing in Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary. When the minister was told that the existence of tigers in the sanctuary was noticed during animal census, Rodrigues said, "It is the wildlife institute's and not my job to know whether there are tigers (in the sanctuary)." The Congress minister said that declaration of sanctuary as a tiger reserve would turn out to be "unpopular" as local people are opposing it. "We will have to take everyone into confidence," he said. In June, the MoEF had written to Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat asking him to submit a proposal for setting up a tiger reserve.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Tigress and three tigers missing from Ranthambore

JAIPUR: Three tigers and one tigress are reportedly missing from the Ranthambore national park and are untraceable for the last few months.

"One tiger is untraceable since December last year and the others are missing since February this year. They do not have radio collars and our effort to trace them is on," Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and Chief Wildlife warden U M Sahai said.

No signs of territorial fight have been detected yet and the teams of forest department are making efforts to locate them, he added.

"In monsoon season, tracking big cats becomes difficult. They are missing for months even then it would be too early to anticipate that they are dead because it (missing) happens many times due to various reasons," Deputy Conservator of Forest- Ranthambore Y K Sahu said.

"No dead body has been found yet," he said. "We are hopeful that they would be traced after monsoon gets over. Tigers T21, T29, T40 and tigress T27 are missing," Sahu said, adding, there are more than 40 tigers, tigresses and cubs (in all) in Ranthambore.

The famous Ranthambore national park is located in Sawaimadhopur district, 130 kms from here in Rajasthan.

After 50 tiger deaths, 3 poachers convicted

For a country which wants to slap a fine of Rs 1-crore on citizens who are cruel to their pet dogs, chickens and buffalos, poachers of India’s national animal — tiger — have been let off rather lightly. But the unthinkable happened last week: For the first time in Karnataka, the nation's tiger capital, three tiger poachers were convicted and sentenced to three years' imprisonment by the 9th Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's court in Bangalore. 

Prior to this, it was only arrests of wildlife poachers that made news as conviction eluded sleuths of the CID Forest Cell and other police personnel.

Nabbing the culprits
A team from Upparpet police station comprising inspector M R Mudavi, sub-inspectors S D Shashidhar and Sridhar K Poojar and some constables nabbed a three-member gang on August 17, 2008, in Gandhinagar. Acting on a tip-off, the police contingent arrested M David Kumar (29), Kodandapani (29) of Koramangala and P Venkataswamy (33) of Krishnagiri and seized two tiger pelts, tiger paws and a few pieces of tiger bones worth Rs 15 lakh. The booty was sourced from Chandapura, on the city outskirts. The three were booked under various provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.

Upparpet police station inspector Lokeshwar, who took over as investigating officer in the case, said, "We provided enough documents to the court and are happy that the poachers have been convicted. This will teach other poachers a lesson."

Conservationists smiling
The rare conviction has put the smile back on the faces of conservationists. Sanjay Gubbi, member of the Karnataka State Wildlife Board, said: "The conviction is a welcome change on the conservation front. All these years, it was only reports of arrests which made news but culprits would eventually go scot-free. Even though the punishment is inadequate, I am happy that it has started happening."

Upparpet: Wildlife trade hub
For years, areas within Upparpet police station limits including Gandhinagar, Majestic, KG Road, Avenue Road and the infamous Tulasi Thota were the hub of wildlife trade in IT city.

In 2008 alone, 24 cases relating to the wildlife trade were registered including the trading of six tiger pelts, nine leopard pelts and one rhinoceros horn. The numbers kept increasing over the years.
The high number of cases gave the area the dubious distinction of entering the national wildlife crime database managed by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI).

Poaching unabated every year
Even though the dwindling tiger population set off alarm bells and led to calls for stringent laws, poaching in various national parks and tiger reserves continues unabated. Last year, in Karnataka alone, the forest department recovered as many as six tiger pelts and arrested a couple of poachers. And 50 tigers have fallen prey to poachers in the last 30 years, says Sanjay.

It's only in the last couple of years that tiger deaths have been properly tracked in India after the setting up of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). Till then, there were no efforts to keep track of the big cats' mortality rate even though their population was slowly being decimated.

Karnataka, with more than 390-400 big cats, has four tiger reserves including Bandipur, Nagarhole, Anshi-Dandeli and Bhadra Tiger reserves. Recently, the central government also notified Biligiri Ranga Temple Wildlife Sanctuary as a tiger reserve. Bandipur, Nagarhole and Dandeli were once the hub of poachers though such incidents have come down in the last one year due to the efforts of forest officials.§id=1&contentid=2011080720110807131257210a884b569

Evaluation lists major threats to three Tiger Reserves

Up and coming development projects, increasing pressure from tourism and pilgrimage, increasing number of hotels and conflicts with local communities are the major threats faced by the three tiger reserves in the State.

The weaknesses include inadequate trained and competent staff in the tiger reserves, disturbance due to human settlements inside the reserves and fringes, exotic plantations, invasive species, increasing human – wildlife conflict in certain pockets and some corridors still falling outside the tiger reserves.

The ‘Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of Tiger Reserves in India: Process and Outcomes 2010 – 2011,' brought out by the Wildlife Institute of India and National Tiger Conservation Authority, has listed the strengths of the tiger reserves as well.

Connectivity to adjoining areas, strong support of stakeholders, good scientific research information and strong eco-development programme have been identified as strengths of Kalakad – Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve.

Sound protection strategies, adequate baseline information, adequate support of local people, co-ordination and contiguity with Kerala are the strong points for Anamalai.

At Mudumalai, the landscape adjoining Bandipur and Wayanad has provided space for migration of large mammals and integration into the ecosystem. Protection system, with anti-poaching strategies in place, has been termed good.

In all three reserves, the study has viewed the establishment of tiger foundations, growing interest of research among individuals and institutions and increasing government support as opportunities.

Prepared under the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) framework, the outcome of the MEE process has categorised the three tiger reserves in the State as very good. The Western Ghats landscape has been rated 75 on the MEE score, 10 points above the average of 65 per cent for all five clusters.

However, the team chaired by State's former head of Forest Department C.K. Sreedharan with Yogesh Dubey and E.A. Jayson as members which evaluated Cluster IV covering nine tiger reserves (TR) in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu has found several shortcomings in management.

Management plan

While all TRs have an approved management plan, none of them has approved tiger conservation plan, the report noted. The present system of beat, section and range as unit of management, has to be evaluated to see if it was serving the twin major purposes of protection and implementation of developmental programmes.

While enforcing Acts, it was noticed that booking of wildlife offences, filing of charge sheets and taking them to logical conclusions in a time bound manner was also absent in most TRs.

Apart from inadequately trained staff, the motivational level was not very high due to lack of adequate incentives. Besides, there was lack of arms and ammunitions and efficient communication systems and other equipment.

Most of the TRs lacked true research and development support to make them sustainable, said the report. It has also found shortcomings in capacity building of staff in wildlife management, unorganised tourism management, lack of internal monitoring and evaluation systems, delayed release of funds. Another major drawback reported was the inadequate attention paid to local communities inside the TRs and in the immediate surroundings and failure to accept them as full partners in management practices.

Implementation of Forest Rights Act 2006 has been found to be quite tardy and poor in most of the TRs.

The report also emphasised the need for a comprehensive resettlement programme to reduce serious biotic interference, active management of animals straying into agricultural fields, steering of tiger foundations in proper direction and participation of stakeholders in management which was only moderate now.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tiger numbers in AP up or down

HYDERABAD: The number of tigers in the state has gone up from 53 in 2006 to 72 in 2010, according to the state forest department.� Speaking to Express, deputy conservator of forests A Shankaran said the state government has stepped up anti-poaching measures in the last two years and has seen a lot of improvement in the number of tigers.
Earlier, there used to be a single unarmed forest beat officer in a particular area who would not be able to do much in times of crisis. To rectify this problem, the state government has constituted protection camps with 6-8 local tribal youths. Also, it has set up mobile strike forces who patrol the forest area.
Also, whenever animals enter a village in search of water source or food, they either get killed by electric fences around farms or villagers poison them in an attempt to safeguard their cattle and crops.
To resolve this, the government pressed into service six animal rescue vans last year, according to the deputy conservator of forests. The rescue vans are equipped with tranquillisers so that, whenever there is an incident of wild animal straying into villages, these vans immediately go to the villages and take the animal back into forests.� Another eight vans will be added to the existing six by the end of this year. The forest department aims to have one such van for each district in the next three years, Shankaran added.� The government has also increased compensation for loss of life in case of wild animal attack. Earlier, the compensation was Rs 1 lakh and now it has been increased to Rs 2.5 lakh. Compensation for crop damage has also been increased to Rs 6000 per acre (from the earlier Rs 2000).
Apart from these measures, the state government has proposed to develop Kawal sanctuary in Adilabad district. As part of this, around 1200 sqkm around the sanctuary will be developed as the buffer area, in addition to development of 896 sq km of the core sanctuary area.� When asked about providing the forest guards with arms, Shankaran said though extremist activities in the forests have come down, the possibility cannot be ruled out completely. The government is cautious about providing weapons to forest officials as it might attract extremist groups’ attention.
However, environmentalists disagree with the government’s claim of increase in the number of tigers.
Imran Siddiqui, a wildlife biologist, Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society, says according to the present estimated number of tigers in the state, at least 4 or 5 cubs should be added to the tiger population every year, which is not the case.� When there is a 12 percent decrease in the tiger habitat, how can there be a 20 percent increase in the number of tigers?� he asks.� He also found fault with the methodology in which tiger counting has been done.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tiger poaching: Sariska probe resume - TNN

SARISKA: The state government on Thursday resumed a probe that had been ordered in 2005 after it came to light that all tigers in the Sariska reserve have been poached.

Additional chief secretary and development commissioner B B Mohanty arrived at the tiger reserve on Thursday morning and began the probe. He is being helped by the assistant conservator of forest Bhagwan Singh Nathawat. Officials revealed Mohanty took possession of all records dating back to the period before all the tigers had been poached.
"Statements of various forest officials, including many of those working here in 2005, were recorded. The statements of NGOs working for tiger conservation were also recorded," officials said.

"We have written to all involved that whosoever has any information on the incident can give us their side of the story. We will also be sending notices to people who were engaged here but are now retired, including field directors, DFOs and other officials, and get information from them," Mohanty said.

"We will be look into the matter carefully so that whosoever involved does not go scot-free. In addition to this we will also be giving our recommendations so that the incident is repeated," he said adding the report by the R N Mehrotra committee will be a great help.

Officials explained the probe is being resumed now because the person who was heading the probe team then retired eventually.

"This was revealed recently and we decided to resume the probe and have sought details of all officers who were at Sariska between 1995 and 2005. The idea is to trace those responsible for dereliction of duty," officials said.
Highly placed sources said after it came to light in 2005 that all the Sariska tigers had been poached, the state had ordered an independent probe into it. However, the probe remained incomplete after a preliminary stage as the then additional chief secretary Alka Kalla who was heading the probe failed to make much progress. She retired about two years ago.

Subsequently, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also probed into the incident while an empowered committee set up by the centre to also look into it. Both the agencies have submitted the report and have not found any official guilty in particular though it has rapped the all concerned authorities of negligence. Later, notorious poacher Sansar Chand was arrested.

While state forest department officials explain the resumption of the probe as a natural process after the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Rajasthan assembly recently traced the order to be incomplete. Incidentally, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had also pointedly put in its report on the incompletion of the probe. In perhaps one of the biggest setback to conservation, the entire tiger population was wiped out due to poaching from Sariska before the whistle was blown in 2005.

'Tiger reserve only way to check mining' TNN

BICHOLIM: Strongly backing the suggestion of union ministry of environment and forests for a tiger reserve in the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary, environmentalists from Sattari taluka have asserted that this will not only help protect the tiger but will also protect the forest cover which in turn provides water security.

Ranjit Rane from Sonal, Sattari, Vishwash Parab, Rajendra Kerkar and Deepaji Rane from Kumbharkhand told mediapersons in Valpoi that the tiger reserve must become a reality as it will benefit Goa and Goans. They pointed out that Sattari taluka faces the threat of new mining leases.

"To curtail this looming danger, the only alternative is to transform Mhadei wildlife sanctuary into Mhadei tiger reserve," said Parab.

Naxals posing no threatto tigers, says report Neha Shukla, TNN

LUCKNOW: Naxals are not posing any threat to tigers. This is the outcome of report submitted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The authority has come up with its final report of the detailed survey and study of all 39 tiger reserves conducted in 2010. The report, handed over to the MoEF last week, states that naxals are not posing any threat to tigers and wildlife in the reserves situated in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar.

The reserves in naxal-affected belts were clubbed separately in Cluster III for study. Unlike Manas in Assam, which had reported instances of rhinos getting auctioned by armed locals, tigers in the reserves lying in naxal affected states are not under threat by naxals. "We did not find any such instance," said RL Singh, former director, project tiger and chairman of the committee which studied cluster III reserves.

But this has not stopped the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) from recommending a security set up different from the remaining reserves for the said cluster. The reserves in the naxal-belt have come up with their own ways to boost the conservation of wildlife. Satkosia tiger reserve in Orissa, which was founded in 2007, has employed tribals and traditional forest dwellers in the conservation of wildlife.

In Andhra, tribals, 'chenchus', man the reserve. The forest departments have employed at least one young men or a women from each tribal family to patrol the area on a daily wage. A tribal earns some Rs 2,700 per month for patrolling and protecting the reserve area.

The ever-rising man-animal conflict, increasing incidence of wildlife crime, poaching threat and subsequent decline in number of tigers led NTCA to evaluate the reserves. All the 39 tiger reserves were divided into five clusters, state-wise and region-wise, for the exercise.

The five separate committees have studied the management plan of reserves, breedable population of tigers, status of staff, water conservation, prey base, utilisation of funds, the activities taken up by people living within and on the periphery of the forest, cattle-lifting incidents, amount of compensation decided for the victims of tiger attacks by different states and efforts taken up the states for village translocation.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tiger population rises in Assam's Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park

Guwahati , Wed, 03 Aug 2011ANI
Guwahati, Aug 3 (ANI): The endeavor of the government and the locals has finally yielded desired result, as the population of the endangered tiger rose to 143 in Assam's Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park.
However, Assam has been able to set an example for the neighbouring states, which still shows a dwindling population of the endangered cat.
Briefing mediapersons, Additional Director General (Wildlife), Ministry of Environment and Forests, Jagdish Kishwan termed it as a success story for Assam and gave the credit to the locals.
"This success story is not only for Assam but for the whole of northeast region. You can see the population of tigers has not increased to that extent in other states of northeast region. However the population of the tigers has risen in Assam. So, I would like to say that the locals of this region, who take keen interest to conserve the wild life, forests and environment, have made a major contribution," said Kishwan.
In a meeting, the officials from the forest and wildlife department suggested to increase the area of these national parks in order to protect the wildlife and the environment.
"Bodoland Territorial Council has proposed that around 34,000 hectares of forestland would be added to this park (Manas National Park). So, when we would take such a step, it would increase the area of the forest and conservation of wild animals would take place (in the forests)," he said.
He praised the steady and exhaustive effort made by the Assamese, Bodoland Territorial Council, Forest Department, Civil Society and the state government for the protection of the tigers as their population dwindled in the past few years. (ANI)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tiger tourism surges in MP, drops in state Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN

NAGPUR: Pench in Madhya Pradesh may have achieved the distinction of being the best tiger reserve in India but Kanha and Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) turned out to be the most visited tiger reserves in central India.

Official figures reveal that in 2010-11, over 1,74,773 tourists, including 34,078 foreigners, visited Kanha. This was followed by 78,881 tourists to TATR and 65,449 including 5,421 foreigners to Pench (Madhya Pradesh).

Compared to 2009-10, MP Pench and Kanha saw an increase in number of tourists by 9,336 and 20,749 respectively but strangely, TATR saw a drop. This is despite the fact that both the parks in MP have high-end tourism.

Last year, 1,03,616 tourists had visited TATR but the number dropped by 24,735 this year. A K Saxena, additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF), wildlife, East Maharashtra, called it a good development.

"The drop has to be considered against the backdrop of strict implementation of norms. We stuck to the carrying capacity and there was proper enforcement. It should not be taken in a negative way," Saxena said.

TATR witnesses traditional visitors. It is frequented due to promised tiger sightings besides other animals that are sighted in abundance, Saxena added.

On the other hand, on the success of Kanha H S Pabla, principal chief conservator of forests (PPCF) for wildlife, Madhya Pradesh, said Kanha had essential infrastructure needed for tourists besides guaranteed tiger sightings. "We also score from word-of-mouth publicity by tour operators and tourists," he added.

One of the tour operators V P Singh said while Kanha was visited for its beauty, Tadoba for assured tiger sightings. "Kanha is a sal forest and is lush green all round the year. The park is well managed with good facilities for tourists. Besides, parks in MP have advantage of strong marketing strategies under 'Incredible India' campaign," Singh said.

Himanshu Bagde and Sandeep Gujar, frequent visitors to Kanha, feel it was because Kanha started tiger tourism early. It is now part of international tourism circuit. Besides, those wanting to sight a tiger at any cost are shown with the help of elephants.

"Yet, Tadoba is better choice as you sight tigers in their natural habitat," Gujar said.

Special status to villagers under buffer zone of tiger reserve

Here is some good news for villages falling under the buffer zones of tiger project of Tadoba reserves in Chandrapur district of eastern Maharashtra. The Maharashtra minister for environment Sanjay Deotale has said that such villages will be accorded a special status. The 1,150 sq kms

Tadoba buffer area would include about 80 villages in Chandrapur, Warora, Mul, Bhadrawati, Sindewahi and Chimur tahsils. A notification was issued in this regard a couple of months ago.
According to the Wildlife Institute of India, every critical tiger habitat should have a 1000-3000 sq kms of buffer zone for effective forest conservation and wildlife protection.

Speaking at a function in Chandrapur – which houses the famous Tadoba tiger reserve and where villagers are up in arms against inclusion of buffer zone in their nearby forest areas -- Deotale assured the villagers that they would get benefits of various state government schemes to achieve development of their area.

Tadoba tiger reserve is renowned for its rich natural habitat and is one of the oldest national parks of the country. The reserve is also credited of being one of the best-managed wildlife projects in the country that led to an increase the tiger population from 42 to 69 as per the latest tiger census. It was said that as many as 28 tiger cubs were born in Tadoba-Andheri tiger reserve in 2010 alone.
The minister said that the government has chalked out various schemes and asked villagers to draw maximum benefit for their progress as well as that of the village.

Special benefits for the villagers come under buffer zone include: special thrust on alternative employment to unemployed youths,  vocational training for students at free of cost and one-third of the revenue that generates from tourists for entry in the park, would be spent for the development of those villages.

Deotale appealed to them to actively contribute in protection and conservation of flora and fauna for maintaining environmental balance.

Talking to Hindustan Times, the chief conservator of forests and field director of Tadoba, VK Sinha informed that the government was also making all efforts to provide villagers alternatives for fuel, bamboo, small timber etc in order to reduce pressure on the forests.

He claimed that the villagers of affected villages are extending all necessary support to the wildlife wing for the conservation and protection of wildlife in the reserves.

Spread over 625.40 sq kms, Tadoba-Andhari is one of the oldest national parks in the country that was upgraded as tiger reserve in 1995. With some of the best of forest tracks endowed with rich biodiversity Tadoba is considered an important wildlife habitat of the country with a growing big cat population.

Apart from an approximately 69 tigers, it is home to rare Indian wildlife animals like leopard (28), wild dog (1758), wild boar (195), sloth bear (165), bison (1052), deer (2039) and others. Moreover, Tadoba is also an ornithologist's paradise with a varied diversity of aquatic birdlife and raptors.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tiger numbers up, but habitat of big cats, co-predators and prey shrinks in TN

‘Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India, 2010' has both good and bad news

While tiger numbers have more than doubled in the past four years in the State, the habitat of the big cats, as well as co-predators and prey has shown a considerable decrease.

Statistics from ‘Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India, 2010' officially released by the Ministry of Environment and Forests last week reveal that the tiger population in the State has risen by 114 per cent from 76 in 2006 to 163 in 2010. As the tiger count is not absolute, the upper limit is pegged at 173 and the lower limit at 153.

As per the report, the tiger occupancy, or habitat, area within the Tamil Nadu part of Nagarahole – Mudumalai – Wayanad population landscape which has the highest tiger numbers in the country is 4,261 with an estimated 97 to 113 tigers. Tiger densities within the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve were high at 11.06 per 100 And surprisingly, camera traps have revealed that the reserve forests of Moyar gorge – Segur plateau region surrounding the tiger reserve had high abundance of tigers at 7.65 per 100

In the Parambikulam – Eravikulam – Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary landscape, the Tamil Nadu side has between 32 and 36 tigers. The landscape has shown good recovery due to good management of several reserves constituting the complex, lower human pressure due to difficult terrain and contiguous nature of the tiger habitat, the report states.

On the Tamil Nadu side of Kalakad – Mundanthurai – Periyar population, the estimated tiger population is between 36 to 40 with the occupancy at 1,691

However, the tiger habitat in the State has come down from 9,211 to 8,389 but it is still considered stable. But the status of co-predators and prey with regard to the occupied areas has shown considerable decrease which could pose problems for conservation.

In the past four years, the habitat of leopards have come down from 14,484 to 10,060; that of Dhole from 19,658 to 10,217; and that of Bear from 13,224 to 9,736

Among the prey, the area occupied by Chital has decreased drastically from 13,567 to 4,027 and that of Sambar from 15,909 to 9,008 Encouragingly, the Western Ghats complex, comprising Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, has also shown an increase in tiger numbers from 402 to 534 in the past four years. Here again, the tiger occupancy has decreased by about 5,000 registering a decline of about 11.5 per cent compared to that of 2006, the report reveals.

Roar! More room for Palamau tigers

- Reserve to get 300sqkm from Latehar, Ranchi forests

Call for conservation
Ranchi, Aug. 1: Three hundred cheers for the majestic big cat!

The state forest department has, finally, moved to raise a territory toast to the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) by honouring a 12-year-old central notification that recommended an additional 300sqkm room at the Palamau Tiger Reserve.

Adhering to the notification, forest belts of Latehar and Ranchi West division will now be integrated into the reserve to ensure better conservation of its 11 striped denizens and management of their habitat. The exercise will stretch the total reserve area from the present 1,026sqkm to 1,326sqkm.

Sarju, Manika, Kumandi and Netarhat Hills in Latehar and Mahuatand and its adjoining areas in Ranchi West will add to the reserve buffer zone. The transfer of forest areas from these two divisions is likely to be completed in a month’s time.

DFO (core), Palamau Tiger Reserve, Premjit Anand said formalities with respective divisional officers had been completed and pockets of Latehar would be merged within 10 days flat. “The rest will happen gradually over a month,” he added.

In 1997, the Centre had issued a notification to the erstwhile Bihar government to increase the area of the reserve, but the state forest department had been sitting on the directive since. The litany of excuses had ranged from manpower crunch to the designated areas (in Latehar) being Naxalite strongholds and thus inaccessible. However, the truth arguably is lackadaisical approach to a project that entails extra burden.

Reserve director S.E.H. Kazmi refused to comment on why the exercise had been delayed for 12 years despite several hard-hitting reminders from the Centre. “When I assumed office a few months ago, I came to know of the notification and began working in that regard. I can’t say why others didn’t do it,” Kazmi, who took charge in April, said.

He underscored that the important thing was that the ambitious proposal was finally taking shape. “It is a positive step towards tiger conservation. We will be able to extend funds and habitat management schemes like building enclosures (15-20sqkm on an average) to the extended areas. This, in turn, will ensure better monitoring of buffer zones and reduce man-animal conflict, particularly poaching,” he explained.

DFO (buffer) A.K. Mishra, who is pursuing the proposal along with Anand, conceded that a few technical concerns had hindered the merger process earlier. “For instance, there were discrepancies between the central notification and the directives from principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) on areas to be included. So, Latehar division officials weren’t ready to part with some villages. But now, things are moving,” he said.

Another senior official, requesting anonymity, said some department officials weren’t interested in the first place. “Increase in reserve area means more work in terms of patrolling, monitoring and habitat management. With 90 per cent posts of forest guards lying vacant, no one wanted to take the burden. They merely completed their tenure and went away,” he said.

PCCF A.K. Singh admitted manpower crunch. “Now, we have prepared rules and regulations for recruitment of forest guards. Also, the proposal for a tiger foundation has been drafted a couple of months ago. It is waiting for the state government’s nod,” he said.

Ironically, half of the existing reserve is beyond control because there are not enough guards while DFOs for buffer and core areas were appointed only some time ago. Most importantly, funds for conservation are delayed every year in the absence of a tiger foundation. No wonder, the big cat count has dropped from 17 to 11 in a decade.

Under the Wildlife Protection Act, it is mandatory for all states with reserves to have a tiger foundation, which is an autonomous body to facilitate habitat management. Having a foundation will help the Palamau reserve get money from the Centre directly for conservation work.