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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Coal mining poses threat to Tadoba tiger reserves

Pradip Kumar Maitra, Hindustan Times Nagpur, November 22, 2011 The arrival of four tiger cubs in Tadoba — considered as one of the flourishing habitats for the striped cats — has brought cheers to the wildlife lovers. However, on the contrary, the rampant coal mining in Chandrapur and its surrounding areas pose a grave threat to tiger conservation and protection. A fact-finding team, comprising environment experts and environment lawyers has issued this warning. Tadoba tiger reserve, one of the country's oldest national parks, was in the news recently for better big cat conservation and birth of 32 tiger cubs in the area since January 2010. The team, comprising wildlife expert Pravin Bhargav, Bishwajit Mohanty and environment lawyer Rahul Choudhary, released its findings and recommendations in a report titled "Undermining Tadoba’s tigers" said that no new mines should be given forest clearance in the region and further expansion of mines in operation in the tiger habitat should be stopped. The team visited the area in September this year and interacted with villagers, miners, environmentalist, government officials and businessmen ; and came out with 66-page report on the issue. The union government has allotted over half a dozen new coal mines in the periphery of Tadoba tiger reserve where already half a dozen coal mines -- including Padmapur and Durgapur coal mines of Western Coalfields and Karnataka EMTA Coal mines -- are operating. They have also warned that tiger reserve risks being completely cut off from surrounding forests by mines and dams, and that the ecological impact will be irreversible and cannot be compensated by afforestation. Tadoba has 79 tigers. The coal mining is threatening connectivity between forest patches that are important for the long-term survival of this tiger population. The report flatly contradicts the recent report of the BK Chaturvedi committee set up by the group of ministers on coal. The Chaturvedi report recommended relaxing environmental safeguards to facilitate an expansion in coal mining, and abandoning the union ministry for environment and forests' classification of 'go' and 'no go' areas. The Chandrapur experience clearly shows that the clearance process is severely flawed, with mines coming up in critical tiger habitat. For the Chaturvedi report to recommend further relaxing clearance procedures is highly irresponsible, said the fact-finding team. "If accepted, the Chaturvedi report’s recommendations will be a death warrant for large forest areas across India and for the wildlife and communities that depend on them," it further warned.

'Tiger death was caused by poaching'

TO Abraham, TNN | Nov 24, 2011, 01.48AM IST YAVATMAL: It's official now. Harishchandra Kamble, assistant conservator of forests of Pandharkawda, confirmed on Tuesday that the death of the tiger on Sunday in Tipeshwar wildlife sanctuary in Yavatmal district was the result of poaching. Although offences have been registered against the as yet unidentified poachers, no arrests have been made. The three to four year old male tiger got strangulated in an iron mesh set up by the poachers on Sunday and it was noticed by passersby in the evening. A report was made to the concerned forest officials who rushed to the incident site and conducted the post mortem. Though the post mortem report is available with the forest officials at Pandharkawda, they are appeared to be reluctant to disclose the cause of the death of the tiger. Chief conservator of forests Devendra Kumar said that he received the post mortem report which confirms that the cause of the death of the tiger was 'abscess and shock'. Some youths in the village initially tried to remove the nails and teeth from the carcass but they were prevented by the elders anticipating legal complications ahead, sources said. The officials have seized the iron mesh from the border of the nullah where the carcass was found but the farmers who owned the farm refused to accept the responsibility of the incident. Wildlife activists said they even examined the manner in which the iron mesh tied with a wooden log was laid and wondered how the tiger got entangled into it and the struggle it made to escape. They alleged that there is regular poaching activity in Tipeshwar sanctuary in connivance with officials. "Poachers from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh often visit the forest and get help of locals," they said.

Tigers may get out of sight for tourists

Neha Shukla, TNN | Nov 24, 2011, 02.07AM IST LUCKNOW: The tiger may become more elusive for tourists in the wildlife sanctuaries. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has filed a plea in the Supreme Court stating that core areas of wildlife reserves be kept out of bounds for tourists and entry restricted only to the buffer or fringe areas. The apex court is likely to decide on the issue in the first week of December. This could be the last season for tourists to have a close look at tigers in Dudhwa national park which opened for public on November 15. If NTCA has its way, the state governments might have to redraw the tourism zones in the tiger reserves since most of them allow tourism in identified routes of core areas. In Dudhwa reserve, the tourism zone spreads over 350 sq km (approximately). It allows tourism inside ranges of Kishenpur, which is completely a core area, besides ranges of Mailani, Sathiana and Sonaripur of Dudhwa. Deputy director, Dudhwa, Ganesh Bhatt said, "If the need occurs, then tourism zone will have to be re-drawn." Dudhwa reserve is spread over an area of 600 sq km and tourist movement is allowed only on identified routes. But till now, tourism in core area is allowed. "Reason was the geographical spread of Dudhwa, it made clear cut distinction between core and buffer areas slightly difficult," said former director, Dudhwa, GC Mishra. Core area is the middle part of a national park or sanctuary and has good wild population w i t h no human disturbance. In any tiger reserve, tourism zone comprises about 20-25% of the best area, with maximum possibilities of seeing wildlife. About 30-35% of the best area is ideally marked as the core area in the management plan. Core zone, tourism zone and eco-restoration zone are three essential parts of a reserve. "The zones can be changed in terms of area in the management plan, but shouldn't include the breeding area," said former Project Tiger director RL Singh. In order to preserve the core area, NTCA had submitted an affidavit in response to a PIL by a Bhopal-based wildlife activist Ajay Dubey, who challenged tourism in core areas of tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh. NTCA says, "Core or critical areas of national parks and sanctuaries are required to be kept as inviolate for the purpose of tiger conservation, without affecting the rights of scheduled tribes or such other forest dwellers." The word 'inviolate' means without any disturbance by human beings, NTCA said. "The core or critical tiger habitats would not be used for any form of tourism, and the ongoing tourism activities in such areas should be phased out in fringe or buffer areas without affecting its corridor value," the authority said. In Dudhwa, however, a section of people feel that banning tourism will not change much in favour of tigers. "The point is to encourage eco-tourism," said member, state wildlife board, VP Singh. Dudhwa tiger reserve comprises three protected areas, 204 sq km of Kishenpur sanctuary, 440 sq km of Katarniaghat and 680 sq km of Dudhwa national park. Kishenpur and Dudhwa national park form the core areas.

Karnataka conducive for growth of tigers: K Ullas Karanth

Published: Wednesday, Nov 23, 2011, 14:18 IST By DNA Correspondent | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA Karnataka is conducive for the growth of tigers, said K Ullas Karanth, director (India), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), who conducted a research on ‘25 years on tiger population’. The study was conducted, in association with Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS) and WCS. Wildlife filmmaker Shekar Dattatri, member of CWS Sanjay Gubbi, and wildlife enthusiast Niren Jain were recognised for their outstanding work in tiger studies. Karanth said: “WCS-India has grown from a single tiger research project in Nagarahole in 1986 to a programme that encompasses major conservation strategies pursued by WCS globally.” Highlighting the achievements, he said: “We conducted the first-ever radio telemetry study in India in 1990 in Nagarahole to understand the tiger ecology and behaviour. Beginning 1991, we pioneered camera trap method to obtain the first reliable estimates of tiger density in 15 reserves across the country. These field surveys assessed predator-prey relationships involving co-predators like leopards and wild dogs, which helped ascertain the role of prey depletion in driving tiger declines across their range.” On the increasing man-animal conflict in Karnataka, Dr George Schaller emeritus, scientist, WCS, USA, said:“Tigers don’t attack human beings unless they are short of food. This is the case in Karnataka as well as everywhere else.

India lost 5 tigers a month this year: NTCA report

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN Nov 23, 2011, 07.02AM IST NAGPUR: Even though the number of tigers has increased from 1,411 (2006) to 1,706 (2010) in the last four years, India is losing five tigers a month with the death toll in the wild already crossing the half century mark this year. According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), which takes stock of all deaths, over 51 tigers have been killed or poached between January 5 and November 20. In fact, 31 deaths were recorded after the release of the NTCA report - Status of tigers in India - by former minister for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh on March 28 earlier this year. The report painted a rosy picture with tiger numbers showing a 20% increase but experts say that the speed with which tiger deaths are being registered is alarming. Of the 51 deaths reported so far, 42 are from the wild and the other nine relate to poaching as body parts like skin, nails, bones and teeth have been seized. Of these deaths, 14 alone have been recorded in Uttrakhand, 4 each in Maharashtra, MP and Chhattisgarh, and 3 in Karnataka. With more than a month to go for the end of the year, the 42 deaths of tigers equals figures of 2010. The numbers registered by the NTCA are on the lower side as they don't include several missing tigresses whose abandoned cubs are then forced to lead a life in captivity either in a zoo or rescue centre. On Monday there were reports from Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh about a tiger dying under mysterious circumstances. An overdose of tranquiliser is being attributed to the reason.Some like Nitin Desai, the Central India head of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, feels that even the wildcats rescued from the wild should be counted as a loss. "The chances of them being reintroduced in the wild and surviving are rare," he said citing the incident of the three tigers in Bor Sanctuary in Wardha district, which were rescued and are now more than two years old. An array of reasons like natural, infighting, injuries and poaching have been attributed as cause of deaths. However, at times officials also try to hide the real cause. For example, in the latest death of the Tipeshwar Sanctuary tiger in Yavatmal district on Sunday, the animal was entangled in a wire trap laid by poachers for herbivores. But officials claim that the tiger died a natural death when it got strangulated. Samir Sinha, head of TRAFFIC-India which monitors illegal wildlife trade, said with about half the world's wild tigers, "we in India hold a very major and challenging responsibility to protect our national animal". "While the loss of every tiger should be cause for worry, we must also be prepared to accept that any population will have a certain level of mortality. More than the numbers, it's the nature and cause of death that's the concern," he added. The tiger death in Tipeshwar was perhaps "entirely avoidable". "Persons responsible should be dealt severely under the law," Sinha said. The TRAFFIC head said the forest department needs not only to strengthen its presence in the area but also to reach out to wider sections of the society on educating them about such incidents and their impacts, so that they can be avoided in future. "Given their precarious situation in the wild, every unnatural death of a wild tiger is cause for worry," said Sinha. Conservationists say even as death of every tiger counts, the positive side of the issue is there have been reports of 20 new cubs from Tadoba-Andhari, Pench (MP) and Bandhavgarh tiger reserves in Central India. Extrapolate to other tiger habitats, and the rise in numbers could be significant.