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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tiger buzz in Saranda forest Pug mark test on in UP

KUMUD JENAMANI & A.S.R.P. MUKESH Jamshedpur/Ranchi, Dec. 3: Tiger triumph for reclaimed red den Saranda? Yes, if pug marks and hair found in the core area can prove the majestic animal’s resident status. No, if one maverick big cat has strayed into the sprawling forests of West Singhbhum from neighbouring Odisha’s Simlipal reserve. Speculation on whether Jharkhand’s striped population has taken a leap has been rife ever since Project Tiger authorities in Betla, Palamau, confirmed early this week that the pug marks found beside the carcass of a bison at Ghatkuri in the Gua range of Saranda earlier this month were indeed that of a tiger. However, actual sightings or pictures and DNA verification are necessary to confirm whether the tiger count has gone up in the state. Chief wildlife conservator of forests A.K. Gupta admitted they had no visual evidence in Saranda so far, but added that presence of the big cat could not be ruled out. Divisional forest officer (DFO), Saranda, K.K. Tiwary said four distinct tiger paw prints were found in the first week of November. “We first spotted a mauled bison, which suggested a predator attack. Next, we found clear pug marks and collected them using a tracing paper and plaster of Paris. And, finally, on a patch of flattened grass, we found feline hair. It appears, the tiger lazed around after a lavish meal,” he explained. Tiwary maintained that big cats were generally found in forests where prey was available in plenty. Saranda, which sprawls over 850sqkm, boasts vast swathes of grasslands and has a large herbivore population. According to the last census, there are some 1,000 cheetals, 300 sambars and 25 bison in its forests. S.E.H. Kazmi, the director of the Palamau reserve, confirmed that pug marks had been found in Saranda. “The DFO had sent us prints and hair found in the forest. We examined them and confirmed that they were of a big cat.” Kazmi, however, said the animal might have strayed into Saranda from adjoining Odisha. “Tigers are solitary creatures with high territorial awareness. They can have a territory of 20sqkm to 100sqkm. Whether this big cat is a Saranda denizen needs to be ascertained,” he added. Chief wildlife conservator Gupta sounded more sceptical. “To our knowledge, the tiger may have migrated from Simlipal in Odisha. Besides, after the pug marks were found no other animal was mauled,” he reasoned. But wildlife activist and member of state steering committee on Project Tiger D.S. Srivastava claimed that Saranda was a grand tiger territory some two decades ago. If the big cat count hasn’t been kept in the past years that is only because the forest department has manpower crunch, he said. “Against 72 posts of forest guards in four ranges, there are only four in action,” Srivastava, who was among the first to have spotted a pug mark in Saranda this September, said. He added that hair collected from the Gua range had been sent to Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India for verification. “Circumstantial evidence compel us to believe that there are tigers in Saranda. We need an official seal.” Echoing Tiwary, he asserted that the West Singhbhum forest was home to barking deer, antelope and wild boars. “These are prime tiger preys. If these animals are there, their predator has to be nearby.” Currently, only the Palamau Tiger Reserve has 10 striped inmates, the first-ever camera proof having come in early June this year.

Tigress shot dead by armed police

TNN | Dec 6, 2011, 03.58AM IST JORHAT: Personnel of Assam Police's armed battalion shot dead an adult tigress at Kaziranga National Park, about 250 km from here, on Monday, after it sneaked into a human settlement and attacked people near the Kohora forest range of the park. Assam chief wildlife warden Suresh Chand said a two-member inquiry committee has been constituted under the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). Both the members are from the NTCA - biologist Jyoti Das and Firoz Ahmed. "The NTCA has instituted a two-member committee comprising Das and Ahmed to probe into the killing. We got information of the killing soon after the incident," Chand said. Kaziranga National Park director Surajit Dutta said the tigress was killed at Bosagaon near Kohora forest range at 8.30 this morning. "The armed police opened fire when the tigeress attempted to attack people in the area," Dutta said. Park officials said that the tigress was creating panic among the people of the area. "By the time we went for the rescue operation, the tiger had injured two persons, including a local news channel correspondent. When the tigress tried to attack another person, police opened fire," a forest official said. The injured journalist, Ranjit Rajak, said, "I was injured on my back by the tigress while I was trying to collect visuals of the incident." In April this year, a tiger carcass was found at the Kathanibari forest camp of the park's Kohora forest range. The reason of death of the tiger could not be ascertained. Also in January, another adult tigress was found dead on a sand island of the Brahmaputra in the park. Poisoning was suspected to be the cause of the tigress's death. Kaziranga lost five tigers last year, mostly because of territorial fights. The national park has the fourth highest tiger density in the country. The latest NTCA report - 'Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India, 2010' has 15.92 tigers per 100 square km. It is estimated that there are about 106 tigers within the 830 sq km of the Kaziranga tiger reserve.