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Friday, December 23, 2011

Buxa roars back, count finds 20 tigers in park

Krishnendu Mukherjee, TNN | Dec 23, 2011, 06.47AM IST KOLKATA: Buxa Tiger Reserve, a favourite holiday destination for wildlife lovers where tales abound of phantom tiger sightings, may have finally regained its stripes. A report by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) has concluded that the North Bengal reserve - which has never had a steady tiger population and hasn't reported a sighting for over a decade - is home to 20 tigers, four of which are female. "The report was sent to us last week," said SB Mondal, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife). "The scientists have done a DNA analysis of the scat samples sent to them in March. We always knew there were tigers in the park, but the sightings were low. Now, with the CCMB's report of 20 tigers, we have enough reason to back our claims." According to him, almost 247 samples, collected between January and March, were sent to the research institute. S Shivaji of CCMB confirmed the outcome, but refused to divulge details, saying only the Bengal government was authorized to comment. Though Buxa hasn't been able to hold on to its tigers, its location - in the heart of a forest corridor extending to Assam in the east and Bhutan in the north - makes it an ideal home for the big cats. A wildlife expert, who didn't want to be quoted, said such DNA studies did not necessarily give the correct information "There are chances of over estimation and decaying in samples collected," he said. Experts are fearing presence of only 'dispersing' tigers - those from other forests -in the park due to a noticeable variation in the sex ratio. "The ratio of 16 male and four female tigers is quite unusual. Going by this finding, it seems none of the male tigers are resident big cats of the park. They are the dispersing ones," said conservation biologist Raghu Chundawat. Echoing his view, expert Biswajit Roychowdhury of Nature Environment and Wildlife Society said: "Buxa has good connectivity with the larger tiger landscape at Manas Reserve and Bhutan's Royal Manas National Park. So, chances of transient tigers moving in and around the park can't be refuted." Based on scat and pugmark analyses, forest officials believe tigers do frequent the park, but never settle down due to pressure from more than 30 villages inside the park. A recent report by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) said inadequacy in habitat management, socio-political issues, lack of training in wildlife management are posing challenge to a proper management of the reserve.

Bahelia poachers enter Vidarbha in a big way

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Dec 23, 2011, 12.57AM IST NAGPUR: At a time when coal mining is being perceived as the biggest threat to tigers, poachers from Bahelia community of Katni in Madhya Pradesh have entered forested parts of Vidarbha and are planning to strike it rich. Bahelias are infamous for tiger and wildlife poaching in India. Experts say this poaching community members simultaneously operate at multiple locations at a given time within any region of the country. They literally kill wild animals like a portable slaughterhouse. The Nature Conservation Society Amravati (NCSA), a NGO working for tiger conservation in Amravati district, received information on Monday that a jackal was trapped in a steel trap and the animal was moving with it in the open scrub forest near Loni village on Amravati-Akola highway. The location is close to Karanja Sohol sanctuary. NCSA volunteer Amit Wadatkar rescued the jackal from the trap and informed the forest officers. Mohan Jha, chief conservator of forest (CCF) for Amravati Circle, sounded a red alert in Amravati and Akola forest divisions. A RFO along with wildlife activist Vishal Bansod were sent for investigation. As the jackal was injured, it could not hunt and died due to hunger. The poachers, after seeing the jackal with steel trap, might have escaped from the spot. A local dhaba owner confirmed presence of four vehicles of Bahelias who had set up the trap in the scrub forest. In March 2010, a leopard was caught in a similar trap in the same area but the animal was rescued and released. During the same period, a hare had died in a trap near Ranmangali forest near Nagpur. Tigers in Ranmangli are on the edge. Recently, a full-grown male tiger from Tipeshwar had died after getting entangled in a steel wire trap. These cases expose weak protection and staff is not moving in their respective beats to know what is happening. Poaching activity is at its peak during the past three years. Since 2008, at least half a dozen tigresses have gone missing from the Tadoba landscape, turning cubs orphaned that are living a caged life. Some cubs died due to hunger as they were unable to hunt. Satpuda Foundation had in 2008 urged Maharashtra government to track movements of Bahelias around tiger habitats in Vidarbha, but no action has been taken by both police and forest departments.

Tigers suffering from stress?

Dec 23, 2011 - Rashme Sehgal | Age Correspondent | New Delhi Are tigers in the Sariska tiger reserve suffering from high stress levels? The failure of the three females to reproduce despite having been translcoated to this reserve over the last three-and-a-half years has raised the hackles of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). Scats tests of all five tigers have been sent to a Hyderabad laboratory to try and understand why no breeding has taken place so far. Dr Rajesh Gopal, member secretary of NTCA admits, “the lack of reproduction has become a major source of concern for us.” Rajasthan’s chief wildlife warden R.N. Mehrotra believes one of the reasons for their stress can be attributed to the heavy road traffic that plies the Jaipur-Alwar highway which cuts through the Sariska tiger reserve. The presence of a large numbers of villages inside the reserve is also being perceived as a source of irritability for the animals. “The tigers don’t feel safe in the reserve. Breeding is successful only when a female tigress feels comfortable in its environment. The heavy vehicular traffic and the large numbers of devotees that visit the Hanuman temple (located inside the reserve) every Tuesday from the whole state of Rajasthan unnerves these animals,” Mr Mehrotra believes.