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Friday, March 23, 2012

Foresters spot 'mystery cat' in Sunderbans

Subhro Niyogi & Krishnendu Bandyopadhyay, TNN Mar 22, 2012, 08.35AM IST (The Sunderbans is the only tiger reserve in India where leopards have never been seen. Its Bangladeshi side reported the last sighting of a leopard in 1931.) KOLKATA: The deeper you go into the Sunderbans, the more mysterious it is. The camera traps that have snapped 18 Bengal tigers outside the core area of the mangrove forests also captured two photos of a never-before seen cat. It could be another species altogether, a eureka moment for conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts. Forest officers scanning through a bunch of pictures of the wild stopped in their tracks when they came across a small, black cat with a long tail. Nothing of the sort had been seen in decades of documentation and exploration in the Sunderbans. The Sunderbans is the only tiger reserve in India where leopards have never been seen. Its Bangladeshi side reported the last sighting of a leopard in 1931. The cat spotted in the camera traps is bigger than a wild cat and smaller than a leopard, say sources. It's not yet known whether it's a new species but forest officials believe it is a melanistic leopard-cat , a rarity in the animal world. In leopards, two genes determine whether the animal's colour will be yellow with black spots or completely black. The black panther gets its colour from the black recessive gene. "We have never seen any animal like this in the Sunderbans . Apart from the 18 tigers, scores of other cats, including jungle and fishing cats, were found during the exercise, which was done outside the reserve area for the first time. Most of them were expected till we came upon two sightings of a black cat with a long tail," said Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve director Pradeep Vyas.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A tale of two tiger reserves

SUNNY SEBASTIAN After Panna's successful rewilding, Sariska is sanguine First there was the Sariska debacle in which all the tigers were found missing in the reserve in Rajasthan's Alwar district sometime in 2004-05. Then there was similar misfortune in Madhya Pradesh's Panna Tiger Reserve in February 2009 — the wild cats became extinct there. Sariska led the way soon by reintroducing tigers under a recovery plan with the support of the National Tiger Conservation Authority in June 2008. Panna followed suit in March 2009. It reintroduced one female each from Bhandavgarh and Kanha. Thereafter, it appears, both the reserves charted their own journeys. The Panna experiment turned out to be a big success. The reserve, spread over Panna and Chattarpur districts eof Madhya Pradesh, soon became home to a flourishing population of big cats. The reserve, 25 km from Khajuraho, once ravaged by problems, has now 12 tiger cubs, besides the five adults brought in as part of the reintroduction. And that gives Sariska, the leader, a complex, for its three tigresses are yet to give a litter. The tale of the two reserves came in for comparison this weekend at Alwar when the main protagonists of the tiger reintroduction process got together to discuss the rebuilding of Sariska. “Where there is a will there is a way,” said R. Sreenivasa Murthy, Field Director in the Panna Tiger Reserve, giving a presentation on tiger relocation and their successful breeding. The Panna story included the truancy of the lone male, which apparently showed “homing” instincts to repeatedly move in the direction of Pench — it had to be brought back with the help of 70-strong forest staff and four elephants for a second time. The Panna experiment did not stop at just reintroduction. The park authorities opened a new chapter in conservation by introducing two orphaned female cubs to the reserve in March 2011. They were the litters of a collared tigress that got killed in a fight with another in Kanha in May 2005. They were picked up and hand-reared for one-and-half years to be released into an enclosure in Kanha. “The Panna team met with success in the rewilding of the tiger. One of them, T4, delivered cubs in November 2011,” said Mr. Murthy. Mr. Murthy and H.S. Pabla, who retired last year as the Chief Wildlife Warden of Madhya Pradesh, said they did their part and left the rest to the tigers. “In Sariska, females ST2 and ST3, showed signs of pregnancy but no litters were produced. The cause of not breeding is not known,” said K. Sankar, scientist with the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun, who has been part of the Sariska experiment. “There appears to be no disturbance to the tigers. The prey density is one of the best in the country. However, the human habitation inside the park surely is an obstacle. In fact, the Sariska tigers have only 50 in the reserve for themselves.” While some experts, including Sunayan Sharma, president of the Sariska Tiger Foundation, which organised the workshop, felt that the radio collars around their necks might be hampering the breeding, others emphatically dismissed it as inconsequential. “There is no connection between the radio collar and breeding,” said Dr. Sankar. “We have consulted the NTCA and they are of the opinion that collars cannot be the reason,” said U.M. Sahai, Head of the Forest Force, Rajasthan. What made all the difference in Panna? “I have no explanation why tigers are not breeding in Sariska and they do in Panna,” said Mr. Pabla. His suggestion to the Rajasthan authorities in this connection included introduction of breeding tigresses — instead of virgins — and not to have too many males around. Mr. Murthy said the presence of elephants in Panna was of great help to tigers. Moreover, Panna had an advantage of not having any village inside. Raghuveer Singh Shekhawat, Field Director, Sariska Tiger Reserve, is confident of a breakthrough in the reserve. “What is all this fuss about litters? We need to leave certain [things] for the tigers to decide,” said Samir Sinha, author and head of TRAFFIC India.

Rahmankhera stray tiger shouldn’t be killed, says NTCA

TNN Mar 21, 2012, 04.21AM IST LUCKNOW: The National Tiger Conservation Authority on Tuesday asked the officials of the forest department to ensure that the safety of the stray tiger in Rahmankhera on the outskirts of the city is not jeopardised under any circumstances. Member-secretary, NTCA, Rajesh Gopal visited Rahmankhera after the department wrote to NTCA for help. "Today, I sent a fax to the department telling that under no circumstances should the life of the tiger be threatened," said Gopal. NTCA, meanwhile, has already sent a new team of experts to handle the tiger-operation. "The best thing is that this tiger is localised, and department has been able to keep it localised," he added. The forest department has written to the authority, last week, about its constraints. While, some of the officers who had been handling the operation at Rahmankhera have come back, others are doing nothing more than the customary combing. And, in the last more than two months of the operation, department has also spent quite an amount. On the other hand, wildlife enthusiasts of the city got together, on Tuesday, to discuss ways about saving the stray tiger. The feline had strayed out of Kheri forest in January. The enthusiasts, as part of a non-government organisation Tiger and Terrain have also assisted the department in the operation, in the start. But later, though they offered to help the department, the officers did not show willingness to involve them. The group, however, expressed concern over the safety of the tiger and the way entire operation has been handled. On the other hand, wildlife enthusiasts of the city got together, on Tuesday, to discuss ways about saving the stray tiger.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tiger population poised to rise in Sathyamangalam

TNN | Mar 20, 2012, 06.22AM IST COIMBATORE: The tiger population in Sathyamangalam forests, which will in all likelihood be declared a tiger reserve soon, is stable and poised for further increase, a just concluded wildlife census revealed. According to Sathyamangalam Divisional Forest Officer N Sathish, the survey confirmed that the tiger population in the area is between 18 and 25. The wildlife census, which began on Friday, concluded on Sunday evening. The census was being conducted with the participation of volunteers of Coimbatore based NGO OSAI, students of Bannariamman Institute of Technology, SEWA voluntary organization in Erode and wildlife enthusiasts. According to him, modern equipment including laser range finders was used for enumeration of wild animals. The surveyors also adopted line-transect direct count, carnivore sign survey, dung count and waterhole count systems to take stock of the animals. According to Sathish, an itemized list of animals would be brought out later after merging data collected by different groups. ``The presence of tigers was confirmed in many areas. In Kettuvadi and Bijilatti, bodies of deer killed by tigers were found. Marks left by tigers on some trees were also documented. Cameras have been installed in various parts of the forest to capture images of tigers,'' he said. According to Sathish, the enumerators found large herds of elephants inside the forest and their number count is around 800. The area is one of the largest havens for Asiatic elephants, he said. The surveyors also found cheetahs, jackals and bears inside the forest. ''A healthy prey base, our strict vigil in forests, conservation efforts and reduction of cattle population in the forest fringes have yielded positive results in Sathyamangalam,'' he said when asked about the growing population of animals. ``Once it gets tiger reserve status, there would be total habitat improvement. There would be projects that would help not only the tigers but also the entire flora and fauna of the region. It is home to one fourth of the elephants in the state. Sathyamangalam is also a migratory path for over 6,000 Asiatic elephants which move from the Nilgiris to Bandipur in Karnataka,'' Sathish said. It also has a large number of black bucks and hyenas.

Toil to trace tiger turns futile

Bagish K Jha, TNN | Mar 20, 2012, 01.18AM IST INDORE: After keeping the forest officials on their toes for more than a month, tiger in Choral forest range is believed to have moved on to some other neighbouring territory. "For the last 15 days, there has been no trace of the tiger. We believe that it might have migrated to adjoining Dewas or Barwani forest ranges. The DFOs of the adjoining areas have been alerted and told to keep a track on the tiger's movement," said chief conservator of forest (CCF) P C Dubey. "Though the big cats keep on straying from one place to another, we are hopeful that the richness of Choral forest range might bring the tiger back. Choral range has thick forest with good prey base, which is the basic characteristic of a tiger's habitat," he added. He further said the landscape management strategy for the protection of big cats is in place and there is a huge possibility that the region may turn into a permanent tiger habitat. The department had confirmed the presence of tiger for the first time on February 4 last on the basis of pug marks, scratches on tree and other evidences. Since then, the department has been keeping a tab on pug marks of the tiger. Also, there were reports of cattle lifting and killing of other animals in the range. Few villagers too claimed to have seen the tiger. But during the last two weeks, none of these was reported. When contacted, former PCCF (Wildlife), P M Lad said, "Choral range did not have tigers for the past 30 years. But the condition of forest has improved significantly over the years. The forest is dense with good water reserve and herbivorous population. However, a big cat takes time to adapt itself to a new area. If any tiger stays in a particular area for more than a-year-and-a-half, then only it can be termed a tiger territory. Former PCCF J J Dutta said the tigers are very particular about their territory and they take long to select and adapt to a new territory. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun had reported about the possible presence of seven tigers in the region for first time in its survey report released in July 2011. The survey had specifically mentioned Dabal Chowki, Kalakund, Choral, Punjarapura, Rajpura and Surtipura as suitable places for tiger habitat in Choral forest range.

Cameras capture 17 tigers outside Sunderbans reserve area

Krishnendu Mukherjee, TNN | Mar 20, 2012, 07.00AM IST KOLKATA: The first ever camera trap exercise done in the South 24 Parganas forest division has found presence of over 15 tigers. The exercise, done jointly by WWF-India and the state forest department has photo captured 8 individual tigers in the Ramganga range and 9 in the Raidighi range. Sources said tiger presence was found in Dhulibhashani and Chulkathi compartments in Ramganga, while Ajmalmari and Herobhanga compartments in Raidighi range also reported good tiger density. It may be noted that over 462 square kilometres in this part of the mangrove forests will be developed as West Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary. According to sources, the entire South 24 Parganas forest division was divided into 4 square kilometres grid to locate tiger pugmarks and scats. "Later, based on pugmarks and scat presence, 20 heat motion sensitive cameras were laid in the Ramganga range covering an area of over 184 square kilometres and 21 trap camera stations were set up in the Raidighi range covering almost 216 square kilometres ," said sources. The exercise for Ramganga was done between January 23 and February 21, while trap cameras were laid and taken out in Raidighi between February 11 and March 12. "While 8 tigers were found in the Ramganga range with a density of 5.24 tigers per 100 square kilometres , Raidighi has recorded presence of 9 tigers till March 12 with a density of over 4 tigers per 100 square kilometres. Total 44 images were captured in Raidighi," said sources, adding that rare leopard cats, jungle cats and fishing cats too were photo captured. The project will also cover Herobhanga under South 24 Parganas forest division and Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary under Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (STR). The officials of WWF-India are meeting state forest minister Hiten Burman and senior officials in the department today to brief them about the updated figures of the big cats photo captured between March 12 and March 19. Sources said that the presence of the tigers will give a boost to the state's plan of developing another wildlife sanctuary in this part of the forests. "The new sanctuary - West Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary - will cover Dhulibhashani 1 to 8 and Chulkathi 1 to 8 compartments . The proposed wildlife sanctuary will have Dhulibhashani 1 to its north, Bay of Bengal to its south and rivers Matla and Thakuran to its east and west respectively," said sources, adding that while 224.26 square kilometres will fall under Dhulibhashani, 238.13 square kilometres will come under Chulkathi. "We will issue fresh boat licence certificates (BLCs) to the fishermen who will venture out for fishing in the area," Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve director Pradeep Vyas had said. At present, 3500 licences are given to boat owners in South 24 Parganas forest division and 960 BLCs are issued under Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (STR). It may be noted that the Centre's tiger estimation exercise - Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India - has recently projected the number of tigers within Sunderbans Tiger Reserve between 64 and 90. Times View Adecent tiger density outside the tiger reserve area shows Sunderbans - one of the last surviving natural tiger habitats in the world - still holds the potential to sustain a healthy tiger population. Only, there should be regular monitoring and better management in the reserve, which will not only clear controversies surrounding the real number of big cats in the mangroves, but will also throw light on the behavioural pattern of the tigers and other rare species in the forests.

Slow operations a boon for stray tiger

TNN Mar 19, 2012, 03.57AM IST LUCKNOW: The lazy pace of tiger-tracking operations at Rahmankhera could allow the big cat an extended stay. Some forest officials, who were part of the operation, have returned from Rahmankhera. The forest department has asked the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) to send in more trained hands to capture the tiger.The big cat has been roaming in Rahmankhera for more than two months. During this period, some senior forest officials, including chief wildlife warden (CWW), have retired from the service. Sources say the slow pace of operations can be linked to these retirements. The incumbent CWW, Mohammad Ehsan, is also due to retire by March end. Another reason for that slow approach is that the department had drawn flak when it killed a stray tigress in 2009. Even NTCA had written to the forest department, directing the officers to follow the NTCA guidelines for tranquilising and trapping stray tigers. The tigress had strayed from Pilibhit, and had turned a man-eater before it was killed. The tiger in Rahmankhera, so far, hasn't ventured into human settlements. Besides, it has also not attacked any human. The patch of forest in Rahmankhera, where tiger is localised, has three villages in close proximity. These villages are Ulrapur, Dugauli and Meethenagar. "Three days back, when the tiger killed a bullock, forest officers again tampered with the kill," said wildlife enthusiast Kaushlendra Singh. Meanwhile, the wildlife enthusiasts plan hold discussions with the department on the ways to save the big cat.

Meant for tigers, camera traps poachers in Kaziranga

Rahul Karmakar/HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times A motion-sensitive camera with automatic sensors placed in Kaziranga National Park for an ongoing tiger census recorded two poachers early on Monday morning. Home to an estimated 2,200 one-horned rhinos, the 860 sq km Kaziranga is a happy hunting ground for wildlife criminals whose network extends to China and Southeast Asia. "We launched a search operation after our forest guards heard gunshots early in the morning near the Sonok anti-poaching camp. We subsequently found one of the two cameras placed for tiger trapping, north of the camp, missing. The other camera had visuals of two armed poachers recorded in it," Ikarmul Mazid, range officer of the park's Burapahar range said. The camera captured the poachers who were inside the Burapahar range adjoining a hill range named Bagser, yet to be made a part of the World Heritage Site despite recommendations from the park authorities. Mazid said each poacher had a sophisticated rifle in the hands and a revolver on the waist. "Their features clearly indicated they were most probably from Nagaland and aged around 25 years," he added. Park officials said the poachers took away one of the cameras possibly after it flashed due to their movement. Last week, a group of poachers were recorded inside Odisha's Simlipal Tiger Reserve. Cameras placed in that wildlife preserve showed poachers armed with bows and arrows. Poachers have made several attempts to kill rhinos in Kaziranga in the past week. "At least four attempts were made with gunshots being heard by our guards. We heard three gunshots on Friday, but we found no casualty after combing the areas," said Kaziranga park director Surajit Dutta.

Madhya Pradesh government may recommend CBI probe into tiger deaths in Panna

PTI Mar 19, 2012, 05.56AM IST BHOPAL: The Madya Pradesh government is likely to recommend a CBI probe into the alleged disappearance and poaching of wild cats from Panna Tiger Reserve based on a report submitted by sanctuary authorities. Sources said the report was submitted to the Madhya Pradesh government last month after a year-long follow up by the state administration and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) with PTR over the issue. They said the report contained all necessary evidence and reasons for tiger deaths and their disappearance from the reserve, adding the State may recommend a CBI probe into at least three such cases between 2005 and 2009 in the PTR. "The report has been submitted to the MP Forest department, which is carrying out discussions with the Home Department to decide on a CBI probe," a senior State government official said. Various social activists and wildlife experts had written to both the State and Central governments to constitute a CBI inquiry into cases of tiger death in PTR. Following the representations, the NTCA had a sought reply from the MP government in this regard early last year. According to another report by the Madhya Pradesh government, there was no tiger in Panna Reserve in the 2009 census carried out by the authorities there. The report says that there were about 20 tigers in 2006. Citing it as an example of 'fence eating the crop', the report strongly recommended a CBI probe into the alleged disappearance of the striped cats. (MORE) PTI AKV EKA SPC

Four day annual tiger census from March 29

PTI | 03:03 PM,Mar 18,2012 Tirunelveli, Mar 18 (PTI): The four day annual census for fixing the tiger population in the Kalakkad–Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) in the Western Ghats will be held from March 29, forest officials said. The objective of census is also to ascertain whether the forest had helped in providing a proper environment for tigers to mate, the officials said in a release. The census will also determine whether the herbivore density at KMTR is at the desired level so that it would form the right prey base. As the National Tiger Conservation Authority had decided to monitor tiger population in reserves annually, KMTR plans to conduct the census by involving volunteers from colleges, it said.

Prowling 'tiger' spreading panic in Bithoor villages

TNN Mar 17, 2012, 04.37AM IST KANPUR: The residents of five villages of Bithoor district are living in fear as the tiger which had attacked farmers on Tuesday and Wednesday, is still traceless. However, district forest officer B R Ahirwar said, "We have found no trace of any tiger in the villages and therefore, we apprehend that the wild animal is either a hyena or a leopard." When asked what is being done to trap the suspected animal, Ahirwar said that the officials of forest department were making efforts to nab the wild animal. It is worth mentioning here that a tiger had fled from Lakhimpur Kheri and reportedly entered the forest area of Bithoor. The villagers are presently living in fear and while out nights awake, armed with iron rods and axes. According to the farmers, the animal which had attacked was huge in size and had large paws. The animal had attacked Manohar Lal and Pankaj, both farmers who were working in their fields.

Save Kosi river corridor, save tigers: WWF

IANS Mar 18, 2012, 08.13PM IST (An ever increasing number of resorts to cater to tourists is threatening the tigers with an increase in the number of conflicts between the big cat and humans. DELHI: Highlighting the importance of the Kosi river corridor in the Corbett tiger reserve in Uttarakhand, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said Sunday that the crucial pathway is facing a threat from upcoming resorts and hotels. Recent photos taken in the corridor, situated in the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) at the heart of which lies the Corbett tiger reserve, have shown as many as 13 tigers using the pathway. In one of the photos, a tigress with her two sub-adult cubs was camera trapped in west Terai feeding on a domestic cow. "In January 2012, the same tigress was photographed carrying an approximately one-month-old cub in her mouth, further south in the Kosi corridor," said Meraj Anwar, Senior Project Officer, WWF. "The sighting comes a few weeks after the first photo of a tiger crossing the corridor," he added. However, an ever increasing number of resorts to cater to tourists is threatening the tigers with an increase in the number of conflicts between the big cat and humans. "Ramnagar forest division has witnessed increased human-animal conflict over the years owing to human movement in forests and the expansion of tourism in the area, particularly the tourist resorts that have sprung up here in the recent past," said K.D. Kandpal, Landscape Coordinator, TAL. "If unchecked, the resorts mushrooming in the area will choke the corridor and block the free movement of tigers through it. If the tiger in India is to be saved for posterity, the Kosi River tiger corridor needs to be protected at all costs," he added.

Friday, March 16, 2012

MP govt, wildlife dept at loggerheads over buffer zone for tiger reserve

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times New Delhi, March 15, 2012 Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and the state wildlife department seem to be at loggerheads over notifying a buffer zone around the Panna tiger reserve. Chauhan was against declaring the area as a buffer zone in consideration of the local opposition, mostly comprising the mining mafia in the region. The same people were said to be responsible for firing at police personnel last Friday, an incident that culminated in the arrest of dacoit-turned-sand miner Kuber Singh. “People are more important than tigers,” Chauhan had said when local wildlife enthusiasts and the environment ministry sought the declaration of the green buffer zone around the reserve, rejecting any efforts in that regard. Now, the internal response to the chief minister’s claim – as assessed by the Hindustan Times – shows that the wildlife wing of the state government was against non-declaration of the buffer zone around the Panna reserve, which had lost all its tigers in 2009. The state government has already declared buffers around four other tiger reserves in the state – Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench and Satpura. However, Panna was kept in abeyance due to alleged resistance from local residents, which the wildlife department has described as a “misconception”. “It will be kept in mind that no existing mine is closed due to declaration of the buffer zone,” said then chief conservator of forests HS Pabla in an internal note. He also claimed that if the buffer zone was not declared, the state government may face problems in getting funds amounting to Rs 535 crore from the Centre for relocating four villages in the core area of the tiger reserve. Relocation of these villages is essential for providing an “inviolate area” to relocated tigers, and declaration of the buffer zone will provide 12 tigers in the reserve with enough space to spread out. “Otherwise, the tigers will die in infighting for space,” a local forest official said. Despite a strong appeal by the wildlife department, the state government had failed to declare the buffer zone around the reserve, resulting in large-scale illegal mining of stone and sand from Ken  river, a key source of water in the forested area. Even the National Tiger Conservation Authority had repeatedly asked the state government to declare the buffer zone.

Tiger reserves out of bounds to researchers

Decision made to curb human disturbance in tiger habitats, says Forest Department In a decision that is bound to antagonise conservation scientists, the State Forest Department has clamped down on field research in tiger reserves and will neither renew nor grant fresh permits to enter these forests. The State's five tiger reserves — Bandipur, Nagarahole, Anshi-Dandeli, Bhadra and B.R. Hills — will no longer be accessible for field research, according to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests B.K. Singh. The recent fire in Nagarahole has only reaffirmed the need for ‘inviolate zones' in tiger habitats to prevent human ‘disturbance', he added. In fact, over the last two years, the department had denied permission to almost every one of the 30-odd applicants for research in these forests. Research permits have been renewed for only two scientists: tiger expert Ullas Karanth and elephant researcher T.N.C. Vidya of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Mr. Singh said. APPLICATIONS REJECTED Decision made to curb human disturbance in tiger habitats, says Forest Department In a decision that is bound to antagonise conservation scientists, the State Forest Department has clamped down on field research in tiger reserves and will neither renew nor grant fresh permits to enter these forests. The State's five tiger reserves — Bandipur, Nagarahole, Anshi-Dandeli, Bhadra and B.R. Hills — will no longer be accessible for field research, according to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests B.K. Singh. The recent fire in Nagarahole has only reaffirmed the need for ‘inviolate zones' in tiger habitats to prevent human ‘disturbance', he added. In fact, over the last two years, the department had denied permission to almost every one of the 30-odd applicants for research in these forests. Research permits have been renewed for only two scientists: tiger expert Ullas Karanth and elephant researcher T.N.C. Vidya of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Mr. Singh said. Applications of several researchers, including scientists from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.), who had sought permission to study subjects ranging from Kabini hydrology and elephant behaviour to Shola ecology in these forests, were rejected. Citing the Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA) 1972, Mr. Singh said the 2006 amendment stipulated the creation of ‘inviolate' zones in tiger reserves to curb human presence. Asked why the two researchers were privileged over the others, he said that while Prof. Karanth was doing tiger-specific research, Dr. Vidya was given a recommendation by the Union Government. Scientists outraged Scientists and conservation biologists, who had noticed the trend, were outraged by a decision they say was based on whimsy rather than scientific justification. R. Sukumar, professor and chairman at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISc., said his students were routinely denied entry into Nagarahole and Bandipur. “This decision means that the Forest Department will now manage forests without scientific information.” Wildlife cannot be looked at in isolation, he added. “What about fire ecology, vegetation ecology or invasive plants?” The WLPA did not mandate such a ban, said Nitin Rai, fellow, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment. “On the contrary, it supports research that improves habitat quality,” he said, describing the ban on research in tiger reserves as retrogressive and arbitrary. The only State Indeed, no other State denies permission to researchers in tiger reserves, M.D. Madhusudan, senior scientist with the Nature Conservation Foundation, pointed out. “It is unlikely that research is the most serious threat that tigers are facing,” he said.

Another tiger found dead in Bandhavgarh reserve

Bagish K Jha, TNN Mar 14, 2012, 06.55AM INDORE: A one-year-old tiger was found dead at the Magadi Gate of Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve on Tuesday morning. The young feline is prima facie believed to be the victim of turf war, but poaching has yet to be officially ruled out . "A tiger was found dead on main road near Magadi Gate which is also known as Gate no. 2 of Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve Forest. It appears to have been killed in a territorial fight with another," said former minister and member of Wildlife Board Pushparaj Singh, adding that seven to eight tigers have been reportedly killed there in the last one year alone. The range officer of Bandhavgarh confirmed the tiger's death declined comment, saying senior officers were investigating the death. The park's field director C K Patil has left for the spot to take stock. Sources said that the carcass was spotted by some foreign tourists and their guide in the morning, who informed forest officials. The officials took away the body and are trying to ascertain the exact cause of death. Singh said a tigress and her two cubs were known to reside in that area, and it was possible that the dead one was killed by his stronger elder sibling. "Turf wars are not uncommon, but the spiraling number of deaths like these is alarming. It indicates there is not enough land available for the tigers to survive," he said, adding that the tiger reserve is spread over 1168 square kilometre but has only 105 square kilometre of core tiger habitat. A recent forest survey had also underlined that while Bandhavgarh has around 48 tigers, there is not enough land extent for them which often lead to fatal turf battles.Over the last one-and-half year many tigers have perished that way.

Politicos wary of Project Tiger

N D Shiva Kumar, TNN | Mar 15, 2012, 12.54PM CHIKMAGALUR: Leaders of all the three political parties here are wary about the controversy over the Project Tiger. Addressing a rally here, chief minister D V Sadananda Gowda said the government was planning to withdraw the areas from the Project Tiger. Terming the assurance bogus, former CM and JD(S) state chief, H D Kumaraswamy, has declared that he would fight till the end if the government implemented the project. "I am ready even to sacrifice my life to protect your interests,'' he declared at an election rally. KPCC president G Parameshwara too promptly opposed the project. But the officials sing a different tune. They say they are waiting for the polls to get over so that they can start initiating the process of expansion. The experts maintain that forests come under the concurrent list and the state has no powers to take unilateral decisions.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Supreme Court to decide fate of tourism in core area on March 13

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Mar 6, 2012, 04.52AM IST NAGPUR: The fate of tourism in core areas of tiger reserves will be finally decided by the Supreme Court on March 13. The case has got a new twist after one of the leading NGOs Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) intervening in the matter. On February 14, the double bench of Justice Dalbir Bhandhari and Justice Deepak Mishra heard the petition filed by Bhopal-based environment protection NGO Prayatna. "Our plea demanding ban on tourism in core areas of tiger reserves has raised positive hopes with WTI filing an intervene application," said Ajay Dubey, secretary of Prayatna. Meanwhile, an affidavit filed on behalf of Madhya Pradesh government by JS Chouhan, field director of Kanha Tiger Reserve, supports tourism in core areas. The affidavit submits that conservation is, primarily, to reduce competition between wildlife and human beings for the resources on which both are dependent. This is being achieved by relocating villages from the tiger habitats as well as by imposing restrictions on grazing, collection of fuel wood, minor forest produce (MFP) collection etc. by the people living close to these areas. The affidavit further states that wildlife tourism does not require exploitation of' resources (biomass) on which wildlife depends for its survival and propagation. Therefore, it cannot be kept in the same category as other human activities. "Wildlife tourism, if practiced sensitively and carefully, will have minimal impact on wildlife and its habitat. The state government has developed necessary safeguards to regulate tourism and minimise adverse impact on wildlife habitats," says the affidavit. On the contrary, in its reply to the Supreme Court, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has admitted that there should not be any kind of tourism in the core area, and if at all it is being carried out, it is illegal. Prayatna had filed a PIL in September 2010. "Tiger shows with the help of elephant in tiger reserves across Madhya Pradesh cannot be justified as sensible tourism," flayed Haseeb Badar, a wildlife lover. Now all eyes are on the Supreme Court verdict which will finally decide the petition on implementing ban on all kinds of tourism in core and critical tiger habitats (CTHs). The decision will have repercussions on all the parks in India. Tab on Tadoba tourists After severe violations by a section of tourists in Pandharpaoni area in Tadao-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) on February 29, the park management has imposed restrictions on tourists in the sensitive Pandharpaoni. Tourists are now not being allowed to stay for a long time at one spot. "We have banned entry to the driver of the gypsy that rushed towards the tiger sitting on the road. Besides, entry to vehicles jumping the road will be banned. We are identifying these vehicles," said assistant conservator of forests (ACF) Ajay Pillariseth. A staff vehicle is stationed at Pandharpaoni to keep a tab on rowdy tourists, he said.

Nagarhole Tiger Reserve smoulders, but who cares?

Joseph Hoover, IBNLive Specials Over 6000 acres of pristine forest cover has been reduced to ashes in four ranges of the hallowed Nagarhole Tiger Reserve. But there hardly seems to be a sense of remorse amongst senior wildlife officials in Karnataka. In fact, the Field Director – Project Tiger (Mr Hosmath) and Mr Vijay Ranjan Singh, Conservator of Forests (Nagarhole division) were gung-ho that they had convinced Karnataka forest Minister CP Yogeswar that fires were a common feature in summer. "It happens in every national park every summer. There is media attention here because Nagarhole is on the world tiger map," said Vijay Rangan Singh. After taking the media contingent through the ravaged, smouldering remains of what was once the domain of a tigress with three cubs, the forest minister went on to make one of the most ridiculous statements anyone associated with conservation would have liked to hear. "We will plant saplings and ensure that forest recovers in five years," said Mr Yogeswar, nonchallantly. Either the minister must be ignorant or he must have conveyed what he had been briefed by his senior forest officials. But he made a mockery of the post-fire PR exercise. The media had a laugh! Probably, the minister must have deemed it was as easy as forming townships, which he does for business in and around Bangalore city. "A house can be reconstructed or a whole town can be rebuilt after a major fire. But it will take 20 to 30 years for a forest to regain what it has lost in a fire. "As a former forest officer who had served in this reserve for 20 years, I strongly believe that the fire could have been contained, if the officials had taken preventive measures, been on the guard and reacted sooner than they did in this case," said former Range forest officer KM Chinnappa. D Raj Kumar, Director, Nature Conservation Foundation, felt the forest should be allowed to recover at its own time without intervention. "Nature has established several important aspects in the generation of forests. Humus plays a big role to help soil regain moisture and retain grass growth in the lower substrate. The forest cannot recover in five years as the minister thinks," said Raj Kumar. "As this is a national park any intrusion from outside will be in violation, more so in a tiger reserve. Let nature take its time to recover without human intervention," added Raj Kumar. While senior forest officials showed no signs of remorse, those working in the park were a disillusioned lot. "Had any other part of the park burnt to this extent, we would not have regretted. But Kunthur, Thayhole and Marappa blocks should not been destroyed. These blocks were teeming with wildlife. I wonder if the animals will return," lamented Kushalappa, a temporary driver who has been working in the Nagarhole range for the past 22 years. The staff and foot-soldiers of this once pristine tiger reserve are anguished. But the Field Director – Project Tiger, who is the custodian of all tiger reserves in Karnataka, has no regret whatsoever of the devastating fire. His only concern, as is that of his immediate boss (chief wildlife warden) is to continue in his post. You will not be wrong if you were to think that he is after tiger funds!

Monday, March 5, 2012

4 new areas notified as sanctuaries

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Mar 5, 2012, 02.33AM IST NAGPUR: In a big boost for wildlife, and tigers in particular, the state government has notified four new sanctuaries by adding around 350 sq km to the existing 8,100 sq km under the protected area (PA) network. The notifications were issued on February 27 and 28, and March 1, 2012. The areas that have been notified include Umarzari adjoining Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary (152.81 sq km); Navegaon sanctuary around Navegaon National Park (133.88) and new Bor sanctuary around existing Bor Wildlife Sanctuary (61.1 sq km). The notification will pave the way for declaring Navegaon-Nagzira as a tiger reserve and Bor as part of the Pench Tiger Reserve. The state has also renotified 2 sq km area of Nannaj sanctuary, which was the best potential area for Great Indian Bustards (GIBs). When the 8,496.44 sq km bustard sanctuary was denotified to 1,222.61 sq km, the 2 sq km area was also included in it. However, now it has again been notified. Official sources said to compensate the reduction in area of Nannaj sanctuary in Solapur district, the government has come up with four new areas as sanctuaries. Wildlife experts like Kishor Rithe, Bittu Sahgal and Debi Goenka have welcomed the move but said the move is inadequate to actually compensate the loss of protected area. They claimed that it was decided that area to be deleted from Nannaj sanctuary would be compensated by notifying equal area as sanctuaries in Maharashtra. "The GIB sanctuary area was reduced from 8,496.44 sq km to 1,222.61 sq km, whereas government has only declared approximately 350 sq km area as new sanctuaries. Hence, the efforts are not enough," Rithe, who is also member of the National Wildlife Board (NBWL), said. "As per the National Wildlife Action Plan, India should reserve 10% area under wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. After Nannaj denotification, the area in the state has drastically decreased from 4.97% to 2.6% i.e. from 15,332.49 sq km to 8,058.66 sq km - a sharp drop of 60.55%. The government needs to bring more areas under the PA network," said Debi Goenka. "There are three potential areas; Kopela-Kolamarka (Gadchiroli), Umred-Karangla (Nagpur) and some good grassland areas in Marathwada, which can be declared as sanctuaries," said conservationist Bittu Sahgal. According to official sources, Bor sanctuary will be extended to 120.39 sq km. It will include existing sanctuary area of 61 sq km area and adjoining 60.70 sq km (12.24 sq km from Nagpur and 48.46 sq km from Wardha). The 120.39 sq km Bor will be 'satellite' core of 257.23 sq km Pench along with 172.86 sq km Mansinghdeo sanctuary. If entire area of these three PAs is clubbed, Pench will become 550.47 sq km. As per the latest (2010-11) tiger estimation report of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), there are 24 tigers in Pench-Bor landscape. Looking into these tiger-rich areas, former environment minister Jairam Ramesh during his city visit on September 13, 2010, had made it clear that Navegaon-Nagzira and Bor would be declared as tiger reserves.

Mudumalai tiger reserve to be out of bounds for visitors from March 5

TNN Mar 3, 2012, 02.33AM IST UDHAGAMANDALAM: The Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) will be closed for visitors from March 5 due to the prolonged dry spell in the Nilgiris. "We have decided to close the reserve for visitors as the grasslands inside the forest have become very dry," A Ameer Haja, deputy director, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and Mukurthi National Park, said. "However, water bodies inside the forest area have sufficient water to cater to the requirements of the animals," he added. The ban on tourists is mainly because the dry weather often causes fires which could put their lives at risk. A number of fires have been reported from various parts of the MTR in the past one month. According to P Raghuram Singh, chief conservator of forests and field director, MTR and Mukurthi National Park, there were a series of wild fires in the MTR forests last month. "Out of five ranges, three ranges in the forests of MTR suffered damages. However, only bushes and dry grasslands were damaged in the fires," he said. "No tree was burnt as the fire fighters attended to it quickly," he said. Last month, forest officials had cracked a major forest fire case that started on February 13 and destroyed at least 15 acres of dense forest. Two tribal men were arrested on Wednesday for starting the fire. One of the spy cameras installed inside the MTR jungles helped the forest officials to nab the culprits. The footage recorded by the camera revealed that on February 13 at around 10.22am, five persons were wandering inside the jungle collecting 'lichens' and while leaving the forest set fire inside the forest. Every year during the dry season, the MTR is closed for visitors for at least a month. The 312 sq km tiger reserve is home to at least 55 tigers and nearly 900 Asian elephants besides a wide variety of wildlife and vegetation.

‘Clever’ tiger kills bait, doesn’t eat it

TNN | Mar 5, 2012, 02.11AM IST LUCKNOW: The tiger, which is roaming in the Rahmankhera forest for the past two months killed yet another calf on Sunday. However, it did not eat the kill. After killing the bait, it moved back to the scrub jungle. It was on January 8 that its presence was noticed in Rahmankhera, in the Central Institute of Subtropical Horticulture (CISH) premises, for the first time. Since then, there has been no headway in trapping the tiger, though forest officers have been present at the spot for all these months. The team, comprising forest officers and people from WTI are combing the area to tranquilise and trap the tiger, but, there has been no progress. On Saturday, the team had a close encounter with the tiger at Rahmankhera. But, instead of firing a dart at the feline, people who had spotted the tiger came back from the spot, said sources. On Friday, too, it was a similar experience for the team during the combing operation. The tiger had come out of its hide-out, following the elephant which was combing the area. The mahout who was combing the area all alone was scared away by the big cat. "The tiger is seen almost everyday now," said Kaushlendra Singh, from Tiger and Terrain. Wildlife experts have suggested using tiger calls, to bring the hiding tiger out. Tiger calls are recorded roars of the tiger, which when played in the wild, gives the impression about another tiger being present in the area. Since tiger is a territorial animal, it will certainly come out to know about another tiger present in its territory. "This tiger has grown clever over a period of time and knows its current habitat very well," said Rahul Shukla, from Tiger and Terrain.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mudumalai Tiger Reserve may be closed

D. RADHAKRISHNAN A primate and a pachyderm looking for food in a dry part of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy Dry conditions cause concern With dry conditions becoming a source of concern at the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) near Udhagamandlam, a proposal has been sent to the government to close it. Deputy Director, MTR, Ameer Haja, told the The Hindu on Wednesday that a detailed report with inputs from Range Officers had been submitted to the Field Director, MTR Raghuram Singh. It had been sent by the Field Director to the Chief Wildlife Warden along with a recommendation to close the reserve. If approved, the MTR would be closed around the first week of March and would remain closed till the situation improved. Tourists would not be allowed and elephant and van safaris would be suspended. During the period of closure, maintenance works would be stepped up. Pointing out that this season had so far seen one major bush fire and a couple of minor fires inside the reserve, he said that lantena, grass etc. had become extremely dry due to the frost and lack of rain. A considerable part of the total area of 321 square kilometres had become highly vulnerable to fire. Precautionary measures were being put in place. Though the flow in the Moyar river was sufficient, other water sources were drying up. Consequently animals, particularly elephants have become a common sight on roads cutting through the reserve. In view of the situation, the Disaster Management Centre in Theppakadu had been placed in a state of alert. Forest officials, particularly fire watchers and anti-poaching staff, would be on their toes round the clock at various points, including Morgan Betta,Upper Kargudi,Chikhallah. Inter-State coordination would be improved and highway patrolling conducted.

Ga-ga over tiger sightings, tourists toss rules into the wild

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Mar 2, 2012, 02.20AM IST NAGPUR: If vandalizing of tourists cars at Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) gate at Navegaon (Ramdegi) on February 25 was a blot on tiger tourism, the visitors gave a bad name to it on Wednesday by going berserk on spotting tigers in Pandharpaoni area of the reserve. More than 100 visitors in 30 vehicles, including those in the Chimur-Tadoba-Rajura state transport bus virtually scrambled and competed to have a glimpse of four tigers that had appeared on the Pandharpaoni-Tadoba road around 9am on Wednesday. According to Project Tiger guidelines, a distance of 30 metres should be maintained between vehicles and the animals but many were barely 10 metres away from the tigers. With Pandharpaoni becoming a hot spot for tiger sightings, the permitted 40 vehicles entering from Moharli, Khutwanda, Kolara and Navegaon gates head for the spot, causing not only congestion but complete chaos. On Wednesday, when the four sub-adult tiger cubs were sighted, vehicles rushed to the spot. Ostensibly scared by the noise, two cubs crossed the road and vanished inside the dense bamboo clusters while two continued to relax on the road for more than an hour. There were more than 30 vehicles at that time on the spot. Those at the back, upset at not getting a clear view, protested boisterously. The ST bus passengers and its drivers stepped out of the bus, which is completely against the rules, and climbed atop for a good view. Six van majoors with their bicycles too were there at the spot. Some who could not sight the tigers jumped off their vehicles and hollered to those in front. With time ticking away to the 10am deadline when the Moharli gate is shut, vehicles began speeding brazenly. Some stopped to click more pictures and one of the vehicles was just 6 feet away from the tiger. One of the tigers preying a nilgai, which had been released in Pandharpaoni after getting close to humans, was also disturbed by the vehicles. Some gypsies even stopped their vehicles on the attacking tiger's path. "A road hit, like what happened in Bandhavgarh recently, is imminent if the park officials don't take action soon," said Sandeep Dahat, a nature lover from Jaripatka and an eyewitness. Chief conservator of forests (CCF) & field director VK Sinha said the bus driver and some vehicle owners have been asked to show cause on why their entry into the park should not be banned. Sinha agreed that there is need to regulate tourism in the park for which additional staff is needed. "We will deploy more staff from Friday and see that vehicles do not stop at one spot for long durations," he said. "Tourism is an important economic activity and can link tigers to wider constituency and build conservation support. But when managed badly, it can lead to stress on tiger habitats," said Haseeb Badar, a wildlife lover and another eyewitness. What Project Tiger Says? * In place of open gypsies and cars, medium-sized buses, with a closed body and sliding windows may be used for park excursions. This will minimize risk of close encounters with animals and reduce number of vehicles * A minimum mandatory distance of 500 metres should be maintained between two vehicles plying on the same road * Tourists vehicles, while spotting a tiger or any other wild animal, should maintain a minimum mandatory distance of 30 metres * The route guides must be professionally trained and penalty should be imposed on visitors in case they violate rules

Reviving Sariska's tiger footprints

Alexina Correya, Hindustan Times New Delhi, March 01, 2012 Tiger revival projects is an initiative taken by forest officials to help preserve the big cat in India. File Photo. HT Photo/Alexina Correya Wild boars, Sambar deer and jackals thrive in Sariska National Park in Alwar and leopards hunt without fear. The tiger is missing -- it is almost gone from the park. All that may change: Baghani, a young tigress from Ranthambhore, has been trans-located into Sariska. She is not alone: Rathore, a male tiger has been separately introduced into the park by the reserve officials in a hope that the two cats will meet and succeed in establishing a family of their own. Cinematographer and wildlife documentary maker Subbiah Nalla Muthu takes us through Baghani's uncertain exploration of her unfamiliar new home, a boost in her confidence, and her evolution into a skillful predator in his documentary Tiger Dynasty. The documentary is part of a five-documentary BBC series on endangered wildlife. Tiger tale Baghani, named after a village inside Sariska National Park, is one of the five big cats relocated into the park by the Rajasthan forest department as part of the tiger revival project. Sariska National Park used to be one of India's top tiger reserves until poachers ensured their local extinction.

Tiger found dead in eastern Maharashtra

PTI | Mar 1, 2012, 10.30PM IST CHANDRAPUR (MAHARASHTRA): A full-grown tiger was today found dead near a village under Moharli forest range here in eastern Maharashtra, officials said. This was the third tiger death reported from the district, which houses Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, this year. The carcass was located by a forest guard near village Kitadi this afternoon during a routine patrolling. The wild cat appeared to be 12-15 years old, said Kalyan Kumar, Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF). "Circumstances indicate that the tiger died due to old age. Its body parts like claws were intact," he said. Kumar said there is no reason to suspect foul play in the tiger's death though the real cause will be known only after an autopsy scheduled for tomorrow. Earlier, tiger deaths were reported on January 23 and February 19.

Tribals call off hunting spree

TNN | Mar 2, 2012, 06.55AM IST BARIPADA: About 100 tribal poachers, who had planned to enter the Bhanjabasa area in the Upper-Barha-Kamuda (UBK) Range in the core area of Simlipal Tiger Reserve (STR) on Thursday, have finally cancelled their mass hunting excursion. Forest staff, however, allowed them to kill a giant squirrel and a yellow monitor lizard in the adjoining Nato reserved forest so that they could make animal sacrifices before their supreme deity, Marang Buru. The range officers and other forest staff of Baripada and Karanjia territorial divisions have taken adequate measures to prevent the poachers from sneaking into the animal-rich areas of STR. All entry points of the STR have beel sealed, they adeed. The deputy director of Similipal Tiger Reserve, Bikas Ranjan Dash , said the tribals were adamant about going on the mass hunting expedition, but forest staff managed to convince them after much persuation.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

To protect tiger reserves, govt may acquire private estates

R Vasundara, TNN | Mar 1, 2012, 06.36AM IST CHENNAI: The Union ministry of environment and forests is planning to strengthen its tiger conservation programme in the Western Ghats and reduce man-animal conflicts by acquiring private estates that border or are within tiger reserves in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The proposal, put up during a meeting of the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife, includes acquisition of several estates in the Periyar Tiger Reserve area (in Thekkady, Kerala ) and Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu). Twelve private estates in the KMTR, measuring about 1,500 hectares, have been identified for acquisition, said Tamil Nadu officials. "Most estates are part of the core reserve and need to be acquired to reduce disturbance caused by the movement of human beings and vehicles," an official said. "The plan is still in the paperwork stages and yet to obtain the state government's approval . The funding for acquiring the estates, however, will come from the Central government." It was proposed during the meeting to eventually acquire 23 estates in Tamil Nadu and thus block 18 routes into the Periyar reserve. "This will reduce disturbance in the Periyar reserve," proposed Dr A J T John Singh, a member of the National Board for Wildlife, at the meeting. "This landscape has the potential to support 100 adult tigers, provided the wild prey are protected." In order to strengthen the tiger conservation programme, the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has proposed to acquire several private estates that border or stand within tiger reserves in the southern range of the Western Ghats . This was suggested during a meeting of the standing committee for the National Board for Wildlife with specific referencetoK alakkad MundanthuraiTiger Reserve (KMTR)in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, and Periyar Tiger Reserve in Thekkady, Kerala . In Tamil Nadu, the forest departmenthascomeup with a list of twelve estates that lie in the coreof theKMTR andtherefore must be acquired . Spanning over 895sqkm,the reserveisone of the densest tiger reserves . A part of the reserve lies in the Agasthiyar hills of the Western Ghats . "We are yetto receive approval from the state government," said an official . "Paperwork and preliminary estimates are still going on . Some of the estate owners, who have been informed of the proposal, are trying to negotiate alternatives . Once the state government agrees, it will be forwarded to the Union ministry . The MoEF will be funding the acquisition . This is a long term process involving a large budget . It could take morethan five yearstocomplete ." The twelve estates put together would add up to 15.16 sqkm or 1,516 hectares to the reserve and the acquisition is expected to cost more than Rs 165 crore . "The people are cooperative, but human and vehicle movement in the core area disturbs animal habitations, so they have to be acquired," he said . "We are also looking at increasing the buffer zone for the Anamalai Tiger reserve ." However, environmentalists portray a different picture . "Thereisdegradation of theforest area in KMTR as many of the people living in these estates gather fuel wood from the reserve," said M Soubadra Devy of Ashoka Trustfor Researchin Ecology and the Environment (ATREE). Soubadra spends several months in a year in the reserve for canopy research . "There is also some small time poaching of creatures like jungle fowl that goes on in this area ." The presence of temples in the reserve also increases the footfallsin the area . "During the Adi Ammavasya festival, this area receives a couple of lakh visitors," she said . At least three temples have landin the reserves,butofficials hope for a solution that does not involve acquisition .They do not anticipate trouble with the cardamom and tea estates. "Under the guidelines issued by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, we can acquire these areas." However,there are voices of dissent. "Thisestatehasbeen in our family for 60 years andwe attach much sentimental value to it," said Vasanthi Murugadasan, one of the proprietors of Kattlamalai estate. ' The estate is one of the largest in the core reserve that figures in the state's acquisition list. "Besides,we never harm the animals and always help forest officials during the census."

Tiger data base ready, to prevent poaching

By: Jagdish Bhatt Dehradun : Taking a cue from South Africa where a database of wild elephants has been created that are being poached by hunters for their tusks, Wildlife Institute of India (WII) under a National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) sponsored project is creating a database of the tigers in the 41 reserves of the country to prevent their being hunted. Initially a database of 11 tiger reserves, including Corbett National Park, Ranthambore, Dudhwa and Kanha has been created and is under power test. If the tests come out successful, the process is going to be repeated to create a database for the remaining 30 tiger reserves. Incidentally, though the Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand is not a tiger reserve, but it has been included in the data base as 15 tigers are reported to be in the Park. Despite all efforts to preserve the tiger, and a constant vigil in most of the tiger habitats in the country, yet the big cat is being poached and killed year after year. According to figures available, 32 tigers were killed in 2009, 30 in 2010, 13 in 2011 and seven till February, this year.. Informed sources here said that it was almost impossible to say from which tiger reserve, a feline was poached upon whose skin and other parts are recovered say in Mumbai or Calcutta or Delhi . In the absence of vital information it is almost impossible to zero in on the tiger habitat and the poachers in the vicinity, who may have been responsible for killing the big cat. However, with the database of 11 tiger reserves ready, it can be used to match the DNA profile from the skin or other remains recovered with those in the database. This will give the exact reserve from which the feline had been killed and help nab the poachers, against whom stringent action can then be taken under the Wildlife Act. This should serve as a deterrent to others involved in the trade. The data base which was prepared by forensic experts of the Wildlife Institute of India here and is ready to be put under trial. The trial process will continue for a few months and on seeing the practical possibilities after the results, it will be expanded to the remaining tiger reserves of the country also, sources pointed out.