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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Honey badger, flying squirrels sighted around Gateway to Tiger Land

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | May 9, 2012, 02.11AM IST NAGPUR: The 24-hour machan (waterhole) census conducted in tiger reserves, sanctuaries and national parks on May 6, the Buddha Pournima day, not only delighted wildlife buffs but also revealed hidden wildlife treasure in Vidarbha's rich forests. Sighting of rare animals like mouse deer in Navegaon National Park and, honey badger (chaandi aswal) and flying squirrels in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) were reported. TATR is known for its tigers. It lived up it as 40 tigers, including cubs, and 12 leopard sightings were reported from its three ranges - Kolsa, Moharli and Tadoba. On the same day last year, sighting of 39 tigers, 15 leopards and 191 bears was recorded. Although, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) doesn't approve the waterhole census, terming it as unscientific, the number of sightings is an indicator of animal density in the particular area. Of the 1,707 tiger estimated to be in India, 169 are in Maharashtra. In a few months, tiger numbers of each reserve will be announced. After the withdrawal of machan census in 2007, barring TATR no park allowed volunteers. It was only after the recent Palsagaon incident when a tiger was killed and another got entangled in a metal trap, panic buttons were pressed by the forest department and NGOs were allowed to take part. TATR continued to be the most-sought destination by wildlife buffs with 144 volunteers being allowed to take watch on 138 machans. In Tadoba range, this time 11 tigers, 2 leopards and 19 sloth bears were sighted. Sarang Mishrikotkar, a student, was lucky enough to sight two honey badgers. "I also saw a mother sloth bear carried her 2 offsprings on her back to quench its thirst and a leopard secretly crouched near the waterhole waiting for its prey to come closer," said Sarang. Dr Swati Kulkarni (three of the four in Pandharpaoni, Tadoba range) and Anuradha Dorlikar (Telia female with four cubs, Moharli range) were among the lucky ones to spot tigers. "I was lucky to sight 15 sloth bears including 4 cubs from my Dewada road machan. A bear even tried to climb our machan at 11.30pm," said Rohan Vinkey of Cobra Adventure and Nature Club, Yavatmal. A forest guard at Yenbodi machan in Tadoba too had a similar shock when a tiger cub attempted to make its way up. The Pench tiger reserve and the newly declared Mansinghdeo wildlife sanctuary adjoining Pench emerged dark horses with 12 tiger and 8 leopard sightings. Three tiger sightings were also reported in Tipeshwar sanctuary in Yavatmal. GK Vashisht, assistant conservator of forests (ACF) for Pench, said 8 tiger sightings were recorded in East Pench followed by 2 in West. He added that 2 tiger sightings were recorded in Mansingdeo's Chorbahuli range near Pench and a leopard sighting in Saleghat. In Bor sanctuary, while rains played spoilsport, Navegaon, New Navegaon National Park, Nagzira and New Nagzira sanctuaries showed up good herbivore and carnivore sightings. Record reveals that in Navegaon 6 leopards, 85 sloth bears, 311 bisons, 36 sambars, 30 chitals, 151 wild boars and 272 nilgais were sighted. Interestingly, in New Navegaon park, the sightings included 17 leopards, 5 sloth bears, 46 bisons, 17 sambars, 19 wolfs and a rare mouse deer besides 13 boars. In Nagzira, five tiger sightings were reported. In New Nagzira (Umarzari), a tiger was sighted besides, 7 leopards, 28 bisons and 12 sloth bears. There could be record of more animals as reports of sightings from territorial areas were still awaited. In Melghat, no volunteers were allowed. "As time was scarce, we couldn't revamp our machans. The reports of sightings are still awaited," said VM Godbole, deputy conservator of forests (wildlife), Akot. There was resentment among volunteers in Tadoba as several machans were not up to the mark and at many places volunteers were shifted late. To this Sinha says, "We did not want make new machans by cutting tree branches." On the flip side, the volunteers were provided food and water by the forest staff.

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