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Friday, November 30, 2012

Poacher nabbed with 16 tiger nails

TNN | Nov 30, 2012, 05.28 AM IST CHANDRAPUR: Gadchiroli forest officers arrested a poacher and recovered 16 tiger nails from his possession at Ashti village on Wednesday evening. A team of foresters on Thursday was dispatched to remote Somnur village along Andhra Pradesh border to seize the skin of a poached tiger. RFO, Chamorshi, SM Gajarlawar, who is on training in Karnataka, got a tip-off that Tirupati Kawre, 24, was in possession of a tiger's body parts. Forest officers then sent a decoy as a customer seeking tiger nails from Kawre. He struck a deal and asked Kawre to deliver the nails at Ashti in Chamorshi tehsil on Wednesday. A team of forest men under the guidance of RFO, Ghot, TR Tamatkar was stationed at Ashti. "No sooner Kawre got down from the ST bus, he was rounded up by the team. On searching his belongings, 16 tiger nails were recovered," said sources involved in the raid. Kawre hails from Somnur in Sironcha tehsil of Gadchiroli. Sources claimed that the tiger was poached around a year back in the forest along Andhra Pradesh border and poachers were in possession of its skin and nails. Confirming the raid and the subsequent arrest of the accused, RFO Tamatkar claimed Kawre was booked under relevant section of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. "During interrogation, Kawre gave the location of the tiger skin. A team has been dispatched on Thursday to Somnur to recover the skin," he said adding, "More arrests are likely to be made in the case."

3 years, 38 cases of man-animal conflict

Niraj Chinchkhede, TNN Nov 29, 2012, 07.17AM IST Tags: Pimpalkhuta villages|man-animal conflict|Forest AURANGABAD: Three cages at strategic locations at Waluj and Pimpalkhuta villages have not helped the forest department capture two panthers from the area. Following the recent case of man-animal conflict in Waluj where a woman was injured by a panther, the forest department had intensified its hunt for the wild cats. The animals were spotted in Waluj and nearby areas. Meanwhile assistant conservator of forest R R Malekari said on Monday that the injured women, the 38th victim in a span of the last three years in the division, would be given compensation as per the government's guidelines. The process was on, he said. In 2009-10, there were six cases of man-animal conflict but no humans were killed. There were cases of panthers and wild boars entering the areas in remote villages of the division and hurting villagers. The forest department had paid a total compensation of about Rs 1.75 lakh. In 2010-11, the number of such cases surged to 13 and one person was killed by a wild boar. The department had paid a total of about Rs 3.76 lakh as compensation in all the cases. In 2011-12, 10 cases of man-animal conflict were registered and a child was killed by a panther. The total compensation paid by the department in 2011-12 was about Rs 3.79 lakh. This year, the cases registered during the current financial year has already touched 9 where panthers and wild boars had injured the villagers. However, no death was reported so far and the forest department had paid about Rs 2.15 lakh in compensation. The state government offers a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for those permanently disabled as a result of attacks by wild animal or are killed. The persons severely injured by the wild animals are offered Rs 50,000 while who sustain minor injuries get Rs 7,500 in the form of compensation. However, the victims of conflicts with wild animals like tiger, panther, bear, hyena, wild boar, Indian wolf, fox, elephant, wild dog and crocodile are only eligible for the compensation benefits. It is also necessary that disability should be certified by the district surgeon or a district-level medical officer.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

TATR: Maharashtra plans long-term study on tiger ecology

Vivek Deshpande : Nagpur, Thu Nov 29 2012, 03:02 hrs In a first, the Maharashtra government will undertake a long-term comprehensive study about tiger dispersal and its ecological aspects, first time with radio telemetry, in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) landscape. The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) will partner with the state forest department in the Rs 1.6-crore study partly funded by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). A pact between the three agencies is likely to be signed in December first week, according to WII scientist Bilal Habib, who will head the project. “The project’s initial phase will span the next 10 years and it will provide baseline data from about 3,000 sq km of TATR landscape that includes various contiguous protected areas such as Nagzira, Navegaon, Chaprala and Umred-Karandla about not just tigers but all co-predators and prey species and dynamics of their relationships and co-existence. It will generate a huge pool of information about tiger dispersal, occupancy, the threshold of disturbance that causes conflict, corridors. It will also give a perspective about how and why the dispersal happens,” Habib told The Indian Express. This is the first time in central India that long-term study has been planned. Wildlife biologist Ulhas Karanth has done it in south India without radio telemetry (radio collaring of tigers) over the past many years. Asked why TATR was selected for the project, Habib said, “TATR landscape is unique for the dispersing tigers coming in conflict with humans and for its about 5-6 breeding tigresses adding to the population and triggering dispersal every year. It is also interesting from the point of translocation of human populations in rehabilitation programmes. With some villages already relocated and some other in the offing, TATR offers us unique chance to study how the vacated space augurs for wildlife.” About the project’s utility, Habib said, “It will be useful in better managing wildlife corridors and man-animal conflict. It will offer better understanding about tiger-leopard co-existence, prey-predator relationship, prey base requirement and tiger ecology.” Another uniqueness of the project will be that it will study all the components of entire wildlife and its habitat and ecology, he said. The TATR Tiger Foundation has already sanctioned over Rs 46 lakh for the first five years of the project in excess of the Rs 1.6 crore the NTCA is going to fund.

Govt affidavit pitches for mining near Sariska park

By Rachna Singh, TNN | Nov 29, 2012, 02.45 AM IST JAIPUR: After categorically denying that there was mining near Sariska Tiger Reserve and claiming that nearly 40 mining leases were given 20-60 km away from the tiger reserve, the mining department has filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court- appointed panel requesting that the 'no-mining zone' shall be reduced to 100 metres from the current 1 km boundary of the reserve. If the apex court refuses to accept state government's contention, at least 123 mines will be closed down in the area. According to the affidavit filed on behalf of the state government before the Central Empowered Committee on safety zones (Eco-Sensitive Zones) around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, Rajasthan is aggrieved by the eco-sensitive zone delineation. "As of now, there is no mining activity within the precincts of Sariska Tiger Reserve (STR). However, mining is continuing outside the STR with respect to nearly 123 mines in 229.34 hectares. It is only in selected areas where mining is continuing. The state government is seeking modification of the uniform one km eco-sensitive zone to 100 metres," reads the affidavit. In fact, the areas specified falls within the one km area of the STR. It extends from the eastern boundary of Berwa Doongri protected forests to western boundary of Baldeogarh protected forests up to Baldeogarh village. The other areas that the state government seeks exemption for are Jaisinghpura, Tilwad Main, Kalwad, Dabkan, Tehla, Nandu, Khariyawas, Chhoti Cheend, Mallana and the reserve forests of Dabkan. Earlier reports too had suggested that the leases granted by the state government in 2010 had gone to a few Haryana-based companies at villages such as Jaisinghpura, Malana, Govardhanpura, Palpura and Jamwaramgarh in the vicinity of Sariska tiger sanctuary.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Anamalai Tiger Reserve reopens for tourism

By K A Shaji, TNN | Nov 28, 2012, 05.18 AM IST Supreme Court lifts ban on tourism in core areas of tiger reservesSupreme Court ban on wildlife tourism in reserves is endangering the ...Supreme Court quashes rape charges against BhandarkarKasab yet unaware of Supreme Court verdictRape victim's testimony enough: Supreme Court COIMBATORE: After four months of indecisiveness, Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) was reopened for 'regulated and low impact tourism' on Tuesday facilitating entry for nature lovers to key attractions like Topslip, Monkey Falls, Chinnakallar Falls, Nallamudi View Point and Meenparai. Lifting of the ban on tourism in ATR also facilitates entry of visitors to Kerala's famous Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, which is accessible only through Top Slip. Tourists can also access Chinnar Water Falls and Panchalinga Aruvi at Thirumoorthy, given that the ban has been revoked. Two forest guest houses located in Sheikalmudi and Sethumadai can also be accessed as the ATR has started implementing fresh guidelines on tourism approved by the Supreme Court. "The Supreme Court has permitted tourism in 20 percent of the core area. In our case, we are just using about six percent of the core area for tourism,'' said the ATR field director Rajiv Srivastava. However, the elephant safari at Top Slip has been discontinued as all the elephants are at the Kozhikamuthi rejuvenation camp. In Topslip, nature lovers can enjoy a 17 km vehicle safari conducted by the forest department. Bookings can be made on the spot at Topslip and advance bookings can be made at the forest office in Pollachi. Three trekking routes have also been resumed at Pandaravara, Manampally and Aliyar. In Top Slip, two dormitories are available with 30 beds. In addition, there are 18 guest houses in tourism permitted areas of ATR. At Monkey Falls, located close to Valparai Road, the department is planning special parking facilities and basic amenities. With the opening of Chinnakallar Falls and Nallamudi View Point, visitors to Valaparai can have access to all its major attractions. Travel operators and home stay providers in Valparai had waged a long legal battle to have both locations exempted from the tourism ban. "We are in the process of ensuring active involvement of traditional forest dwellers in tourism activities. We will ensure community participation in all tourism-related activities and ensure that the benefits of eco-tourism reach the various aborigine communities that live in the periphery of the reserve,'' said Rajiv Srivastava. In ATR, About 40 tribal youths have already been trained in hospitality management and dealing with visitors. Anamalai is set to follow the Parambikulam model of involving tribals in tourism. "Only sustainable, equitable and community-based efforts which will improve the living standards of local, host communities lon the fringes of reserves will be allowed," he added.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Four poachers held from Panna Reserve

TNN | Nov 27, 2012, 04.20 AM IST BHOPAL: Four poachers were arrested from within the Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR) with 61 crude grenades and other hunting tools by the forest officers during a search operation on Monday. The accused -- Lalab Singh, Gilat Singh, Mithun Singh and Rama Nan, all belonging to a nomadic community - were arrested from Patha village in PTR following a specific intelligence input, said sources. Three of them were arrested earlier in other poaching cases earlier also. They have been arrested and sent to jail on charges of trespass and possession of explosives, PTR field director R S Murti told TOI. Success of this operation was because of our strengthened field intelligence and preventive strategy, he said. Prima facie it seems that they were trying to hunt wild boars, he said adding they use cocooning crude bombs. Wild boars often got attracted by the stench and the device explodes when they attempted to chew on it. Their meat fetches good money in the market during the tourist season, said sources. Crude bombs can prove lethal to any wild animal including a tiger, if it chews it. On Saturday, a cow got into the booby trap. "It has suffered a major injury with the impact of blast. As the incident took place outside the park in North Panna area, the case was referred to local police for further investigation. One person was also detained and handed over to police in this connection, said PTR officials.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Long-term study to track TATR tiger movement

Mumbai News www.mid-day.comFind out the freshest and latest news of Mumbai Vivek Deshpande : Nagpur, Mon Nov 26 2012, 03:41 hrs Wildlife Institute of India is partnering the state forest department in the study with National Tiger Conservation Authority putting in Rs 1.6 crore for the project A comprehensive long-term study of tiger dispersal and its ecological aspects in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) landscape is being undertaken by the Maharashtra government using radio telemetry (radio collar). The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is partnering the state Forest department in the study with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) putting in Rs 1.6-crore for the project. A memorandum of understanding between the three is likely in the first week of December, according to WII scientist Bilal Habib, who will head the project. “The initial phase of ten years will provide baseline data from about 3,000 sq km of the TATR landscape that includes various contiguous protected areas such as Nagzira, Navegaon, Chaprala and Umred-Karandla about not just tigers but all co-predators and prey species and the dynamics of their relationships and co-existence. It will generate a huge pool of information on tiger dispersal, occupancy, threshold of disturbance that causes conflict, corridors etc. It will also give a perspective on how and why dispersal happens, where dispersing tigers go,” Habib told The Indian Express. This is the first long-term study in central India. Wildlife biologist Ulhas Karanth has done it in south India although without radio telemetry (radio-collaring of tigers). In the north, studies for 3-4 year duration have been undertaken using telemetry, but this would be the first long-term study using radio telemetry anywhere, according to Bilal. Asked why TATR was selected, Habib said, “TATR landscape is unique for dispersing tigers coming in conflict with humans and for its 5-6 breeding tigresses adding to the tiger population and triggering dispersal every year. It is also interesting from the point of translocation of human population in rehabilitation programmes. With some villages already relocated and some others in the offing, TATR offers us a unique chance to study how vacated space augurs for wildlife.” About the utility of the study, Habib said, “It will be useful in managing wildlife corridors and man-animal conflict in a better way. It will offer better understanding of tiger-leopard co-existence, prey-predator relationship, preybase requirement, tiger ecology, etc.” “Another uniqueness of the project will be that it will study all the components of the entire wildlife, its habitat and ecology,” he added. Last year, a rescued tigress was released into the wild with a radio collar. Wildlife biologist Vidya Athreya monitored it for many months before the collar became defunct. It gave valuable inputs on tiger movement and behaviour for the first time on the TATR landscape. The TATR Tiger Foundation has already sanctioned over Rs 46 lakh for the first five years of the project in excess of the Rs 1.6 crore NTCA is going to fund.

Forest dept gets eco-friendly anti-poaching camp

BS Reporter / Chennai/ Mysore Nov 26, 2012, 00:51 IST The forest department is going green and wants to keep its carbon footprint low . Braving wild elephants, the Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technologies of the Mysore -based National Institute of Engineering ( NIE-CREST ) has built an eco-friendly anti-poaching camp , incorporating renewable energy and sustainable technologies that can be a model for other forest departments. The camp, ‘Aranyaka’, is built at a project cost of Rs 8.8 lakh in Avarepura, in the Moleyur forest range, Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary . The work was initiated in April last and was completed in six months. “This is the first-ever eco-friendly, sustainable and renewable energy-based anti-poaching camp. This can bring in the concept of green building, good comfortable stay for forest watchers. By adopting the model, the forest departments can become leaders in low-carbon footprint among others, a vital need of the day,” NIE-CREST director Shamsunder told Business Standard. The camp is built with locally-procured material and stabilised mud blocks prepared at the Moelyuru Range Forest Office site using local soil, sand and 9 per cent cement. About 5,000 such blocks are used for its construction. Unlike traditional clay bricks, these blocks do not require fire for burning. Instead, they are sun cured for 21 days. They provide thermal comfort inside the unit. In addition, the stabilised mud block masonry does not need plastering, he said. Considering deficit of water, the professor said rainwater harvesting had been incorporated in the building to meet the demand for water for a major part of the year. About 40,000 litres can he harvested in a year, helping with water conservation. An 8,000-litre underground storage facility and a 1,000-litre overground level tank were added features of the scheme. Utilisation of solar energy does not essentially fulfill the task of energy conservation. If solar energy is used with LEDs, efficiency will be markedly better. Eight solar LED bulbs, along with walkie-talkie and mobile chargers ensure uninterrupted power supply making the unit self-reliable in power. Efficiency of conventional cook stoves is less than 10 per cent and releases an enormous amount of smoke. Its poor thermal insulation leads to waste of heat. To overcome this, two fuel-efficient biomass cook stoves with a higher efficiency of 45 per cent and a bath stove have been provided to conserve wood and create smoke-free environment, Shamsunder added. “Working in the wild forest provided us with a different experience and challenges during the project implementation. Wild jumbos once attacked our construction site and destroyed eight cement bags. We had to increase the elephant trench depth and width,” he narrated his experience. The entire project was designed by NIE-CREST and Voice for Wildlife Trust, Mysore as a joint venture with Wildlife Conservation Trust, Mumbai and Tiger Conservation Foundation, Bandipur. Inaugurating the newly built ‘Aranyaka’, NIE Secretary N Ramanuja offered more eco-friendly technologies developed by CREST to the Forest Department. Project Tiger Field Tiger B J Hosamat complimented CREST for developing a model camp with unique features that suited a wildlife sanctuary. Shamsunder requested the Department to adopt these technologies in more anti-poaching units.

Probe tigress death, urges RTI activist

TNN | Nov 26, 2012, 03.05 AM IST BHOPAL: Wildlife and RTI activist Ajay Dube has urged the centre to send a special investigation team (SIT) to Madhya Pradesh to investigate the death of a tigress in the forests of Katni, neighbouring Bandhavgarh tiger reserve. In a letter addressed to the minister for environment and forest, Dube has claimed that the norms have been violated while disposing off the remains of the tigress. He said that a post mortem was not performed and the forest department has claimed that "it to be a natural death". "Without performing an autopsy how can they claim that it was a natural death, Dube wondered. On Nov 18, the official in-charge of the forest circle where the incident took place had stated that an FIR would be filed against the electricity department as the tigress was "allegedly electrocuted" and the electricity department was responsible for the management of power lines responsible for the incident. However, the forest department in its primary offence report (POR) no 307/ 21, did not mention any one and the report has been registered against "anonymous". In the POR, the department has mentioned the cause of the death as "natural", he added.

Govt plans lucrative package to forest dwellers

Bangalore: Nov 26, 2012 DH News Service Having failed to convince forest dwellers to move out of Karnataka’s Tiger Reserves, the State Forest department has decided to make the compensation package more lucrative. Forest Minister C P Yogeeshwara said that the department had decided to increase the amount of the compensation under Project Tiger from Rs 10 lakh per family to Rs 20 lakh per family. The decision was taken at a review meeting Yogeeshwara held with his officials on Saturday. Speaking to reporters here, Yogeeshwara said repeated attempts from the department to convince forest dwellers from the six Tiger Reserves in the State had failed, and that an increase in the compensation amount might encourage the affected people to voluntarily accept the relocation package. The minister said that the department had successfully shifted all families from within the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. There were around 154 families in the reserve and all of them have been shifted. But the department is finding it difficult to convince people in Anshi-Dandeli Tiger Reserve and Kudremukh Tiger Reserve to relocate, he said. Yogeeshwara said Nagarahole had 1,054 families, of which 496 families had volunteered to shift, while around 400 families among the 736 families in Bhadra had already moved out. Anshi-Dandeli had around 4,114 families, of which around 350 families had agreed to relocate, he said. He said the Kudremukh National Park, which was yet to be declared as a Tiger Reserve, has been notified and that there were around 1,382 families and all of them required to be shifted. Yogeeshwara also said the department had decided to employ villagers living on the fringes of forest areas to help monitor the forests during summer, ensuring that there aren’t any incidents of fire. Earlier this year, around 2,000 hectares of forest in Nagarhole and Bandipur had been destroyed in fire. Inquiries revealed that the forests were set afire intentionally by trouble makers. Also, it was ascertained that villagers who were not employed by the department to patrol the forests were not hired.

Ensuring food for overnight tourists irks activists

MONDAY, 26 NOVEMBER 2012 01:07 PARITOSH KIMOTHI | DEHRADUN Wildlife activists are opposing the order of Corbett tiger reserve director, wherein he has directed forest rangers to ensure food for tourists staying overnight in forest rest houses. The rangers have been ordered to manage facility through staff welfare society, but no such society exists in the State, allege activists. This is preventing staff from focusing on wildlife protection which is their main responsibility. In a letter written to National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) member secretary, People for Animals, Uttarakhand member secretary Gauri Maulekhi states that in an order dated November 6, Corbett director Ranjan Mishra has instructed rangers to ensure arrangement of selling meals and refreshments to tourists through a staff welfare society. “The order has been implemented in Bijrani and Sarpduli ranges since national park reopened for tourists on November 15. However, no such staff welfare society exists in Uttarakhand which can run these canteens and cook meals for visitors. The rangers have been managing the canteens themselves and through forest guards, watchers and daily wagers hired to guard the forest,” she said. Maulekhi adds that one vehicle is provided to each ranger in Corbett for official rounds and ensuring safety and observance of rules in the national park but these vehicles are being used by rangers to buy perishables like vegetables, milk and rations for the eateries that they are being asked to run. The vehicles are occupied practically daily for fetching supplies while the rangers are negotiating with vendors instead of attending to their official duties. The Supreme Court has simply asked that NTCA guidelines be followed, which state that canteens be run by the Tiger Foundation itself or in consultation with and cooperation by the State Government and local people. Uttarakhand CM who also heads the Corbett Foundation had categorically stated on August 27 this year that the canteens will not be run by the Tiger Foundation at Corbett and the existing arrangement of giving out tenders must be maintained and this has also been registered in the minutes of the meeting of the State Wildlife Board.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Now, night patrolling at Sariska reserve

TNN | Nov 23, 2012, 05.38 AM IST ALWAR: In a move to keep poachers away from the Sariska Tiger Reserve during winters, the forest officials have chalked out a plan to start night patrolling. For the first time, the authorities have identified some local people who will work as informers to foil poaching attempts. The department has promised them awards on every material information. Five different teams of beat guards have been constituted and assigned specified areas in the reserve. Field director, Sariska Tiger reserve, RS Shekhawat has asked the teams to be vigilant and has selected 60 secret routes on which the teams have been asked to patrol during the night time. "We have taken a meeting of the locals and told them that whoever will give us information on the activities of the poachers would be awarded. We have also identified some persons who will work as informers and co-operate us in keeping the poachers away from the reserve," said a senior wildlife officer on Thursday. Though there has always been a scarcity of staff in the reserve as it is spread over an area of 881 kms, this year, authorities seem to be stepping up efforts to protect the wild animals from poaching. "We have divided the park into four ranges and 78 beats on which a team of almost 100 different guards will be deployed for patrolling in nights," said an official. Officials said that in winters even some villagers indulge in poaching of various wild animals for meat. "Activities such as poisoning animals are also executed during the night time. And these teams would scan the area to keep poisonous substance away from the reserve periphery," they added.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A tiger now dodges a 100 men

K. S. SUDHI A hundred men, some armed and others veterinarians specialised in use of tranquilisers on animals and Kerala Forest Department staff, are out on a hunt in areas around forests of Wayanad for a tiger, which has spread panic by lifting cattle from human settlements. The orders for the operation have been issued on Tuesday by Chief Wildlife Warden of Kerala, V. Gopinathan. He and other forest department officials are camping at Wayanad to lead the operations. The movement of the animal have been plotted on maps. Three cage traps have been placed at strategic locations, and dart guns have been given to two squads for tranquilising the animal, says O.P. Kaler, Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Palakkad. Though confirming the identity of the cattle-lifter is a hurdle the team has to tackle, forest officials assume from evidences the attack on cattle was mostly by a single tiger. The analysis of pug marks reveal the animal is an adult tiger, Arun Zachariah, an expert veterinarian in the team. For tranquilising the beast, a mixture of Xylazine and Ketamin will be used. Open-darting of the animal could be a highly risky affair, as there was the possibility of the animal striking back, Mr. Zachariah says. The person, who is firing the tranquilising gun, will be protected by a gunman and a covering team to avert any possible attack. As open-darting is a precision job, extreme care needs to be taken while firing the syringe from the gun. The syringe could be deflected even by a leaf that comes in between the gun and the target. The injection would take between 10 to 15 minutes to immobilise the animal, Dr. Zachariah says. Wildlife biologist P.S. Easa says one needs to be extremely lucky for capturing animals using chemicals. Tranquilising an animal is a difficult option. The success of the caging depends on the bait used and the behaviour of the animal. In this case, the biggest challenge before the authorities is to capture the tiger without injuring it, says Dr. Easa, who is also a member of the team constituted for hunting the animal. Large team The hunt has witnessed one of the biggest mobilisations of officials in recent times for the animal which has spread widespread uproar in the district. Besides the forest officials from the district, members of the flying squad, two teams of Rapid Response Force and policemen have also been mobilised. Squads are patrolling the Kottankara, Naykatty and Muthanga areas where the animal surfaced earlier, says an official. The management of the crowd is the biggest challenge the foresters face. With the mob becoming restless and upsetting the tranquility of the area, there is the possibility of the animal panicking and becoming aggressive. Such a situation can even lead to attacks on humans, says a senior official. The animal has been photographed by the officials, who were involved in its caging earlier, the forester says. These photographs will come in handy in identifying the animal. Keywords: Forest Department, Wayanad wildlife sanctuary

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tourists back on prowl at Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

D.RADHAKRISHNAN The Hindu While lifting the ban, Supreme Court ordered that tourism should not affect conservation efforts. With the situation at the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) near here having been reviewed at a meeting of an ad-hoc committee held here a few days ago,it was thrown open to tourists on Tuesday. The re-opening was announced through a one line press statement issued on Tuesday by the Chief Wildlife Warden Bhagwan Singh through the Information and Public Relations Office. The Committee had been constituted on the recommendations of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in accordance with a recent directive of the Apex Court. The ban on tourism in the MTR had been imposed about four months ago by the Apex court. While lifting the ban the court had laid down certain conditions. Among other things the Court had ordered that tourism activities should not affect tiger conservation efforts. The Deputy Director,MTR A.Ameer Haja told The Hindu that on receipt of the court order steps had been taken to comply with the conditions. Stating that elephant rides,van safaris etc have resumed,he said that the forest rest house complexes like the Log House,Sylvan Lodge and Abhyaranyam have been thrown open.He added that those who had been part of the first van safari had sighted a tiger. Meanwhile those in the hospitality and travel sectors have welcomed the re-opening of the MTR.Many of them said that the closure had hit the flow of tourists. People belonging to various sections of the society in Gudalur and surroundings said that they are very relieved and added that they were hoping that the reserve would be re-opened during the Diwali weekend when there was a spurt in the inflow of tourists. However conservationists and environmentalists pointed out that the emphasis in the court order was on conservation of tigers and protection of their habitat.This should not be lost sight of by both the management of the reserve and the committee members. Keywords: Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, ad-hoc committee

Villagers block NH 212 in Wayanad

Villagers of Naikatty and Muthanga in Wayanad district block traffic on the Kozhikode-Kollegal National Highway 212 on Tuesday seeking protection from wild animal attacks. Tension prevailed at Naikatty near Sulthan Bathery in Wayanad district on Tuesday as the public blocked traffic on the Kozhikode-Kollegal National Highway 212 for the fifth consecutive day seeking protection from wild animal attacks. The protestors carried with them the carcass of cattle reportedly killed in tiger attacks the previous night. As many as six incidents of tigers killing domestic animals were reported on Monday night in Naikatty and Muthanga, places adjacent to the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. So far, 18 such incidents had been reported in the district in a fortnight. Two incidents were reported from at Kannakkad, near Pazhoor, and Cheloor, near Kattikulam, under the Tholpetty forest range on Tuesday. Some villagers detained O.P. Kaler, Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) for three hours at the forest inspection bungalow at Sulthan Bathery demanding the culling of the tiger. The seven-hour blockade was withdrawn after M.I. Shanavas, MP, and District Collector K. Gopalakrishna Bhatt held discussions with villagers in the presence of leaders of various political parties. They told the villagers that the animal would be trapped. Culling would be the last resort, they said. Three squads had been constituted to trap the animal. Each squad comprised eight to fifteen members, including forest veterinary surgeons, representatives of villagers, and armed forest and police personnel. This apart, a joint team of forest and police personnel would intensify patrolling round-the-clock. There would be no load-shedding in the Noolpuzha grama panchayat till the animal was caught, they said. Compensation would be provided to villagers who lost their cattle. Details of electric-fencing would be discussed at a meeting to be chaired by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on November 30, Mr. Bhatt said. Forest Minister K.B. Ganesh Kumar had directed the transfer of S. Sreekumar, Warden, WWLS in connection with the release of a trapped tiger in the sanctuary recently. Squads, headed by Mr. Bhatt and Superintendent of Police A.V. George, could not locate the animal in the Naikatty and Kottamkara areas. The combing operation would continue, Mr. Bhatt told The Hindu. Keywords: Forest department, Wayanad wildlife sanctuary

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

State bid to assuage Wayanad’s fears

P. VENUGOPAL Opinion-makers to be taken to Periyar sanctuary to show them benefits of tiger reserve status The Forest Department is planning to take several opinion-makers, including politicians, from Wayanad to the tiger reserve in Periyar to show them how people living near a tiger reserve benefit from the region’s status as a tiger reserve. Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) O.P. Kaler told The Hindu that the ongoing public unrest in Wayanad was a matter of serious concern. The unrest could be traced to the finding of a camera trapping programme early this year that the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary harboured at least 67 adult tigers and 11 tiger cubs. This was quite an impressive number for a sanctuary spread over just 344.44 km. Soon, there was much media hype projecting Wayanad as a fit candidate to be declared as a tiger reserve. And, during the last few days, there had been an unusually high incidence of cattle kills in the villages around the Wayanad sanctuary. A tiger was trapped in a cage and released in the deep jungles. The people had been blocking roads and organising hartals, obviously due to fears that signs of the tigers’ assertive presence in the sanctuary would prompt the government to set in motion the procedures for declaring the sanctuary as a tiger reserve. They fear that it would curtail their freedom. A couple of times, they even detained officials for hours together. ‘NO PROPOSAL YET’ “At the outset, it may be noted that there is no proposal to declare the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary as a tiger reserve. So, the apprehensions of the people of Wayanad are totally unfounded. Also, even if the existing wildlife sanctuary is declared as a tiger reserve, the people living in the fringe areas will not be subjected to any additional regulations. They are already under the regulations relating to the region’s status as a wildlife sanctuary and the same will continue. That is the law,” he said. NO CONFLICT There were already two tiger reserves in the State — the Periyar Tiger Reserve and the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve. The conservation initiatives in both places were not in conflict with the interests of the fringe-area people. In fact, the entire economy of Kumily town on the fringes of the Periyar Tiger Reserve was dependent on the reserve, he said. The Sabarimala temple, the second largest pilgrim centre in the country, was located in the buffer zone of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Areas under human pressure were put in the buffer zone and the ongoing activities were not curtailed, but were sought to be managed in such a way as to conform to the requirements of conservation. The region would receive special attention with the status of a tiger reserve and funds too would flow liberally from the Centre for strengthening conservation initiatives and also improving the social and economic status of the people living on the fringe areas. ECONOMIC GAINS “The Periyar experience will convince anyone that tiger conservation measures are implemented by involving the participation of the people on the fringe areas, who, in turn, economically benefit from their participatory role. So we wish to show the Periyar experience to opinion-makers in Wayanad,” Mr. Kaler said. Keywords: Periyar tiger reserve, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Protect tribals, tigers: Tripura Minister

Press Trust of India / Ranchi November 07, 2012, 22:05 Tripura Forest Minister Jiten Choudhary today advocated protection of tribals and tigers as "both are endangered." "Tigers should be protected, and tribals too. Because both are endangered in the country," Choudhary told reporters here. Expressing concern over the proposed expansion of tiger reserve areas to protect the big cats, he claimed the proposal would cover tribal inhabited areas in the buffer zone. Choudhary, who also holds the rural development portfolio, said tribals in those areas faced the threat of eviction without any proper plan and compensation package. "Tribals are not enemies of any flora or fauna. They are the ones who have been protecting tigers," he said, adding in the name of protection of tigers the livelihood of tribals should not be affected. Choudhary, who was here to participate in a two-day meet of the Adivasi Adhikar Rastriya Manch, claimed only 30 per cent of tribals got benefits under the Scheduled Tribe and Other Tradition Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. Suggesting that the Centre should fix a minimum support price for minor forest produce to develop the economy of tribals across the country, he said, "Middlemen are exploiting those tribals whose livelihood is dependent on minor forest produce...There are 500 medicinal plants in the North East, which need development."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Eco-friendly anti-poaching camp ready

R. KRISHNA KUMAR Special Arrangement The pilot project at the Avarepura camp in Bandipur will be handed over to the Forest Department shortly. Bandipur Tiger Reserve will shortly get what is billed as the country’s first eco-friendly anti-poaching camp with renewable energy and sustainable technologies complete with solar energy and rainwater harvesting system. A pilot project of the anti-poaching camp has been constructed at Avarepura camp in Moleyur range of Bandipur and will be handed over to the Forest Department in the next few days. The pilot project, Araynyaka, is supported by the Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technologies (CREST) at the National Institute of Engineering, Wildlife Conservation Trust, Voice for Wildlife Trust and the Forest Department. It has been implemented at an estimated cost of Rs. 8.8 lakh. S. Shamsundar, Director, NIE-CREST, told The Hindu that the existing camps at Bandipur were not suitable for prolonged stay and hence, a pilot project has been taken up with the use of renewable energy systems. The design and the implementation part has been taken up by NIE-CREST and the structure entailed using stabilised mud blocks which obviated the use of burning firewood to dry bricks. The use of stabilised mud blocks also provide good thermal comfort, Prof. Shamsundar said. The stabilised mud blocks were prepared on site at Moleyur using local soil mixed with 9 per cent cement, and unlike traditional clay bricks, these blocks need not be burned for drying but just needed curing for 21 days, he added. Water being a critical requirement in the jungles, the anti-poaching camp has been provided with a rainwater harvesting system with a storage capacity of 9,000 litres. He explained that given the annual average rainfall at Bandipur, the yield through rainwater harvesting technique is nearly 43,000 litres of water per year and hence, there will be assured water availability for almost eight months in the camp. The solar energy system to be installed in the camp will suffice for lighting the camp as also recharging wireless sets. He said that the incorporation of these technologies fulfilled the energy and water needs of the camp to a large extent and helps in conservation of wood and water. The building will also have fuel-efficient biomass cook stove which will provide for smokeless cooking. Sudheer of the Voice for Wildlife Trust said that the project was significant from the enforcement point of view as it will be a self-sustaining anti-poaching camp with its own source and supply of water and power. “In many of the anti-poaching camps, water is physically supplied and if it is not done, they have to walk at least 3 km to bring water to the camps. We are creating water security and a self-sustaining environment, smoke-free cooking environment, sanitation, security and comfort for the anti-poaching camp staff engaged in the crucial task of wildlife protection,” Mr. Sudheer said. B.G. Hosmath, Field Director, Project Tiger, said that the camp was likely to be handed over to the Forest Department in a few days and once transferred, its efficacy and feasibility would be studied for a few months. “It is only after ascertaining its feasibility and the performance of the technology that the Forest Department could think of replicating such camps in other places,” he added.

More at stake than just the tiger

In protecting the big cat, we protect the forest and all those that live within it. We protect our rivers and the groundwater. We protect the life-cycle of this planet itself. If we can’t do that, we can write off our future, and the future of coming generations Forty years after the inception of Project Tiger, the population graph of the big cat looks more like a graph at the daily stock exchange! Somehow, in spite of the best intentions and efforts from the Government, non-Government organisations and even individuals, the tiger’s future still remains a question mark, with more than a few opinions out there predicting total extinction within the next 10 to 20 years. This is of course, after all, only an opinion, but one which could become frighteningly true. It’s not really a matter of getting the date right of when the tiger will go extinct, but the fact that it will be wiped out eventually — unless we do something now. With hugely popular campaigns that went viral like Save the Tiger, the word most certainly is ‘out’ there, but that’s just it — word out there. The action is missing still. Thanks to years of constant broadcasting of the issue, the challenges of tiger conservation are public knowledge. Poaching, habitat destruction, poisoning are what we’ve all heard quite often. Awareness is at an all time high and everyone knows the Jungle bachao, sher bachao (save the forest, save the tiger) chant. But there still remains that elusive gap between information and action. Since the last tiger census in 2011, India has already lost over a 100 tigers to poaching. Maharashtra, which has 169 resident tigers (2011 census), went on high alert earlier this year when a tip-off of a poaching contract was received. There was literally a price put on the head of 25 tigers and many lakh rupees had exchanged hands as advance payment. The scale and the audacity just goes to show what the tiger is up against. Just a few months ago, a tigress was poached in the Itanagar zoo. The poachers tranquilised her and then hacked her to pieces. What is even more shocking is that this not the first incident in the zoo. In 2006, three tigers and a leopard were poisoned. One tiger died, while the other two other animals survived. A special tiger task force, shoot on sight orders and a Schedule I status for the tiger have not been a good enough deterrent. (Schedule I is the highest protected status for an animal in India under the Wildlife protection act of 1972.) The ‘value’ of an apex predator like the tiger goes far beyond what is obvious to our eye. Sure, we’ve all had the life- cycle image from our school textbooks imprinted on our brains, but what is so simply illustrated is multi-layered and complex. The water cycle is at the very centre of all of this. Without it, everything as it is would cease to exist. As humans, we’ve taken far beyond our fair share of the planet, and the delicate balance of nature we often speak about won’t just tip — it will spiral. We’ve already witnessed three sub-species of the tiger lost to extinction; others are on the brink. In 2010, I had the opportunity to attend the Tiger Summit in St Petersburg ,and it was really a coming together of all the tiger nations. Ministers, tiger experts, celebrities and individuals who cared or worked for the tiger, were there. Each country made a presentation and announced its commitment to doubling the tiger population by 2020. It was a huge event covered internationally, with celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio adding glitter to it. It was at this event where I met a local activist who was campaigning to save the forests in Russia that were threatened by logging, mining and oil exploration. She was desperate to get this information to President Vladimir Putin, and kept saying: “It’s not only the tiger, we have to save the forest”. She is right. We need to save the forest to save the tiger. It’s a beautifully simple plan that will take all the positive intention on the planet to execute. Unfortunately, we already have examples of what happens when the tiger disappears. The island of Bali, which was home to the Balinese Tiger, stands as evidence. Being an island, Bali only had a local population of tigers with no migrating animals coming in or going out. The last recorded tiger was shot in September 1937, and after that Bali lost its forests to agriculture. All that remains now are fields and an economy that is floating on tourism. Fresh water is a huge issue in Bali. Extensive deforestation and over-consumption of water by huge resorts have drained the fresh water resources of the island. With the majority of the forests gone, the rivers and the groundwater are drying up. This has happened to many small islands and isolated communities in human history and the most well-known example is that of Easter Island in the south-eastern Pacific Ocean. The forests of Easter Island were almost completely deforested by its people. What followed was complete destruction and degradation of the eco-system over a period of time. Agriculture was reduced because of soil erosion and fishing wasn’t possible as there weren’t any large trees left to build boats. The lessons of history are quite clear in what we can expect if things continue the way they are. To protect the forests and all those that live within it, it is crucial for a ‘happy human buffer’ to exist around such forests. Communities that live close to the forests have to be given special benefits and the support to move beyond the basic levels of existence. With a huge tourism industry around the ‘tiger’, (which we witnessed recently when tourism was banned in all tiger national parks), the benefits of this economy barely trickle down. There are people and NGOs who are doing great work at the ground level and have made a difference. These have been important but small victories, with individuals and groups doing the best they can, and quite often being driven by their own passion and their own resources. The crisis of the vanishing tigers is far from over, and it will need a change in perspective and the collective will of the entire nation to turn the situation around. That’s not impossible by any means, but it’s still a task that needs to become our mission. This is an excerpt from the Mahabharata, which was written around 400 BC: “Do not cut down the forest with its tigers and do not banish the tigers from the forest. The tiger perishes without the forest and the forest perishes without its tigers. Therefore, the tigers should stand guard over the forest and the forest should protect all its tigers.” Are we paying any heed to the advice. Unfortunately, the answer is a big “No”.

MP to follow Guj’s model for worthy forest guards

TUESDAY, 06 NOVEMBER 2012 15:22 STAFF REPORTER | BHOPAL HITS: 24 State forest department may follow Gujarat's model for safety of the big cats by not recruiting "aged and more qualified" forest guards for its tiger reserves. A proposal in this regard is under consideration of the department. The move comes after recommendations of a three-member committee on several measures to protect tigers, including one to ban gathering of people in forest areas near tiger reserves where the big cats have been seen. "No matter what the minimum qualification is but it has been experienced that getting good marks in the test is no guarantee that the aspirant may be mentally and physically suitable to be appointed as forest guard. The guards need to be fit in such a way that they can roam around the forest and live in its far flung areas. It will be only possible when the recruitment rules are made on the lines of those formed by Gujarat State to keep suitable persons for the job. The conservation of forest is not likely to be done by over aged and over qualified guards," the committee, comprising senior Indian Forest Service officers, said. As per present recruitment rules, a person has to be Class tenth qualified, secure 70 marks in the written exam and about 9 marks in the interview. The report also noted that illegal activities like ration shops and cooking gas distribution centres were taking place in the core areas of tiger reserves. The committee found that none of about 60 forest circles have so far formed "rescue squad" to act in case of emergency, despite several reminders from the Government. The panel has also suggested measures to check 'picnic' activities near forest areas to avoid "man and wild animal conflicts." Taking note of the committee's recommendation, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), P K Shukla, has moved a proposal to recruit suitable persons as forest guards, as it is being done in Gujarat. As many as 295 posts, including 222 for forest guards, at various levels are lying vacant in six tigers reserves of Madhya Pradesh.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ojaswani Alankaran award for wildlife conservationists

MONDAY, 05 NOVEMBER 2012 18:00 STAFF REPORTER | BHOPAL HITS: 62 ISRO Scientist Tessy Thomas, Wildlife Conservationist Belinda Wright, Founder of Life Research Academy Newton and Lakshmi Kondvani and dedicated to purification of Bhagirathi Sushila Bhandari were conferred with ‘Ojaswani Alankaran’ at Ravindra Bhavan on Sunday. During the programme BJP president Nitin Gadkari, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, BJP State president Prabhat Jha and Water Conservation Minister Jayant Mallya were present. Chief Editor of Ojaswani Magazine and chairperson of Ojaswani Samdarshi Trust, Sudha Mallya while addressing the audiences congratulated the awardees. While expressing her content about Belinda she said Belinda has spent her entire life in India working on wildlife issues and is one of India’s leading wildlife conservationists. She works actively to increase the dialogue and communication on Indian Wildlife conservation issues, especially Indian Tigers. She photographed her first wild tiger at the age of 16 years. Giving away this information, Sudha further said, in 1994, she founded the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) with the aim of helping to avert India’s wildlife crises. She was awarded with ‘Ojaswini Shikhar Seva Alankaran’. About First Missile Woman Tessy Thomas, Sudha said in 1988 Tessy was the first woman scientist of the country to head the missile programme. With persistence hardwork she made Agni missile a success. She was awarded with ‘Ojaswani Shirsh Alankaran’. Sudha further said being an MBBS Newton along with his wife Lakshmi founded the Life Research Academy, in the year 2000 at Hyderabad. Out of the multifarious activities of the Life Research Academy, the core activities are Past-Life Regression, Breathwork, Spreading the messages of all Self-Realized Spiritual Masters, Spreading Awareness about Vegetarianism and Teaching Meditation. The Life Research Academy conducts free Meditation Classes in Schools, Colleges and other organizations. They received ‘Ojaswani Ardhnarishwar Alankaran’. Excessively dedicated towards purification of Bhagirathi Sushila Bhandari was awarded with ‘Ojaswini Vishishth Alankaran.’ Noteably this is the 16th year of Ojaswini Awards and Ojaswini Magazine has completed 20 years. During these years Ojaswini has worked in the field of politics, art and culture, education and social service. Ojaswini Mahotsav is also being organised at Bittan Market which would conclude on November 6.

Monday, November 5, 2012

'Man-animal conflict result of human actions alone'

Aparna Nair, TNN | Nov 5, 2012, 03.03AM IST NAGPUR: Human intervention, which has resulted in destruction of wildlife habitat, is responsible for the man-animal conflict. The need of the hour is to give more importance to sustainable development than economic development to conserve nature, said speakers at the one-day workshop on man-animal conflict organized by Society for Wildlife Conservation, Education and Research (Wild-CER). MS Reddy, field director and chief conservator of forests (CCF), Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) (Maharashtra) said human beings are responsible for all the man-animal conflicts. "It is a result of our past actions. Destruction of wildlife habitat and increasing human population are the main causes behind this problem," he said. Reddy added that time had come when sustainable development was given more importance than economic development. Agreeing with Reddy, Dr Bahar Baviskar of Wild - CER, said, "Now is the time for development with and for nature." The workshop covered various aspects of man - animal conflict including government policies for mitigating conflict, case studies and so on. Speaking on government policies, Sheshrao Patil, CCF, Nagpur, threw light on the conditions and requirements of granting compensation to people in case of crop damage, injury or death. Referring to absence of planned infrastructural projects, Kishor Rithe of Satpuda Foundation said lack of understanding of landscape matrix was a huge cause for the conflict. "Why wait for an incident to recognize a conflict situation? Can't we study and plan our projects in a way which will help in conflict mitigation?" he said. Suggesting some remedies, Rithe said, "Awareness is the key, not only among locals but also policymakers. Consideration for wildlife while planning infrastructural projects and financial allocations for mitigation measures are needed to address the issue." Ajay Pilariseth, divisional forest officer (DFO), PTR recounted a number of experiences to clarify his stand that humans are responsible for the conflict. "It is only when the natural order is disturbed these wild animals are forced to come in contact with humans. Otherwise, they do everything in their capacity to avoid us. I have even seen sloth bears sacrifice jamun - their favourite fruit - in order to avoid humans who had entered the part of the forest where this fruit grows," he said. Pilariseth added that it was time man learnt how to live in and around forests. "In our greed for more, we only think about us and nothing else. We don't even consider about the right of these animals to live," he said.

Plans afoot to tap Valmiki reserve eco-tourism potential

MONDAY, 05 NOVEMBER 2012 00:46 DHEERAJ KUMAR | PATNA As the Dhaulagiri snow peaks peep out from mountains of neighbouring Nepal and mighty Gandak river flows with a majestic silence, the Bihar Government has an ambitious plan under its sleeve to promote eco-tourism in Valmikinagar Tiger Reserve (VTR) in the State’s West Champaran district, through active participation of local population, comprising sizable number of Tharu tribals as well. Though eco-tourism has engaged minds of top policy-makers in the State since a long time, it finally took a concrete shape, when State Deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Modi launched eco-tourism in Valmikinagar Tiger Reserve amid high pitched optimism last Thursday. The launching ceremony was organised on the lawns of newly spruced up 12-room Valmiki Vihar, which can provide lodging facility to almost 24 tourists. The Government will send 20 local youth to Chitwan Tiger Project in Nepal for their training as guides. Keeping in mind the welfare of local people in its zeal to prop up eco-tourism in the region, the State Government will encourage local inhabitants to purchase open jeeps, so that they may enhance their income by renting out these vehicles to tourists, who are willing to go for jungle safari. People living in the vicinity of VTR would also be persuaded to earn money by providing their portion of houses to tourists by charging some money from them. In addition to Valmiki Vihar, accommodation facility will also be available at eight eco-huts and six forest rest houses. Tourists, visiting Valmikinagar for eco-tourism can also enjoy tenting facility and tree houses at Kotraha, Madahpur, Goberdhan and Manguraha. In addition to elephant safari and bullock cart rides, other attractions like short-trekking, full moon visit with patrolling party, bird watching and peep through watch towers will also be introduced in due course. Madanpur and Manguraha will be the entry points on the western and eastern part respectively, while the main eco-tourism destinations would be Valmikinagar, Madanpur, Ganauli, Manguraha and Goberdhana. Other proposals include an interpretation cum information centre for providing full details about eco-tourism facilities to tourists visiting VTR. An open-air theatre and a conference room cum audio-video hall will be constructed at Valmikinagar, while boating facility and adventure sports in the Gandak river, are also planned. But to top it all, a brand ambassador for VTR is also actively being considered and names of celebrities like Manoj Bajpai are already doing the rounds but a final decision has to be taken on it. Besides tigers, VTR has also a good population of leopards and wild dogs, Sambhars, wild boars, Cheetal and Neelgais. VTR is spread over 901 sq km with core area of 598 sq km and 20 per cent of the core area will be used for the purpose of eco-tourism. The Project Tiger Directorate under Ministry of Environment and Forests, which evaluates tiger reserves in the country, has assessed VTR of “satisfactory” level. Though, officially the number of tigers at VTR has been put at 8 in the last tiger census, the actual number might be much higher if daily reports are to be believed, created on the basis of camera trapping of big cats are considered, which estimate that VTR has around 15-17 tigers. The State Government has also made it clear that the land will not be acquired from villagers and they will not be replaced. On the contrary, those staying for three generations will be given ryoti land rights under Forest Rights Act. The Government will also provide cheap LPG connections to villagers living around the Tiger Project. Additionally, the Government will provide wood up to 25 cubic feet at cheaper rates to those building houses in the region. The Government will also make efforts to improve grass land area and prey base in the VTR to improve population of tigers in VTR. Vacant posts of forest guards will be filled up on a priority basis and they will also be properly armed.

MP to emulate Gujarat model for safety of tigers

Press Trust of India / Bhopal November 04, 2012, 16:05 Tiger state Madhya Pradesh may follow Gujarat's model for safety of the big cats by not recruiting "aged and more qualified" forest guards for its reserves. A proposal in this regard is under consideration of the state forest department. The move comes after recommendations of a three-member committee on several measures to protect tigers, including one to ban gathering of people in forest areas near tiger reserves where the big cats have been seen. "No matter what the minimum qualification is but it has been experienced that getting good marks in the test is no guarantee that the aspirant may be mentally and physically suitable to be appointed as forest guard. The guards need to be fit in such a way that they can roam around the forest and live in its far flung areas. "It will be only possible when the recruitment rules are made on the lines of those formed by Gujarat state to keep suitable person for the job. The conservation of forest is not likely to be done by over aged and over qualified guards," the committee, comprising senior Indian Forest Service officers, said. As per present recruitment rules, a person has to be Class Xth qualified, secure 70 marks in the written exam and about 9 marks in the interview. The report also noted that illegal activities like ration shops and cooking gas distribution centres were taking place in the core areas of tiger reserves. The committee found that none of about 60 forest circles have so far formed "rescue squad" to act in case of emeregency, despite several reminders from the government. The panel has also suggested measures to check 'picnic' activities near forest areas to avoid "man and wild animal conflicts." Taking note of the committee's recommendation, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Dr P K Shukla, has moved a proposal to recruit suitable persons for appointment as forest guards, as is being done in Gujarat. As many as 295 posts, including 222 for forest guards, at various levels are lying vacant in six tigers reserves of Madhya Pradesh. (MORE)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Corridor to life being choked

Without passages that allow wildlife populations to travel and interbreed, animals living in these connecting forests and protected reserves have no future. Isolated and depressed, they are also a threat to humans In 2009, I reported the destruction of the Gola River wildlife corridor that connected the Corbett landscape to the Nandour Valley and onwards into the tiger and elephant habitats of Nepal. The Gola corridor knit together a 7,000 sq km expanse of tiger and elephant habitat in Uttarakhand, supporting about 250 tigers and 1,000 elephants — the most vital part of the 20,000 sq km Terai Arc Landscape, identified as one of the three most viable habitats for long term tiger conservation. The corridor, already scarred by mining, anthropogenic pressures and heavy traffic along the Haldwani-Bareilly road, had now been further decimated — first by a railway sleeper factory, then an Indian Oil Corporation’s depot and the establishments of the Indo Tibetan Border Police. It’s gone, now, this vital link, and with it we have lost a golden opportunity to connect the Corbett landscape with the Nandour Valley and the chance to manage the tiger-elephant habitat in Uttarakhand (7,000 sq km) as a single, secure unit. Unfortunately, Gola is not an exception but the norm, with key wildlife corridors being decimated or destroyed by mining, dams, roads, railway lines and canals. The expansion of NH-7, which runs through the Kanha-Pench corridor, slashes through over 60km of tiger habitat, while NH-6 cuts through Navegaon-Nagzira, ripping the ecological corridor that once connected Nagarjunasagar Tiger Reserve to the Central Indian Tiger Landscape. NH-37 circumvents Kaziranga — refuge of the endangered one-horned rhino and with amongst the highest tiger densities in the world — impeding movement of animals to safe, elevated grounds in the adjoining Karbi Anglong hills during floods. The tragic fallout during this year’s flood was the loss of over 600 animals, largely because they couldn’t make it safely across the highway and the habitation onto the hills. The Chilla-Motichur corridor in Rajaji National park has been slashed by highways, canals, railway line and an Army ammunition dump, while the Kosi River corridor which circumvents Corbett has tourism resorts and encroachments blocking wildlife’s access to the Kosi River and the Ramnagar Forest Division. Corridors are critical if tigers, elephants and other wide-ranging species are to have a future. Let’s understand it from the context of the tiger: Most of our reserves are too small to hold genetically viable populations. Corridors facilitate the species’ migration and allow populations to interbreed resulting in genetic exchange that leads to greater health and vitality. According to the Wildlife Institute of India, a minimum population of 20 breeding tigress in a core/critical habitat of about 800 sq km is essential. Below this figure the probability of extinction exponentially increases. Most of our reserves are too small to sustain the minimum ‘safe’ number of breeding tigresses. In the absence of corridors, populations get isolated, causing them to suffer inbreeding depression, leading to disease, overall population degeneration and inevitable extinction. A far more immediate and tragic consequence of habitat isolation is human-wildlife conflict. As large mammals like tigers, and especially elephants, attempt to move between habitats, they are hindered by human habitation and infrastructure in between. Railway lines, expressways, canals, factories, mines, etc prevent them from making safe passage and push them into direct conflict with local people. Crop, livestock and even human life are frequently lost. The number of cases of wildlife roadkills of endangered species, cases of elephant electrocution, trains running over elephants, poisoning of cattle-killing tigers, tigers straying into highly populated areas, crop raiding by elephants, mobs chasing them and people getting killed are all testament to this fact. Today, several parts of the country are locked in a tragic human-elephant conflict situation. One misconception that must be erased is that corridors are ‘protected areas’. Corridors do not have to be pristine parkland but could, in fact, include agricultural areas, orchards, tea or coffee plantations, and other multi-use landscape — just as long as they are “wildlife permeable”, to provide for safe passage. It is important, however, to factor in wildlife concerns in land use plans or development activities in wildlife corridors and landscapes. around wildlife corridors. We know that when we push tigers further and further into tiny pockets, we seal their fate. Tigers and elephants in isolated forests, with no remaining corridors connecting them to other forests, are caught in a genetic dead end. We cannot claim to protect our wildlife and then write off their corridors, break apart their landscapes. Development imperatives must take into account wildlife concerns. Conserving habitat corridors through policy, legislation, and appropriate mitigation measures is the need of the hour given the growth imperative and the associated growth in infrastructure development. Else, let’s bid them goodbye — the tiger, the elephant, the others: All symbols of our natural heritage. (The author is a member, National Board of Wildlife)

Dudhwa likely to miss Nov 15 date with tourists

TNN | Nov 1, 2012, 04.41AM IST LUCKNOW: With just 15 days remaining for the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve to reopen for tourists, forest officials are not sure they will be able to do so. Every year, the park closes on April 15 and opens up for tourism on November 15, after six months closure during monsoons. But this time, the UP forest department is not sure whether it will be able to keep the deadline as it is yet to work on the new set of guidelines sent by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to all the tiger-states, including UP, to regulate tourism inside national parks. Tourism inside core areas of tiger reserves was banned by the Supreme Court in July owing to the fact that it was jeopardizing the safety of tigers, not more than 1,700 of which remain today. However, on October 16, the apex court lifted its interim ban on tourism inside core areas of tiger reserves, after NTCA framed and notified guidelines for tiger tourism under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The guidelines permit tourism in 20% area of the core of the tiger reserves. "We have received the new guidelines only two days back and are scrutinizing them word by word," said Rupak De, PCCF (wildlife), UP. Though the officers are trying to complete the process as soon as possible, since the matter pertains to compliance with the SC order, meeting the November 15 deadline is a secondary issue. "We can talk more clearly on this may be in a day or two," added De. So far, the entire core area of Dudhwa, comprising 117 square kilometre of Dudhwa and 80 square kilometre of Kishenpur sanctuary, was open for tourists. But, this time around, the reach of the tourists will be restricted. Forest department is yet to identify the areas which will be open to tourists, after the implementation of new guidelines. Though this might reduce the chance to spot a tiger in the wild, the department plans to add to the tourists' experiences by way of improved hospitality. After chief minister's active interest in developing Dudhwa as a better tourist hub, UP Awas Vikas Parishad has re-done the Tharu huts and rest houses at the tiger reserve. The accommodation has been provided with better furniture and improved interiors. Approach roads have also been renovated on the directions of the government. On the other hand, in compliance with the Supreme Court's order, the forest department this year has also notified the buffer area in the Dudhwa National Park. Nearly 1,100 square kilometre has been notified as buffer in the park. Tourism in buffer area also needs to be regulated. Officially notifying the buffer also requires Dudhwa authorities to plan for the management and development of the buffer area. This, in turn, will increase the area for movement of tigers. Dudhwa tigers are distributed in one major and three smaller populations. Major population is constituted by Dudhwa reserve which includes Dudhwa National Park, Kishenpur and Katarniaghat wildlife sanctuaries and forests of Pilibhit, north and south Kheri.