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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

India's first tiger rescue centre in Sunderbans

Prithvijit Mitra, TNN | Jan 11, 2012, 02.10AM IST KOLKATA: The first tiger rescue centre of the country will be ready to welcome big cats in three months. Being developed at Jharkhali in the Sunderbans, the centre will provide asylum to injured and straying tigers that are either brought to Kolkata for treatment or released in far corners of the mangrove forest. Even though fenced off from the rest of the jungle, the centre will be contiguous to the main Sunderbans and allow tigers to roam free in the wild. They will, however, not be able to leave the centre which will be fenced off. Work on the centre's outer fence is complete. Fifteen feet high iron bars have been erected to create a boundary that cuts it from the rest of the forest. There will be an inner periphery with a lower fence made of bars interspersed with chain-links. It will mark separate enclosures for four tigers across a 100-acre area. Adjacent to the Chhoto Herobhanga river, the centre will be enclosed on all four sides and have waterbodies apart from enough mangrove cover for tigers to feel "at home", said Pradip Vyas, director, Sunderban Biosphere Reserve. "It will allow us to treat injured tigers in the forest itself which will spare them the agony of having to spend months at the zoo hospital in Alipore. While they will be able to stay back in the forest, the tigers will remain protected at the centre. More importantly, they will have an assured supply of foodwhich will help the injured big cats recover fast. The straying tigers, too, will get used to remaining confined in the jungle," said Vyas. The forest department is waiting for funds to commence work on the second phase of the centre. This includes the inner fence that separates the individual enclosures. It has been designed in such a way that won't allow tigers to cross over to the next enclosure. Neither can they reach the Herobhanga river and swim to villages. There will, however, be waterbodies, both natural and artificial. "Some of the natural waterbodies are being extended to suit the tigers. There are several natural ones inside the area. Food will be provided by the forest department, for we don't want the injured tigers to hunt. Nor would we like straying tigers to search for easy prey," said Vyas. The only other tiger rehabilitation centre in the state is located at Khairbari in North Bengal. It is, however, not an open centre and tigers are kept in cages. "We are keen to make sure that the Jharkhali centre does not turn into a zoo for ageing and injured big cats. Neither do we want injured tigers to spend months in a constricted hospital, away from the forest environment. This is an ideal setting that we can have," added Vyas. Two squeeze cages and four ordinary ones have been placed at the centre. These will be used for treatment. A team of veterinary surgeons will be posted along with a group of forest department staff who will monitor the big cats. The centre will also have a watch-tower. "We have marked corridors around the centre that will be patrolled by forest guards who will keep a watch," said Vyas. To begin with, two tigers will receive shelter at the centre. It can accommodate two more and treat at least four to six big cats simultaneously. The forest department is also planning to shift some of the ageing tigers of Alipore Zoo to the centre. "The zoo has a space problemwhile there will be enough room for 2-3 tigers at Jharkhali . Depending on the availability of space, we can accommodate a couple of tigers here. But we must consult experts to find out if zoo tigers can acclimatize to the forest conditions," said a forest department official. Experts hailed the move. to have a natural rehabilitation centre for tigers. "It will let the tigers remain in their natural habitat and home environment," said Pranabesh Sanyal, former director of Sunderban Tiger Reserve. "The authorities should make sure that the rescue centre functions as such and doesn't turn into a zoo in the jungle," said Joydeep Kundu, member of the state wildlife board.

Tiger on prowl in Lucknow's neighbourhood

Lucknow, Jan 10 (IANS) A fully-grown tiger on the prowl for the last five days near Rehman-Khera village, about 18 km from Lucknow, has caused panic in the area. Authorities have now geared up to track and capture the feline, an official said Tuesday "We have now formed two special teams, who would be joined by another one from the Wildlife Institute of India, to track the tiger down, trap and return it to its natural home from where it has apparently strayed here," chief wildlife conservator B.K. Patnaik told IANS. Clearly visible pugmarks were noticed for the first time on Friday. However, the confirmation that the feline was in the neighbourhood came after wildlife officials got down to tracking the animal and found a half-devoured blue-bull on the sprawling campus of the union government-run Central Institute of Sub-Horticulture on Sunday. "The kill was not fresh, suggesting that the prey had been killed at least three days earlier. This made it evident that the tiger had been on the prowl in the area for at least five days," said Patnaik. "I am confident that the task of catching the tiger would not be difficult as the animal has localized itself in the green cover around the institute, where we could get him either by laying a trap or by using the tranquiliser method," Patnaik added. Wildlife expert, G.C. Misra, who is a former director of the Dudhwa National Park, says: "The tiger's straying into the area speaks volumes for the increasing penetration of human populations in the big cat's natural home." This is the third time since December 2008 that a tiger has strayed into urban pockets in Uttar Pradesh. In the past two instances, both tigers were presumed to be man-eaters and were gunned down in Faizabad and Lakhimpur-Kheri, respectively, after special wildlife teams failed to trap them.

Karnataka is the tiger in poaching

Chethan Kumar, Bangalore, Jan 10, DHNS: Scourge a major cause for depletion of species Karnataka was crowned the ‘Tiger State’ of the country after the recent tiger census. But, it has now come to light that the State has accounted for the most number of poaching cases in the last four years. A total of 63 cases of poaching have been registered across 17 states-- Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal-- since 2008. Of this, Karnataka accounts for 11 with 2010 and 2011 together recording eight poaching cases. According to information available with the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Maharastra accounted for 10 cases of poaching. Replying to a question in the Lok Sabha recently, Jayanti Natarajan, Minister of State, MoEF, admitted that poaching is one of the major causative factors for the depletion of a species from its habitat. She said: “The government has initiated several steps to prevent poaching as also to punish those indulging in the act.” One of the major initiatives include rehabilitation of people living in areas close to the tiger habitat. However, according to the available information: “...there are about 762 villages with 48,549 families in the core/critical tiger habitats across the country, with Karnataka housing 101 villages and 6159 families.” State’s version When the matter was brought to the notice of the State government, Kaushik Mukherjee, Principal Secretary to Government Forest, Ecology & Environment Department said: “...The number is both correct and wrong!” The State, he said, had one of the best enforcement mechanisms in the country and also has a great team of forest officials working specifically on protecting tigers. “This is what helped us get the tag of being the Tiger State after the recent census. We have over 320 tigers while Madhya Pradesh has only about 280 and nobody else is even close,” Mukherjee said. He said that many of the poaching cases registered had not originated here, and in four of the cases only tiger skins were found.

SC panel visits Panna diamond mines

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Jan 11, 2012, 03.45AM IST NAGPUR: A seven-member Supreme Court committee visited the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday to inspect diamond mines and issues related to mine closure plan and utilization of funds towards various mitigation measures. The committee members comprising HS Negi from National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), chief of Wildlife Protection Society of India ( WPSI) Belinda Wright, National Board for Wildlife ( NBWL) member Kishor Rithe as MoEF representative, MP PCCF for wildlife and panel chief HS Pabla, APCCFs TR Sharma and Dharmendra Shukla, Panna field director RS Murthy and others visited the Majhgawan diamond mines. A meeting will be held on Wednesday at Karnavati in Mandla. The mines outside the reserve were being operated without environmental clearance since 1995, and were closed on direction of the Supreme Court in 2005. However, in August 2008, the court allowed mining by National Mining Development Corporation (NMDC). The NMDC is to spend 5% of its total capital cost for afforestation activities in the Panna forest area, and an environment impact monitoring committee has been set up to oversee efforts for approval and monitoring of annual work plan of the funds and issues related to diamond mining. The committee was set up on August 13, 2008, and the first meeting held on June 2, 2011. Tuesday's meeting was the second one. The committee looked into mine closure plan and annual work plan for utilization of funds received from NMDC. Panna has been famous for diamonds since long and the diamond belt covers about 1,000 sq km. The mining has fragmented Panna reserve, where the tiger population has already reduced to a bare minimum. NMDC's Majhgawan mine is about 20km away from Panna and approachable by an all-metal road from Panna and Khajuraho. During the last meeting, NMDC had provided a 21-point compliance report and has expedited preparation of conservation plan for endangered flora and fauna. The Panna field director has submitted an Rs 8.74 crore proposal for mitigation measures.

First family checks out of Kolsa

TNN | Jan 11, 2012, 03.47AM IST CHANDRAPUR: Tukaram Shedmake was a charged-up man on Monday. His house was abuzz with hectic activities and all family members were busy packing their belongings. Tukaram himself checked that everything is packed and safely loaded in a mini-truck. Finally in the evening Shedmake bid adieu to his neighbours and moved out of his village. Shedmake's is the first family to move out of Kolsa village in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) since 2007. The stalled resettlement of Kolsa practically restarted on Monday, with Shedmake moving out of the village for a new home in Bhagwanpur for Rs 10 lakh compensation. Six more families are set to move out later this week, said CCF and field director of TATR Vinaykumar Sinha. Forty-nine families from Kolsa were relocated to resettlement site - Bhagwanpur - in May 2007. Remaining 97 families pulled out of rehabilitation exercise at the eleventh hour claiming lack of amenities at resettlement site. Shedmake was among four families who received Rs 25,000 token share of the package. "Tukaram Shedmake with his family has moved out of Kolsa. His family is first to relocate from TATR after over four-and-half years. Six other families will move out later this week," Sinha said. "Three more families have already the resettlement agreement. Three others would enter into agreement in a week and move out of the tiger reserve," he said. The process of negotiation and completion of formalities of remaining families is underway, he held. The NTCA has offered two options - cash compensation or full rehabilitation at resettlement site, for relocation out of tiger reserve. These families have chosen the first option, under which they would be paid Rs 10 lakh. Compensation would include fixed deposit (FD) of Rs 6 lakh and Rs 4 lakh in cash. Once the land owned by relocating families is transferred to TATR, the compensation sum would be paid to family head, Sinha said.