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Monday, January 16, 2012

1 village in Sariska, 2 in Ranthambore relocated

TNN | Jan 15, 2012, 04.14AM IST JAIPUR: Despite the muchhyped conservation efforts in Rajasthan, so far just one village in Sariska and two in Ranthambore have been relocated from the critical tiger habitat. However, the work is on in 13 villages in the two reserves. As per forest department officials, shortage of funds prevented the relocation work from beginning in at least three villages in Ranthambore. Out of the proposed 10 villages, only seven have been relocated. "As per the original plan, we were to relocate families from 10 villages within the tiger reserve. But shortage of funds and lack of consensus amongst villagers hampered it in three villages," officials said. Relocation of families in a tiger reserve is to happen only with their consensus, says a ministry guideline. The total number of villages in the tiger habitat at Ranthambore is 64 out of which just two, Indala and Machanki, have been completely relocated. Other villages where relocation is underway include Kalibhit, Bhid, Kathuli, Hindwad, Mor Doongri, Dangra, Bheempura, Mudarhedi, Matoriyaki and Dodaki.Out of the total 1,640 families residing in these villages, 582 have been relocated. In Sariska only one village Bhagani has been rel o c at e d though the empowered committee which was constituted after all the tigers in the reserve were poached. So it was decided that tigers be reinstated after villages were relocated. Sariska has about 28 villages which fall in the critical tiger habitat and relocation is on in six villages including Kankwadi, Umri, Dabli, Sukol, Rotkyala and Kraska. Out of the earmarked 641 families, only 329 have been relocated. Recently, Sariska lost one of the relocated tigers ST-1 after it was poisoned by villagers as it had allegedly killed a some livestock.

Man held with tiger bones

PTI | 03:01 PM,Jan 13,2012 Nainital, Jan 13 (PTI) The forest department here has arrested a man with 8kg of tiger bones near Kaladhungi near the Jim Corbett National park, 35 km from here, official sources today said. Trilok Singh Mehra, a resident of Kotabagh from Daichuri range of Ramnagar forest division, was arrested yesterday following a tip-off, they said. The accused has been booked under the wildlife protection act and he is being interrogated, they added.

Big cat yet to make an appearance

TNN | Jan 16, 2012, 03.28AM IST LUCKNOW: The entire team of forest officers and experts from Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) are camping in Rahmankhera to trace the tiger but the big cat is still to make an appearance before people. So far, it's only the pugmarks of the tiger which indicate the presence of the big cat in the area. If the feline is still present in Rahmankhera or moved on, is still not known. Those tracking the tiger could still be presuming that it is around. It was on January 8, last Sunday, that the forest department officers confirmed the presence of the big cat in Kakori. The pugmarks were found over 3-4 kms area in Kakori, near Chilauli village in Kakori. The pugmarks showed that the big cat had taken one big round and vanished, said one of the forest staff. The tiger was never spotted in the area. "It has not been seen till date," said the staff. However, to trap the tiger, three cages, with live baits, have been put in Rahmankhera. Sunday, was the third day since goats and a calf were tied to the baits, but the tiger has not even ventured into the close vicinity of the cages. On the basis of pugmarks, it appears to be a juvenile tiger, 3 to 4 years of age. The feline also knows how to hunt its natural prey. The area is full of blue bulls and other wildlife, which is the natural prey of the tiger. The tiger, so far, has only killed and eaten its natural prey, the blue bull. "It could have eaten about 1.5 quintal of flesh," said one Rahul Shukla. The area has water bodies, rich cover and natural prey, making it a preferred habitat for the stray cat. The fact that it has almost negligible human presence could have made it even better. The tiger is believed to have ventured from South Kheri and has travelled about 150 kms, till Kakori. And, nowhere along its movement, was a livestock killing reported. The big cat has not switched over to domestic cattle, and has only killed its natural prey. It's presence was first noticed in Hardoi on January 1. But, since then, the tiger has not been spotted by anyone, forest officers and experts have only be presuming. The forest officers, initially, also said that it could also be a leopard. However, experts said that it is the size of the pugmarks, which gives an impression that it is a tiger. The experts also cry foul that forest department was not carrying out the tracking operation properly. Out of the three cages put at the place, two are meant for trapping leopard and are smaller in size.

Karnataka sets up first-ever commando force to protect tigers

Abhirr V P, CNN-IBN Click to play video New Delhi: The Karnataka has set up the first-ever commando force to protect tigers in the state. The state government has trained commandos to fight poachers. With nearly 300 tigers in the state, Karnataka has become the epicenter of tiger conservation especially since it has the largest number of tigers in the country. And that's why the Special Tiger Protection Force has been deployed in the sensitive forests of Bandipur, Badra and Nagarhole. The commandos are intensively trained in the use of SLRs, small arms and hand to hand combat. Vasanth Reddy, Assistant Conservator of Forests, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, says, "It's like a strike force, it will strike when there is a conflict and also it will manage the crowds when there is a man-animal conflict. So it's very essential and a big advantage to the Bandipur tiger reserve." The unit is desperately needed, since the National Tiger Conservatory Authority has just put the state forest department on high alert following intelligence reports that teams from the notorious Bahelia and Pardis tribes have moved into the state from Madhya Pradesh. The tribals are infamous for their skill in poaching wild animals and they primarily target tigers. BK Singh, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Karnataka, says "We have received reports about the entry of these tribes but the STPF are well armed and in large numbers so we are in a better position to protect tigers." Ullas Karanth, Wildlife Conservationist, says, "This is a positive step in tiger conservation, this sends a powerful message to poachers that the government is very serious in tiger conservation." The introduction of commandos in the Bandipur tiger reserve changes the game completely for both tiger conservation as well as better management of human-animal conflicts.

Camera traps to track animals in mangroves

Prithvijit Mitra, TNN | Jan 16, 2012, 01.49AM IST KOLKATA: A team of WWF and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) officials will be moving into the Sunderbans to resume camera-trapping on January 20. Aimed at zeroing down on the number of big cats and other animals that roam the mangrove forest by filming them, the exercise has been planned on a grand scale this time, with the aid of satellite imaging. Cameras will be installed across a 1500sq km area, including the South 24-Parganas part of the forest, which has never had camera traps. The Sajnekhali tiger reserve area will also be covered. Ninety cameras, to be installed in pairs, will be used. WII and WWF have divided the forest into 16sq km grids. Each grid will have a pair of cameras. They will face each other for better and additional frames that will help to identify the animals being captured. The cameras run on battery and are fitted with heat and motion sensors. They switch on automatically when animals tread near them. "It's a difficult job for you can't walk in the Sunderbans. Also, the cameras need to can't be installed in places that just about anywhere. It should have a reasonable possibility of being crossed by animals. So, we are looking for relatively high ground to install them. For this, we shall consult the forest department staff and taking the help of satellite images from Jadavpur University's School of Oceanographic Studies," said Anurag Danda, head of climate adaptation and Sunderbans Landscape of WWF. Danda is among the six officials who will lead the survey. The camera traps have to be installed at a height of less than four feet to shoot the animals. Since they generate infra-red rays that turn the camera on whenever they hit an obstacle, they can't be installed at an angle. "In that case, the rays will hit the ground and switch the camera on. So we can't put them at a greater height that would have kept them out of the reach of animals," explained Danda. Several camera traps were damaged by animals when they had been installed in 2010. Explaining the utility of traps, director of Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve Pradip Vyas said, it helps to assess the movement and hence the density of tigers in a given area. "According to the census last year, Sunderbans has between 65 and 90 tigers. This figure may not be accurate. Camera traps give you a better idea about tiger movements and the ecology of the forest. We expect them to lead to a more accurate figure. This time we are covering a far bigger area that will give us a better picture," he said. Pugmarks and scat collection - the two other methods that are commonly employed - can never provide a correct figure in Sunderbans due to the impenetrable nature of the forest, according to experts. "Since the cameras have to be placed above the high-tide level, they may not be able to capture a sufficiently high number of tigers. In Sunderbans, big cats move around in low-tide levels, on muddy ground where cameras can't be used. But they should give us an idea about the minimum number of tigers in a particular area," said Pranabesh Sanyal, former director of Sunderbans Tiger Reserve. Thirty pairs of traps will be installed in Sajnekhali and South 24-Parganas each. The WWF and WWI teams will return to the spots to download photographs every 10 days. They won't remove the traps till a tiger has been filmed twice. "Recapturing is the essence of the exercise. It helps to know how frequently a tiger has been passing a particular area. This will give an idea about the density and movement of tigers in that particular zone, from which we can arrive at a projected figure," said Danda. Even though it usually takes three weeks to recapture an animal, it could take up to a month in the Sunderbans, said officials. Due to its hostile terrain and lack of dry ground, it could be taking tigers a longer time to cover an area. In order to make the exercise a fruitful oneand to hasten recaprturing, WWF officials have proposed the use of "cat lure" to draw tigers to the traps. "These are a foul-smelling substance that attract carnivores. It could help to raise the number pictures. But the forest department is yet to give us the permission," added Danda.

Tiger cub radio collared in Panna reserve

Source: DNA | Last Updated 05:07(16/01/12) Bhopal: One out of the two cubs born to a translocated wild tigress T-1 in Panna tiger reserve one has been radio-collared for enabling its monitoring. This cub, 21-month-old, has been tagged as Panna-111. We are trying to radio-collar the other cub of T-1. Both cubs will be released into the wild shortly. Tagging will facilitate monitoring,” Panna field director RS Murthy told media. Big cats had been translocated from Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench national parks after Panna became devoid of tigers. So far, two felines have given birth to cubs boosting the efforts to revive tiger population. Although the Panna tiger reserve website boasts that it is one of the most famous tiger reserves”, in fact, the population of the big cats was reduced from 21 (in 1998) to 0 in less than a decade, as a result of poaching. Later, a male and two females from other areas of India were translocated to Panna in the hopes of rebuilding the tiger population from scratch with support of the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF). They were being monitored through radio collars and remote surveillance systems. The reserve flourished with tiger cubs in 2010, rejoicing the success of its translocation experiment. The tiger reserve has seven cubs and five adult tigers in its wild after the launch of an experiment involving breeding of translocated wild cats and rehabilitation of orphaned cubs. Kanha tiger reserve at present has 21-23 tiger cubs while the Pench tiger reserve boasts of having another 21 or more. Similarly, at Pench tiger reserve officials claim, nearly 21 tiger cubs were sighted by the forest staff in different zones of the reserve in 2010-2011. The last tiger census of Madhya Pradesh stood at 257 while in Karnataka the count was 300 following which the central state lost its coveted “Tiger State” status to the southern counterpart.

Mushrooming hotels put tiger reserve under pressure

Rachna Singh, TNN | Jan 15, 2012, 04.12AM IST JAIPUR: The tiger town of Sawai Madhopur is now faced with a problem of plenty. In the past few years, the place has seen quick proliferation of hotels, lodges and rented accommodations, all catering to the tiger safari in the reserve. The tourism ministry now feels that it is hampering the core issue of 'tiger conservation.' Now since the district administration has toughened its stand on granting no objection certificates (NOC) to hotels and the state Lokayukta is investigating the number of hotels which have been granted permission within the 500-metre park periphery, those planning investment in the hospitality industry here might be in for some shock. "Tigers are our national beauties. But lack of eco-friendly practices and mushrooming of resorts and hotels in and around national parks in an unplanned manner is blocking the wildlife corridors," Sanjay Kothari, additional secretary, Union ministry of tourism, said. The factual situation is too alarming. The road leading to the National Park is dotted with recently completed hotels and several low budget guest houses are under construction. "In a day only 1,040 tourists can go into the park at a time and there are already 2,000 rooms available. Another 2,000 rooms that are in various stages of construction are going to put immense pressure on the park," said Giriraj Singh Kushwaha, district collector. Recently, Kushwaha has also written to chief secretary S Ahmed requesting that the government give no more NOCs for any hotel project in S Madhopur. Some land conversions were allowed in the 500-metre periphery of the park for which two sub-divisional officers have been chargesheeted and the district administration has been asked to undo the wrong, sources said. There are some high-profile individuals and politicians who have been given 90B permission without the forest officials' consent. "We won't be able to increase the number of vehicles that go into the park at a time beyond 20 gypsies and 20 canters, i.e., 520 tourists. Upcoming hotels are outside the 500 metre limit. But of course this is going to create competition among the hotels," said a forest official.