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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Big cat finally spotted near Rahmankhera

TNN | Jan 18, 2012, 07.57AM IST LUCKNOW:The elusive tiger finally made an appearance on Tuesday. At least 50-odd people saw the tiger crossing the railway line near the Subtropical Horticulture Institute at Rahmankhera twice. The locals said that the feline wasn't wary of human presence around, though there were at least 50 to 60 people near the institute, from the surrounding villages, at that time. "It was afternoon and people were moving around for their work when the tiger appeared. Though men were quite far from the spot, tiger crossed the track twice," said a local from Rahmankhera. "It was the first day-light movement of the feline," said Rahul Shukla, former honorary wildlife warden, Kishenpur, who has been tracking the tiger and also visited the spot on Wednesday. The tiger has started moving actively in the area. There were reports that in the morning, at around 10:30, the feline had walked on the road, as well. As of now, it's not reacting to human presence around. However, when it saw men, it slid back to its cover in the forest at Kakori. "Its movement show it could be hungry," said Shukla. The tiger is said to make four kills in a month-long perithat od. Considering that it made its last kill on January 6, it could be the time when the big cat is hungry again. Its present location is a rich habitat, with lot of tiger's natural prey, thick cover to hide and a water body. Though there has been no man-animal conflict reported from the area, situation like what happened on Wednesday, with tiger appearing out of its cover in the day, and men moving around, it could turn dangerous. The juvenile tiger, so far, has kept out of the human territory and moved through its way silently. But, panicking men can turn it violent. The forest department, in more than a week's time, has failed to track the tiger. There has been no effort made to localize the tiger. The subtropical institute's campus, in Rahmankhera, where the tiger has been present for all this while, is some 3 to 4 kms area, but, the forest department officers have not been able to track the tiger. On the contrary, the department has put up iron cages at the place to trap the tiger. A forest staff also shared that the tiger moved in and out of the cage without been trapped, on Tuesday evening. "We had suggested to tranquilise the tiger but the department did not buy the argument," said GC Mishra, former director, Dudhwa. There is always a possibility that a healthy tiger will be left injured in the cage, as the tiger tries to set itself free and in a bid injures itself. "An injured tiger is not fit to survive in the wild, and, is most likely to end up in a zoo," said Mishra. However, DFO, Awadh could not be contacted for a comment. The forest officials had installed closed circuit television cameras at different points in the forest area. Incidentally, the tiger stepped up on a camera that was placed near a brick and its image was captured.

Illegal safari in core area of tiger reserve

TNN Jan 17, 2012, 04.03AM IST RAJABHATKHAWA (JALPAIGURI): Has the ban on tourism in Buxa Tiger Reserve (BTR) dampened your spirit? Bother not. If you are ready to compromise with your conscience, all you have to do is to contact the right network that flouts all norms to conduct 'safari' in the core area of the reserve. A private tour operator based in Rajabhatkhawa - the entry point to the core area - conducts tours to the interior of the forest. One just needs to get an accommodation in the WBFDC tourist lodge (that also permits one to go for a safari in the buffer zone) and book a car for Rs 2,000. Add to it Rs 20 per person - for the "outsider's gate pass" to reach the villages inside BTR and you will be taken into the core area by the "guide". A K Raha, principal chief conservator of forests and the head of forest force in the state, said permission is granted only to those who board at WBFDC lodge, but they are not allowed to the 'core' area. This just proves that the attempt of the forest department to conserve tiger is half-hearted and there are major loopholes, said an activist. The main objective of conservation is being diluted in the name of eco-tourism since more than 1,500 tourists go for safari in BTR each year. The number stood at close to 30,000 before the "inconsistent" ban that came into effect on September 16, 2010. Also, it has been made mandatory that one forest guard should accompany each car. But a reality check proves all these guidelines have been shoved to the back burner in favour of a good "business". Your safari will start from the BTR entry point, the car will take you a few kilometers along the Buxa Feeder Road. Then it will turn left, take a broken, muddy path and enter the dense forest. If you are lucky, you could spot leopard, gaur, cheetal or wild boar. You can also expect a herd of elephants blocking your way. But if you are a keen observer, then you are sure to spot some exotic birds and rare orchids. At places, the forest is so dense that darkness will leave you blinded. So remain assured even if you can't spot any animal, that eerie feeling in the wild will send shiver down your spine. The safari will take you to the Dima river, where the driver will allow you to get off the car and take a "close look" at the forest. The vast stretch with mountains in the backdrop will catch your imagination. But this halt is not the end of your tour. "When the tourists insist, I take them to core areas like 23 Mile Road, Garam watch tower, Narathali Lake, Chuniajhora and also to interior parts of Jainti," the tour operator said. And if you want to go to 26 mile and enjoy a night safari, even that is possible if you have a little 'contact' in the forest department. However, Raha claimed night safari has been banned completely in BTR. According to a source in the government who knows the ins & outs of BTR, the operator works in connivance with the forest department officials. "How can one conduct such tours month after month without the knowledge of the forest officials?" he wondered. When asked a forest guard posted at the check-post of BTR, he washed off his hands saying, "This operator claims to have permission from the senior officials. We come from outside for work. These are all local people. They threat us with consequences if we try to tackle them by force."

Officials mull plan to bifurcate mangement of Tipeshwar wildlife sanctuary

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Jan 18, 2012, 12.45AM IST NAGPUR: The Pench Tiger Reserve officials are working on a proposal to bifurcate management of Tipeshwar wildlife sanctuary in Yavatmal district from Pench. Being 180 km from Nagpur, the biggest problem of 148sqkm Tipeshwar sanctuary is its management. At present, Pench looks after the management of 61sqkm Bor wildlife sanctuary and 257sqkm Pench reserve and yet-to-start 183sqkm Mansinghdeo sanctuary. Except Tipeshwar, all these protected areas (PAs) are within reach. Due to its long distance from Nagpur, Tipeshwar is invariably being neglected. Of late, it is in the news for wrong reasons. On November 20 last year, a full grown male tiger was poached at Bodhbahattar village on the outskirts of Tipeshwar. In January first week, a tigress with two cubs killed a farmer Prahlad Madavi (55) near the sanctuary. On January 13, the same tigress with two cubs was sighted by passengers of a bus crossing the state highway to enter Tipeshwar sanctuary. The sanctuary in Pandharkawda has a forest division looked after by a divisional forest officer (DFO) but he has no control over the sanctuary. Four years ago, a proposal was prepared to hand over the sanctuary to Yavatmal Forest Circle by appointing ACF (Territorial), Pandharkawda, to wildlife and attaching the post to Pench field director. "This would have helped in better and independent monitoring of Tipeshwar. However, no steps were taken to take the proposal to its logical end," sources said. However, in a fresh move, a proposal is being worked out to put Tipeshwar and Painganga sanctuaries, both in Yavatmal, under Akola wildlife division by shifting the post at Pandharkawda or Yavatmal. Similarly, sanctuaries like Katepurna in Akola and Danyanganga in neighbouring Buldhana district, both looked after by Akola division, can be handed over to Akot wildlife division which already looks after Narnala, Wan and Ambabarwa sanctuaries in Melghat. All can be put under the control of Melghat chief conservator of forests (CCF). Sources said by doing this, the district of both the wildlife divisions will not change and it will be convenient for forest officials to deal with one district collector in case of issues like relocation and other management problems. From Yavatmal or Pandharkawda, Painganga and Tipeshwar sanctuaries will be around 100km and 60km respectively. Similar will be the case with sanctuaries under Akot division. "It will strengthen wildlife management and ensure better control," a section of conservationists felt. Meanwhile, state wildlife board member Kishor Rithe has written to principal secretary (forests) Praveen Pardeshi to deploy 24X7 monitoring teams for Tipeshwar tigers. He demanded the post of ACF (territorial) be handed over to wildlife and attach it to Pench field director. "We urgently need to design and implement an action plan for habitat improvement works in and around the sanctuary to increase the prey base," Rithe said. To explore the possibility of extending sanctuary area, considering the rationalisation of boundaries committee proposal, buffer should be created around Tipeshwar to implement eco-development programme (EDP) in surrounding villages.