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Monday, February 6, 2012

Pugmarks confirm tiger’s presence in Choral forest

Bagish K Jha, TNN | Feb 6, 2012, 01.15AM IST INDORE: A day after confirming the presence of tiger in Choral forest area, the forest department says that the analysis of the pugmark found from the forests indicates that they belong to a tiger. The department will now be initiating a programme to create awareness among the villagers to save tigers and to keep themselves safe from the animal. Chief conservator of forest P C Dubey said, "Experts suggested that the pugmark found on Saturday belonged to a tiger which is likely to be around 10 years old. The pugmark is of five inch by five inch in square shape". Dubey said that local villagers have been talking about the presence of tiger in the region for long, but this is the first time the department has got proof about its presence. They believe the tiger has not migrated from any other forest. "Forest belt of Indore, Dewas, Brwah, Choral and Udainagar is very dense and rich with herbivore population, besides, there is plenty of water resources. All these are ideal habitat for tiger," said Dubey adding that Wild Life Institute of India, Dehradoon has indicated about presence of seven tigers in this area in their recent survey. The forest department has convened a meeting of the Deputy Forest Conservators to monitor the situation. The department has also convened a meeting of DFOs of Indore, Dewas and Barwaha, forest guards and rangers, Van Samitis and villagers at Naniya village where the tiger's pugmark was found on February 4 to brief the forest officials and villagers about the landscape management strategy for the protection of tiger. Department has also alerted the forest officials and Van Samitis to keep an eye on movement of strangers in the forest area. "Villagers have been asked to inform forest official instantly in case they see any stranger in the area," said Dubey adding that conservation and protection of tiger is now priority of the department. Besides, for the conservation of tiger in the area, the department has chalk out multi-prong strategy under landscape management. Wherein Indore, Dewas and Badwani will work together and share information about tiger movement. "It is important to adopt an integrated approach as a tiger moves in area of 1500 square kilometers," said Dubey. To avoid man and animal conflict and engage maximum people in conservation and protection of tiger forest department is also relaxing its compensation rule. The department has instructed its officials to make instant payment and take considerate view in case of any damage to crop and cattle of villagers due to wildlife.

Villages to be relocated but VIP guesthouse stays

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Feb 6, 2012, 01.14AM IST NAGPUR: The relocation of five villages inside Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) is being expedited because the critical tiger habitats (CTHs) need to be inviolate for tigers. But in sharp contrast to this the huge VIP complex right inside Tadoba's core is being renovated instead of phasing it out. From April 1, 2008, when former PCCF (wildlife) B Majumdar banned entry for tourists and VIPs to complex, it was decided to keep bare minimum structures by phasing out remaining quarters. However, after four years, these structures stay and instead of removing them, suites have been renovated with better facilities for VIPs. At present, there are four suites in the VIP guesthouse, an 18-bedded youth hostel, two holiday homes, forest department's own colony of 15 quarters, a canteen and field director's bungalow. All structures are situated on southern shore of Tadoba lake and are major source of disturbance to wildlife. Conservationists have alleged that shifting of complex is being purposefully delayed as this complex consists support staff of VIP guesthouse that is on a hillock overlooking Tadoba lake and that VIPs and their kin want to continue enjoying exclusive privilege of staying inside a tiger reserve. Interestingly, in 1995, when Tadoba was declared a tiger reserve, basic condition of 'Project Tiger', now National Tiger Conservation Authority was to remove pucca structures. It was also mentioned in management plan of TATR. As it is, as per Wildlife Protection Act 1972 amended in 2006, a reserve has to be inviolate. "Why should the department waste public money on renovation? Officials can make a halt at Moharli. If a field director or wildlife official needs a halt, there are quarters inside. Who knows who's staying in the name of officials? Why a VIP guesthouse needed?" asks Avinash Prabhune, a RTI & consumer rights activist. On the contrary, chief wildlife warden SK Khetarpal says, "There is no proposal to shift VIP guesthouse. It has been converted into a camp office. Only officers will only be allowed to stay there. The guesthouse is not being fully renovated but petty repair works are being done." He adds that field staff stationed in Tadoba means better protection of the area. "Finally, I've left such decisions with respective field directors as they are second line of command and should build confidence," he said. CCF & TATR field director VK Sinha justifies VIP guesthouse and quarters at Tadoba saying, 'We need it for stay of recently appointed researchers. Quarters have been whitewashed as staff needs a better place for living. As per rules, the structures are not being used for tourists." Sinha further said the old canteen has been converted into range office and toilets have been repaired for tourists so that they need not relieve themselves anywhere inside the park. All said and done, demolishing the concrete structures was a long-pending demand of conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts. The decision to stop using VIP guesthouse was raised several times by conservationist Harshawardhan Dhanwatey in state wildlife board (SWB) meetings. The decision was taken accordingly by B Majumdar. Bandu Dhotre of Eco-Pro, NGO working for tiger conservation in Chandrapur says, "The focus in tiger reserves is to increase infrastructure for protection. Till date, increasing protection has been considered equivalent of increasing the infrastructure for protection."

PTR tiger count stalled for want of equipment

TNN Feb 4, 2012, 10.35PM IST DALTONGANJ: The fourth phase of the tiger census in Palamu Tiger Reserve (PTR) is likely to be delayed. Sources said the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has asked for an estimate of tigers here but for want of infrastructural facilities, the process if likely to be delayed. The PTR does not have digital and trapping cameras in large numbers, global positioning system equipment and range finders. Sources said without these equipment, PTR cannot go for the fourth phase of the count. The tech support is necessary for accuracy of figures. Sources said the number of tigers in PTR has been fudged. In early 1994, there used to be 49 tigers whereas today the PTR struggles to count a little near a dozen big cats. The field director-cum-conservator, S E H Kazmi, conceded, " Right now these equipment are not with the PTR and hence it is difficult to go for any estimation. The fourth phase count is a sophisticated procedure in which all information is to be fed into a software and even a minor inaccuracy will be declared an error." DNA test of scat of tigers is now the main plank of counting its population but there are other things like a range finder. A range finder gives the exact position of wildlife in any tiger reserve. The PTR is segmented into 30 zones and sources said more than half the zones are in highly sensitive areas affected by extremism.

Tell-tale tiger signs excite activists, lovers

Express News Service , The New Indian Express BHUBANESWAR/ROURKELA: As tiger population continues to be a raging controversy in Odisha, pug marks of a Royal Bengal Tigress and two cubs along the borders of Sundargarh and Jharkhand have cheered up wildlife experts and lovers. On Wednesday evening, a tigress reportedly attacked and killed two buffaloes in South Chirubera Forest of Bisra block under Rourkela Forest Division of Sundargarh. DFO Atish Behera confirmed that only the heads of the bovines were found and pug marks of an adult tiger and two cubs, which are not less a year-and-a-half-old, detected. �Between January 16 and 23, a tigress was spotted near SAIL mines at Tensa of the Bonai Forest Division of Sundargarh. Bonai DFO AK Mishra confirmed it to be a tigress and measured the pug marks at 12.5 cm in width and 13.5 cm in length. While the recurrence of the pug marks and the killings of cattle have aroused excitement, Wildlife officials are guarded in their reaction to appearance of the big cats in the region. “We need to ascertain whether the big cat is marking its territory or has strayed into the forests from a contiguous habitat. We will keep a watch,” Chief Wildlife Warden Janardan Dibakar Sharma said. �Although speculations are rife about increasing population of Royal Bengal Tigers (RBTs) in Saranda forest, there have been no visual or DNA evidences yet. The Wildlife Wing now plans to maintain samples of the pug marks, their GPS records and timing to understand if the big cat is indeed marking its territory, Sharma said. �He said Bonai Forest Division is an ideal habitat given its forest density, prey base and herbivore population but there has to be a definite evidence of tiger. �Although tiger population occurred in Saranda, the increased proliferation of Left Wing ultras in the bordering regions of Odisha and Jharkhand has been a major problem for monitoring. Due to Naxal fear, Forest field staff have rarely ventured into the remote pockets in the last several years. �Besides, mining is another cause behind increasing fragmentation of habitats and disturbances for the big cats. The growing clout of the ultras in the region may just have given the tigers a safe haven. Meanwhile, AK Choudhary, Forest Range Officer of Sasangada in Jharkhand, said in August last year a big cat was spotted in Saranda. RBTs, he said, occurred in Saranda which is known as ‘Heaven of Sal’ and ‘Land of 700 hills’ spread over 850 sq km.