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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Elusive tiger forces Shikari to change tactic

J. S. IFTHEKHAR The Hindu Hyderabadi shikari Nawab Shafat Ali Khan, tailing the tiger in the Rehmankheda CISH campus in Awadh Forest Division, Lucknow. The Hyderabadi ‘shikari' is back home after 10 days of nerve wracking time tailing the ferocious tiger in Awadh forest division – just 15 kms from Lucknow. Nawab Shafat Ali Khan has not succeeded in tranquilising the tiger which strayed in the CISH campus in Rehmankheda but the techniques adopted by him have brightened the chances of taming the feline. In the wee hours of Wednesday the tiger killed yet another bait, a buffalo calf, the sixth so far but escaped before it could be tranquilised. A nocturnal animal, the tiger is venturing out only in the night posing a challenge to the tranquilising team. “The thick bushes make it worse for precision shooting. Even a blade of grass can deflect the fired syringe”, says Mr. Khan who rushed back Tuesday night to see his ailing mother. In a change of tactic, he has introduced a plastic chair in place of a ‘machan' to keep a vigil. The chair can be placed atop a tree in just five minutes while a ‘machan' takes an hour to erect. “The chances of the tiger not getting disturbed and coming back to get the kill are bright now”, says Mr. Khan. Another new methodology adopted is to place the bait early in the morning to lure the tiger when it is relatively easy to fire the tranquilising gun. Till now the four member wildlife team used to set the bait in the afternoon and wait till evening in vain. An important breakthrough in the 40-day operation is zeroing in on the tiger's pugmark. Its study showed that it is a male tiger of 5 years with a weight roughly between 160 to 170 kg. “This is an important data to calculate the right dose of drug to tranquilise it. A greater dose might prove fatal and a lesser one ineffective”, says Mr. Khan who knows all about wildlife. He is aware of the objections being raised in wildlife circles about requisitioning the services of a hunter to tame the tiger. But he feels a professional huntsman is necessary as an ‘emergency backup'. Not necessary that the ‘shikari' will shoot the animal. “He can fire a shot in the air or on the ground just before a charging tiger to stop it”, says Mr. Khan. Importantly, the team has succeeded in keeping the tiger from straying into Lucknow and throwing the election process haywire. Election over, Mr. Khan plans to join the operation next week.

Now, monkey-catcher on tiger trail in Rahmankhera

TNN | Feb 23, 2012, 09.42AM IST LUCKNOW: After repeated failures to trap the fugitive tiger in Rahmankhera, forest officers have now roped-in a monkey-catcher in the hope that he will accomplish the mission. The helplessness and desperation of the officials can be gauged from the fact that the man has been given the powers of an officer. This, however, has annoyed the staff who are already on the tiger trail, sources said. Surprisingly, chief wildlife warden Mohammad Ehsan feigned ignorance about the monkey-catcher. Perhaps the staff and officers from Awadh have engaged the monkey-catcher, who on several occasions has mounted the elephant to track the big cats. The man was also the part of the operation to track the maneating tigress in Faizabad in 2008. The tigress was finally shot at by a hunter whom the forest department had called then. "There is no role of a monkey-catcher in tiger-tracking at all," said GC Mishra, former director, Dudhwa. It's difficult for anybody to explain, what a monkey-catcher was doing at a place, where forest officers, have not even allowed the wildlife experts to venture. The officers maintain that presence of a 'commoner' might disturb the tiger, and it can change location. In what way is monkeycatcher, not a 'commoner', is hard to understand. It was on January 8 that presence of the tiger was reported and confirmed at Rahmankhera. It's been more than a month that officers are tracking the tiger at Central Institute of Subtropical Horticulture (CISH), in Rahmankhera, without any breakthrough. "The man is registered as a monkey-catcher with the department. He is also called in, when monkey menace is reported," said sources. While, the department has allowed him to be a part of the operation, there are several organizations from outside, which have expressed their desire to help forest department safely trap the tiger. "A wildlife organization from Australia has evinced interest in trapping the tiger, but that's not possible without the permission of the department," said Kaushlendra Singh, a wildlife enthusiast. However, the forest department might not be very keen on allowing the outsiders, to be a part of the operation. Nobody apart from the forest department officers and WTI team has the access to the premise of CISH, where enclosures and 'machan' have been set up to track and trap the tiger.

Need to expand Corbett ‘buffer zone' in focus

TUESDAY, 21 FEBRUARY 2012 23:29 PARITOSH KIMOTHI | DEHRADUN HITS: 125 The latest death of a tiger in a territorial fight has once again brought focus on the need for expanding the area under the purview of the Corbett Tiger Reserve. The Ministry of Environment and Forests had recommended that parts of the Ramnagar and Lansdowne forest divisions should be included in the buffer zone of Corbett, but the State Government is adamant that this will be facilitated only after the Union Government facilitates construction of the Kandi road which passes through the Corbett and Sonanadi wildlife sanctuary and links Garhwal with Kumaon. The Corbett National Park covers about 521 sq km and together with Sonanadi wildlife sanctuary and reserve forest areas, forms the Corbett Tiger Reserve spread across 1288.31 sq km. As per the latest census, there are at least 214 tigers in this landscape and with officials counting at least 40 cubs last year, the population is expected to rise further if conditions remain conducive. At least two tigers have died in turf war since 2011 which has brought back the focus on the need for increasing the protected area. According to Corbett field director Ranjan Mishra expanding the buffer zone of Corbett will bring these areas under the purview of funds received from the National Tiger Conservation Authority. “There will be territorial fights between tigers, but increasing the buffer zone area will provide them more protected space to roam and to hunt in which will decrease the likelihood of turf wars among the stripped felines. This will also help in improving the protection of wildlife and environment in areas added to the buffer zone which will benefit not only the tiger, but all wildlife. Apart from this, the betterment of wildlife will directly benefit the people living in the region with increased tourism,” said Mishra. The State Forest and Environment Advisory Committee vice chairman Anil Baluni said that the State, too, is willing to expand the area of Corbett tiger reserve, but only if the Union Government also takes cognisance of the needs of the people of Uttarakhand. He alleged that the Union Government has claimed much and done little. “Last year, the then minister of Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, had announced that `65 crore was allocated for relocation of people living in Sunderkhal village in Corbett, but so far the State has not received a single rupee. We requested the NTCA member secretary Rajesh Gopal several times to inspect the area to be affected by construction of the Kandi road, but he has not done so. Tigers and wildlife has been conserved and their status is improving in Uttarakhand due to the efforts of the State authorities and people and not due to the policies made by officials in Delhi, so it is vital to ensure that the interests of people are also considered,” said Baluni.