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Monday, February 27, 2012

Experts suggest ways to trap elusive tiger

TNN | Feb 27, 2012, 02.47AM IST LUCKNOW: The stray tiger loitering in Rahmankhera for past two months has become accustomed to the forest and this has made it difficult to track it. On Sunday, wildlife experts visited the Central Institute of Subtropical Horticulture (CISH) campus and suggested ways to the forest officers to trap the big cat. "We suggested that a bait be put at one place, and that place should be within the range of tranquilising experts," said wildlife expert Kaushlendra Singh. The patch of the forest in Rahmankhera, where the tiger is currently hiding, has lot of scrub forest. There have been occasions when the darts fired by the forest team missed the tiger. The stray tiger of Rahmankhera made it's presence felt, in the area, three days back. It made a kill. "But, with changing weather, it might change its movement," said Sanjay Narayan, secretary, Tiger and Terrain. The experts also suggested that the rough and hard ground, at Rahmankhera forest, be levelled, so that, it becomes easier to get clear pugmarks, and tracking team could know which direction has tiger gone. The tiger, so far, hasn't ventured out of the forest area, to near-by localities. The big cat is completely localised in Rahmankhera. And, one main reason behind is the fact that it is a perfect habitat, with lot of prey-base, dense forest patch and water also available, in the vicinity. All through its stay, in Rahmankhera, it hasn't attacked any human. And, this is one reason, why trapping the feline safely becomes important. The forest department has set up enclosures at some new locations also, and a bait is being tied to lure the tiger almost regularly. But, it has not helped so far. The experts, who visited the spot, on Sunday, also suggested to erect poles, in the area, where tranquilising experts sit, and put a switch, that may automatically get on, as soon as the dart is fired. This will make it easy to see the tiger, during evening. Meanwhile, some foreign organizations have also evinced interest in helping the forest department to trap the tiger. The stray tiger of Rahmankhera made it's presence felt, in the area, three days back. It made a kill. The tiger, so far, hasn't ventured out of the forest area, to near-by localities. The big cat is completely localised in Rahmankhera.

The fire of concern The fire of concern

K Shivakumar MYSORE: The forest fire incidents reported from Bandipur and some small patches at Nagarhole Tiger Reserve recently have become an issue of great concern both for the forest officials and the environmentalists. It is feared that these incidents would lead to a scarcity of elephant food in the years to come as the bamboo, which had germinated very well in last two years in most parts of the Western Ghats, would be destroyed. The ground fire and destroying of bamboo plants would be a bane for more than in 3,000 elephants, including 1,500 elephants in Bandipur and Nagarhole National Parks. Some forest fires are accidental, but many are lit by the miscreants, a few vengeful local tribes and poachers who are booked in the timber smuggling or poaching cases, it is learnt. However, the reason for the forest fire in Kalkere falling in the core areas spread across 900 sq kms in Bandipur National Park, is yet to be ascertained. � This summer, particularly the next two months, would turn out to be the most challenging task for the forest officials as the mischief mongers will take advantage of the dry spell to settle scores with the forest personnel, if they have any, it is said. Generally, the forest officials are supposed to notice fire in every 10 kms in forest areas and the check the spread of fire. In Nagarahole alone, more than 12 incidents of forest fire took place at Veeranahosahalli, Mettikuppe and Anthara Santhe areas. Barring in one or two places, the forest personnel, along with temporary watchers from local haadis, controlled the spread of fire within two hours recently. However, the high wind and the dried up bamboo bushes have become a worry for them. They have to struggle hard to control the fire as the flames spread wildly inside the forest. Recently, some forest fire cases were reported during Shivaratri as the locals had gone to offer puja in the fringe areas of the forest. The weekends are another concern as many of them working in coffee estates return to their haadi and enjoy their stay. Miscreants sometimes set fire to elephant dung inside the forest. The fire catches up slowly and they escape from the woods. The Forest Department, with around 300 staff, including 18 members from Special Tiger Protection Force. There are 400 temporary guards deputed around the clock in� watchtowers spread in 643 sq kms with a boundary of 256 kms to observe animal movements, smoke and pass on information to the officials through wire sets. A national park needs sufficient manpower to handle the situation, guard the forest, wild life and resources. The department has kept a tight vigil on the movement of the miscreants who spread rumours in and the forest areas. The density of elephants and other animals has increased following the increase in the levels of Kabini backwaters. At Nagarhole Park, there are more than 70 tigers and a phenomenal increase in the siting of leopards. The department has also banned illegal fishing in backwaters and tourists from smoking.� People prefer estate work over jobs in forest: DFO Nagarhole DFO Vijayaranjan Singh said, “We have deployed additional men and vehicles to control the fire and rush to spots based on the information.”� He said that the ground level staff fighting fire are given food, water and a wage of `167. “But they are interested to work in coffee estates as they can earn `300 per day,” he observed adding that they need more ground level staff to notice and check the forest fires when such incidents are simultaneously reported from five or six places.��

Seized leopard skin bares Palamau peril

A.S.R.P. MUKESH Poaching pawn: Amarka Singh, arrested for trying to smuggle out a leopard skin, confesses before DFO (buffer) AK Mishra on Sunday. Picture by Saikat Chatterjee Ranchi, Feb. 26: A leopard skin — roughly estimated to fetch over Rs 5 lakh in the international market — was seized from Palamau Tiger Reserve (PTR) on Saturday, nearly two months after forest officials got wind of poaching in the forest and laid a trap. A villager, who was trying to strike a deal with an interstate gang of smugglers at Satbarwa on Jharkhand-Bihar border, has also been arrested. Amarka Singh (58), a native of Phulwari village in Palamau, has been charged under Section 52 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Forest officials said this was the first big seizure in more than a decade. In 1995, a tiger skin smuggling racket had been busted at the reserve. PTR divisional forest officer (buffer area) A.K. Mishra confirmed that they had been on the leopard poaching case for some eight weeks. “A couple of months ago, our informers tipped us off. However, we didn’t have authentic information on the place of poaching and people behind it. So, we decided to keep an eye on the reserve and also porous border areas,” Mishra said. Some time later, they managed to zero in on Singh who was stocking the skin. “The culprit was looking for buyers. We didn’t arrest him immediately because we wanted to seize the skin too,” he added. Divisional forest officer (core area) Premjit Anand said on Friday they learnt that a deal was to take place at Pochi village in Satbarwa. “Dressed like villagers, our raid team including rangers reached the spot early on Saturday morning and fanned out to every nook and corner of the area. Around 1pm, few vehicles without numberplates arrived at a nearby dhaba. The negotiation took place for two hours and the deal was settled for Rs 70,000. When the seller (Singh) went to get the skin, we followed and nabbed him,” Anand said. Mishra conceded that it was a conscious decision to trap only the seller. “Initially, we were a little confused about who to target. But then we decided to arrest the seller. If there is no one to sell, there will be no one to buy,” he said. Forest officials are interrogating Singh who is known to have revealed names of three accomplices. “The racket works like a chain. One person kills, second transports, third stocks, fourth sells and so on and so forth. We hope to reach the last link soon,” Mishra added. Currently, the reserve has some 80 leopards compared to more than 100 a decade ago. Admitting presence of poachers, DFO Anand said they were planning to shuffle routes of trackers (forest employees who monitor wildlife by tracking animal routes) to check the menace. “Normally, a tracker is asked to monitor the same route for four to five years. So, he may get involved with local residents (read poachers). We are now planning to revise our strategy and change their routes from time to time so that they don’t become part of any nexus,” he said. Apart from this, the forest guardians also plan to deploy 20 home guard jawans at check posts and forest pickets for frisking visitors. A senior official at Palamau reserve also pitched for young trackers. “Most trackers are over 50 years of age. They are unable to monitor the forests efficiently. Besides infrastructure development, the government should also work out special package for forest protection,” he said.

Tiger census begins in Kaziranga

TNN Feb 24, 2012, 10.23PM IST West Bengal|The National|Rajiv Gandhi|Assam JORHAT: The tiger census of Kaziranga National Park began on Friday in all its four forest ranges - Kohora, Bagori, Agoratoli and Burhapahar. "We have started tiger monitoring in all the four ranges of Kaziranga. The operation will take about 45 days to complete. Like previous years, we are using the camera trapping method to conduct the operation. Hundred such cameras have already been installed in the park," Surajit Dutta, the park director, said. He added, "The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has sanctioned Rs 20 lakh to conduct the census in the park. We have engaged two biodiversity conservation societies and a group of researchers and scholars to complete the project within the stipulated time." A wildlife research official of Kaziranga will supervise the operation in all the forest ranges. According to the latest NTCA report - 'Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India, 2010' - Kaziranga tiger reserve is in the fourth position after Bandhavgarh tiger reserve. Kaziranga's density is 15.92 tigers per 100 sq km. Bandhavgarh's is 16.25 tigers per 100 sq km. Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, on the northern bank of Brahmaputra in Assam, has the second highest tiger density in the country after Corbett Tiger Reserve. Tiger density in Orang is of 17.68 per 100 sq km, while Corbett has a density of 17.83 tigers per 100 sq km. According to the national tiger census in 2010, results released by the MoEF, the northeast, covering the hilly states, Brahmaputra floodplains and the northern part of West Bengal, is home to an estimated 148 tigers with the upper and lower limits hovering between 178 and 118 respectively. Of this, Assam has the highest number of tigers - 143 - according to the census. Mizoram has five, while Arunachal Pradesh was not included in the census operation. The region itself, according to the 2010 census, showed a considerable increase in its tiger population as compared to Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India's 2008 report. According to the earlier report, Assam had 70 tigers, Mizoram had six and northern West Bengal had 10. Kaziranga was formally declared a tiger reserve in 2006. The government launched 'Project Tiger' here in 2007. The park lost four tigers in December last year. Police gunned down one tiger while another one was poisoned to death by miscreants and two died in territorial fights.

Survey of tiger reserves to check corridors for movement

By: Jagdish Bhatt Dehradun : Taking cognisance of the fact that the elephant problem in Uttarakhand had reached jumbo proportions because the forest corridors used by the pachyderms for migration had been lost to construction and developmental projects, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) intends getting a satellite survey done of all the 41 tiger reserves in the country to check the corridors that may have been lost due to construction activity. The survey will be undertaken by the Forest Survey of India some time in the middle of this year. The main purpose of it will be to check whether the corridors that were in the forest divisions of the tiger reserves for the movement of the felines are still in tact, or they have been lost to the rampant construction that is taking place in and around these resorts. Informed sources said that it had been brought to the notice of the NTCA that rampant construction had been done within and in the periphery of the Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand , which had witnessed a considerable increase in the number of tigers over the past few years. The construction, of resorts in particular, was of all the more concern as they were coming up without due sanction from the forest authorities and were a threat to the wildlife in the region, they claimed. They said that a survey had been done of the tiger population in the country in 2010, which had shown a healthy trend that there was an increase of almost 300 in the feline population in the country. But was damning was the fact that the survey also indicated that there was decline in the area of the tiger habitat, which meant little space for the felines, which are territorial animals. Sources said that the survey would focus on what is the exact area of forest cover in the tiger reserves of the country and taking the feline numbers is it adequate to meet their territorial and other requirements; what are the changes that have taken place in the tiger reserves during the past two decades and how many corridors in these reserves have been lost and for what reasons. They said that it was a matter of great concern that not only the population but activity in and around the tiger reserves was also on the rise which would affect the tiger conservation programme over the years. A large number of efforts have been put in the tiger conservation project in the past few years, and these are showing positive results, but the good work was in for a setback due to human activity in and around the reserves, they contended. It may be mentioned here, that because of the forest corridors which were used by the elephant herds for migration in the Uttarakhand forests having been lost to development activities and rampant construction over the years, having been lost, the pachyderms were confined in pockets forcing them into direct conflict with man. A recent study undertaken by the Wildlife Institute of India indicated that elephant-man conflict in Uttarakhand had increased manifold after 2001 and the pachyderms had killed 95 persons and injured another 65 during this period. There was also an increase in the number of incidents of wild herds entering agricultural fields and destroying the crops, because of which there were occasions when villagers also killed some elephants.

Project Tiger dharna still on

TNN Feb 23, 2012, 11.10PM IST DALTONGANJ: Jharkhand Van Shramik Union members, who are on dharna since February 9 on the premises of Project Tiger office, were disappointed when local MP Kameshwar Baitha did not turn up despite assurance. Union president Sidhnath Jha said, "The MP had given us a word that he will come up and then take up this issue with the field director of Project Tiger on Wednesday. But we kept on waiting for the whole day and nobody turned up." Sources said the ongoing stir of daily wagers of PTR got a big jolt as the MP did not come to share their woes. Sources close to Baitha said, "The MP had a talk with the field director, SEH Kazmi, and took stock of the situation." There are 157 van shramiks, who are on indefinite strike since February 9. The van shramiks are daily wage earners. The agitation is for payment of wages due to these van shramiks since September 2011. The other demand is restoration of three daily wagers, whom DFO Anil Mishra had removed. One of the three dismissed from service is the union's state president Sidh Nath Jha. Jha said agitation would not be withdrawn till the DFO revokes his decision. On the other hand, DFO Mishra said, "There could not be any rollback. Jha does not work as a daily wage earner in PTR. So where is the question of payment of his daily wages?" tnn The other two - Green Ram and Mukut Stephen Tirkey - are facing corruption charges, added Mishra.