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Monday, April 2, 2012

MP gets ready to regain lost TIGER STATE tag

SUNDAY, 01 APRIL 2012 23:56 ZAFAR ALAM KHAN HITS: 186 Good news for wildlife lovers! The tiger population in Madhya Pradesh is on rise. This central State, which is striving hard to regain its lost 'tiger State' tag, is full of reports of tiger cub births from all its corners. This has raised hopes that it would soon acquire its lost honour. There have been reports of tiger cub births from various national parks, tiger reserves and other places in the State. There are reports of over five dozen tiger cub births in the State since the last tiger census took place in 2011. The most amazing report came from the State capital where a tigress was spotted with her two cubs in Kerwa Forest on March 27 this year. It seems as if Mother Nature, too, has showered Madhya Pradesh with its blessings since it lost its label of 'tiger State' last year. After reports of tiger cub births from Panna Tiger Reserve, Kanha Tiger Reserve and Pench Tiger Reserve, good news came from unexpected quarters, the State capital where a tigress was seen roaming with her two cubs earlier this week. There have been reports of over five dozen tiger cub births from various national parks, tiger reserves and other places of the State after the last tiger census took place in 2011. Amazingly, a tigress was spotted with her two cubs in the Kerwa Forest area near the State capital, a senior forest official said. The photograph of the tigress with her two cubs was captured through the camera-trap method, Chief Conservator Forest (CCF), Bhopal Circle, SS Rajput, said, adding that some forest officials have seen the tigress with her two cubs. "Though the tigress remained elusive, images of the two cubs have been captured on cameras installed in the jungles to locate the tigress and a tiger that have frequently strayed in the area," he added. The cubs are about two-and-a-half months old. Forest officials spotted pugmarks of the cubs and the tigress around a week ago in the forests near Kerwa. Subsequently, the officials got the photos of the two cubs. Since last year, the tigress has made the Kerwa forest area her territory. It probably arrived here from the nearby Ratapani forest range, the department sources said. Rajput said that a male tiger was also roaming there and its pugmarks were also spotted in the area. Sometime back, the staff of the National Judicial Academy also saw a tiger on their campus after which an alert was sounded. Signboards were put up at various places in the forest to warn people about the presence of a tiger in the surrounding areas. It appears that the off-springs arrived after these two big cats mated probably in the month of September last year, Rajput said. The cubs are nearly two-and-a-half months old and healthy, the CCF added. Meanwhile, the Panna Reserve of the State that gained notoriety for the mysterious disappearance of its big cats is also home to tiger cubs once again, rejoicing in the success of its unique translocation experiment to revive their population. "The tiger reserve has a dozen cubs and five adult tigers since the launch of an experiment involving breeding of translocated wild cats and rehabilitation of orphaned cubs," Panna Tiger Reserve director RS Murthy said. The reserve has four female and one male tigers and all of them have adjusted well to their new environment. The number of tiger cubs in other reserves across the State is also rising. At present, Kanha Tiger Reserve has 21-23 tiger cubs while the Pench Tiger Reserve boasts of having another 21 or more. "We have 21-23 tiger cubs in different age groups wandering with their mothers in the forest," Kanha Tiger Reserve director JS Chouhan said. Kanha now has nearly 70 or more tigers in the wild, as per official figures. Pench Tiger Reserve director Alok Kumar said that in the year 2010-11, nearly 21 tiger cubs were sighted by the forest staff in different zones of the reserve. They are in the age group of 5-6 months to over one year, Kumar said. A tiger is normally considered adult when it attains the age of two-and-a-half years and also when it starts living away from its mother. 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. Madhya Pradesh objected to the figures released by the Wildlife Institute of India and National Tiger Conservation Authority after which the big cats were again recounted in Kanha tiger reserve, a senior forest official said. In order to find out the exact number of tigers in the country, the NTCA has decided to conduct tiger census every year in the tiger reserves and in other forest areas every four years, the official said. The State has Pench, Panna, Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Satpuda and Sanjay Dubri tiger reserves. After the last tiger census in 2011, the population of big cat was estimated at 1,706 in the country. According to the census, the tiger population in Madhya Pradesh dropped to 257 from 300 in 2006. There was a 12 per cent rise in the number of big cats in the country in 2011 but Madhya Pradesh lost its 'tiger State' status to Karnataka. A forest official said, "The decline in the tiger population of the State was mainly due to the loss of 24 tigers allegedly due to poaching in Panna tiger reserve which had as many striped animals in the year 2006." He also said that Kanha Tiger Reserve, too, lost more than 25 tigers. In 2006, it had 89 tigers which has now dipped to 60, according to the latest census. "But now with reports of tiger cub births coming in from various parts of the State, we are sure that very soon the State would regain its lost status," he added. The last tiger census report released on March 28 last year stated that the striped animal population has risen to 1,707 from 1,411 in 2006. A forest official said if only 50 per cent of these cubs survive Madhya Pradesh would surely be a tiger State again. Ministerspeak! Madhya Pradesh Forest Minister Sartaj Singh said that the State is and would remain a tiger State. "The census conducted by the Centre was faulty. We did not go with that and conducted our own census the findings of which could not be disclosed, this being not an official census, but we are confident that we are still a tiger State," Singh told Viva City. "After the next census, we would officially regain the tiger State tag as we have the most tigers in the country. Moreover, reports of tiger cubs births in large numbers from different parts of the State would further the cause," Singh said.

Resorts, forest dept incur losses as Sariska remains closed

TNN | Apr 2, 2012, 05.21AM IST JAIPUR: The Sariska Tiger Reserve wore a deserted look on Sunday as few tourists who turned up for sight seeing had to leave disappointed after protesting villagers didn't allow them to enter the reserve. The five day-long protest by farmers against relocation of villages from the periphery of the reserve area has hit the hospitality industry hard. The resorts around the reserve are receiving frantic mails and calls from tourists cancelling their trips. Angry villagers have even blocked the entrance to prominent hotels by placing piles of wood and stones. Unlike other Sundays when the reserve witnesses high footfall, this Sunday not a single tourist could visit the jungle. Many tourists who overstayed hoping the agitation would be called off are now planning to leave. "We are incurring huge losses daily. Forget about advance bookings, we are running below capacity now," said an official of Hotel Tiger Den. Forest department too has been facing the heat. "On weekends, the forest attracts over 1500 visitors everyday. Under the current scenario, we are losing out on large revenue," said R S Shekhawat, field director, Sariska Tiger Reserve. The entry fee for a foreign tourist is Rs 400, while for an Indian it is Rs 50. "Since the authorities turned a deaf ear to our demands, this is the only way left to shake them. We will not allow tourist entry till our demands are not met," said Bhupat Balyan, group leader. The villagers have demanded suspension of relocation and withdrawal of a ban on purchase or sale of their land.

Sighting of tiger sparks excitement

P. OPPILI “It was getting dark slowly and suddenly a roar was heard close by” It was an unexpected encounter last week for D. Abdullah, a Chennai-based software engineer, when he went to participate in a tiger census at the Grizzled Giant Squirrel Sanctuary at Srivilliputhur. He sighted a tigress along with two of her cubs. Sharing his experience on participating in the census, Mr. Abdullah said that he along with his friend Rahamadullah from Salem went to Srivilliputhur on March 23. On the first day, wildlife officials imparted training on how to conduct the census, the points to be noted, direct sighting and indirect sighting and related information. On the first day, the team with which Mr. Abdullah went for census did not see much. On the second day in the evening the team saw fresh tiger scat in one of the ranges in the Sanctuary. “Around 6.40 p.m. we followed the fresh scat, which led us to a water pool. It was getting dark slowly and suddenly a roar was heard close by. We realised that it was a tiger, which was heading close to the pool. Immediately, all the members in the team hid behind a rock.” The team was totally excited on seeing the tigress waiting to enter the waterbody. “The tigress, instead of entering the pool looked at the team members. But, we had to run away from the place as suddenly, a couple of wild elephants had come closer to the waterbody to drink water.” Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Conservator of Forests, Virudhunagar Circle, said the team, which sighted the tigress had lifted the pug mark of the animal in a plaster of Paris mould. So far there is no record of direct sighting of a tiger in the Srivilliputhur forests. With the new sighting, the authorities are planning to declare the area a tiger reserve. The Srivilliputhur Forest division is surrounded by Meghamalai in Theni Forest division on one side, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady in Kerala and Sivagiri and Puliangudi forest ranges, a portion of the Tirunelveli forest division on other sides. All these areas have to be integrated, Dr. Niraj said adding that the tiger sighting clearly indicated the availability of ecologically healthy prey base. Staff Reporter writes from Tirunelveli: The much-awaited tiger census in the Kalakkad – Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghats of the district, which is likely to house around 15 big cats as per the previous survey's inference, commenced on Thursday. A total of 105 teams, each comprising volunteers and forest personnel, have been sent inside the jungles for the four-day exercise. After collecting relevant information, the enumerators will come out of the forest on April 1. To enlighten and explain to the enumerators the steps involved in tiger census, the officials conducted a training session at held at Thiruvalluvar College, Papanasam on Wednesday. A team of officials trained 185 participants from Chennai, Coimbatore, Salem and other places on direct and indirect sighting techniques during the training session.

Closed for outsiders, but minister latest visitor at tiger territory

TNN Mar 31, 2012, 03.37AM IST LUCKNOW: The tiger-tracking operation in Rahmankhera is at a stage where it has to get more concentrated and intensive. However, the presence of a minister and his entourage can always hamper the already sluggish momentum of the operation. Shiv Pratap Yadav, minister of state for zoological parks, UP, had visited Rahmankhera on Thursday. He was accompanied by his entourage too. The pictures taken at the spot show minister mounted on an elephant, with his men and tracking team, combing the area. A day after, even forest officials sound clueless as to what made the minister visit the spot, which the department has kept closed for 'outsiders'. Besides, nobody in the forest department is sure if he has the charge of wildlife. "He might have been sent by the CM," is only what highly-placed sources in the UP forest department could say about his visit. "He is a minister and can't be questioned," said sources, but at the same time, they do not deny that the spot should have least disturbance. The efforts to tranquilise and trap the tiger have been on in Rahmankhera for the last three months now. From January 9 till now, the tracking team, comprising forest officers and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) personnel, has been missing every opportunity to either tranquilise or trap the tiger. The only good thing about the entire operation is that tiger has become localised around the campus of Central Institute of Subtropical Horticulture (CISH). However, VIP visits like the one on Thursday could drive the tiger away from the spot, a possibility that forest department officials do not deny. Such visits in the area will hamper the success of the operation. The minister is still an 'outsider' to the operation, and considering that he has no expertise in wildlife, his presence at ground zero can jeopardise the safety of the humans as well as the feline. If sources are to be believed, there were shots fired in the air on Thursday to turn the tiger away from the spot where minister was present. So far, the forest department has not even allowed the staff and scientists of CISH to go close to the area where it conducts the combing operation, despite the fact that it has been hampering the work at the institute. Even the wildlife experts who have been offering help to the department in safely trapping the tiger have been kept away from the spot. But ministerial visits, even the sources in the department agree, are difficult to keep off. "In such a situation like this, if anything goes amiss, it's the tiger which will be shot down," said one of the wildlife experts, wishing not to be quoted.

Glaring shortcomings noticed in tiger sanctuaries

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN Mar 30, 2012, 01.42AM IST NAGPUR: Under criticism for its passive role post-inauguration, regional office of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in Nagpur is now steadily coming up. Initially set up to look after 15 tiger reserves in four states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, the Nagpur office is at present handling more than 50% tiger reserves in the country. "Of the 41 tiger reserves in India, Nagpur is looking after 25 in 10 states," said Ravikiran Govekar, assistant inspector general (AIG). As there is no official posted in Guwahati regional office yet, the 10 tiger reserves in Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam are also being looked after by city office. Nagpur NTCA office was opened by then union environment minister Jairam Ramesh and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on April 27, 2011. The regional offices in Guwahati and Bengaluru were also opened during the same time. While opening office at Nagpur, Ramesh had promised that an inspector general (IG) would be in place along with ministerial staff of eight persons in three months but the staff has still not been appointed. "Some applications for IG's post have been received and screening process is on," said Govekar. However, he adds, lack of staff doesn't mean NTCA office here is dormant. Since July 2011, of the 25 reserves, Govekar has visited 17 and submitted evaluation reports to NTCA at Delhi. "It's very hectic and I'm out on official tours for almost 27 days in a month," says Govekar. As per norms, an AIG is required to make at least three supervisory visits in a year to each tiger reserve. The visits are basically to look into protection initiatives, surveillance, rate of wildlife crime, status of prey and predators, implementation of centrally sponsored scheme (CSS), staff position, relocation of villages, and monitor annual plan of operations (APO). Strategically, all problem reserves like Sahyadri in Maharashtra, Udanti and Indravati in Chhattisgarh and Similipal in Odisha were taken up. The visits have led to discovery of an array of good and bad management practices. During a visit to Sahyadri in October-November last, bauxite mining was observed just 800 metres from the reserve's boundary. There were two-wheelers moving inside the reserve. NTCA higher-ups have taken a serious note of these violations. Tiger reserve visits have no more remained joy tours and from the feedback of Nagpur office, NTCA at Delhi has been writing to chief wildlife wardens of the states about shortcomings and need to rectify them.

Tiger trapped in coffee estate, freed in forest

E.M. MANOJ The Hindu The released tiger bounds away into the Dottakulasi area of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo: V.D. Mohandas The five-year-old male had spread panic at Krishnagiri in Kerala's Wayanad district A five-year-old male tiger that spread panic at Krishnagiri, near Meenangadi in Kerala's Wayanad district, was trapped by Forest and Wildlife Department officials in a coffee plantation on Monday. It was described by officials as a rare event in the region. A team laid a trap on Saturday evening following reports of the predator having killed a domestic animal in a hamlet inside coffee plantations on the fringes of the Chethalayath forest range under the forest division a few days ago. The forest personnel, led by P. Dhaneshkumar, Divisional Forest Officer, South Wayanad Forest Division, put the remains of a wild boar, which had been killed by the animal two days ago, in the cage as bait. The animal walked into the trap around 4 a.m. and was at once shifted with the cage to the Kurichyad forest range under the Wayanad Wild Life Sanctuary (WWLS), nearly 35 km away, using a tractor. During the journey, officials sprayed water on the animal to protect it from the hot weather. It was released at Dottakulasi in the Vandikkadavu section at 11.30 a.m. under the supervision of top forest officials. One official told The Hindu after the operation that the animal might have come from the Kurichyad range. Sunilkumar, Warden, Wayanad Wild Life Sanctuary, said the area where the animal was released had an abundant prey population. A veterinarian examined the animal and declared it to be healthy, apart from an injury on its forehead. High tiger density Wayanad, which has a wildlife sanctuary, is one segment of a forest complex in the Western Ghats landscape that boasts a high tiger density. Nagarahole and Mudumalai are other parts of this unit. The National Tiger Conservation Authority estimated the tiger abundance in the contiguous zone covered by the three protected territories at 382 in 2010, up from 267 in 2006. At four tigers per hundred sq. km, this entire zone spanning three States has a high tiger density. In the context of human-animal conflicts, tiger biologists K. Ullas Karanth and Rajesh Gopal say in a review article titled “An ecology-based policy framework for human-tiger coexistence in India,” that given the pattern of human population densities and clumped distribution of tigers, the area affected is very small; conflict zones cover less than one per cent of the country's geographical area and an even smaller fraction of the population. Understanding the causative factors is therefore important. They also point out that livestock depredation by tigers (which prey on them due to a declining natural prey base) and the desire among the affected villagers to retaliate is exploited by poachers, who distribute traps and poison and make offers to buy body parts. In the case of Wayanad, the episode has ended in capture and re-release into the wild. The process of translocating captured tigers is not without its share of problems, the authors say in the article. They point out that the older cats may be unable to survive, some may suffer injury in the capturing process and become unfit for survival, while others may introduce violent competition with resident tigers in the relocated territory.