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Monday, April 30, 2012

Govt to release secret funds, launch Special Tiger Protection Force

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Apr 30, 2012, 01.20AM IST NAGPUR: Stung by the poaching of a tiger in a jaw trap in Palasgaon range in the buffer zone of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), the state government has announced a host of measures, including release of secret funds to develop intelligence network and appointment of forest guards under Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF). "The incident is extremely tragic as well as an eye-opener after the electrocution of two tigers in the recent past in Tadoba landscape," said Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary (forests). He said a red alert has been sounded around Tadoba, Melghat, Bor, Nagzira and Navegaon. After discussions with National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and senior forest officials, preventive steps to trace more traps in the periphery of these PAs have been announced. Directions have been issued to the staff to keep track of all water holes, particularly on the periphery of protected areas for traps on a daily basis. "Nagzira and Bor also need to be on high alert, with daily scanning of every waterhole and keeping track of tigers outside the parks," Pardeshi said. As per the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), the latest poaching may be the handiwork of the gang involved in poaching near Tadoba in 2010. The pictures of those two culprits are already available with the forest department and Nitin Desai, Central India director of WPSI. Pardeshi has also directed recruitment of 90 forest guards under Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) approved by the government for TATR. These guards will be put under the field director and posted in buffer zone for patrolling. The money for the secret fund will be released this week and announcement of awards for information leading to arrest or capture of contraband articles will be made on radio, bus stations, railway stations and village chavdies. Pardeshi also spoke to inspector general of police (IGP), Nagpur, and superintendent of police, Chandrapur. They are on high alert to capture and trace the suspects. Wildlife experts said that the system of monitoring waterholes twice daily has not been followed and needs to be strictly monitored and documented. Such poaching incidents are possible only during summer in landscapes of tiger reserves. However, the field staff come to know about it after several days. Therefore, divisional forest officials (DFOs) have been told to alert field staff on wireless immediately. In the next two days, officials have been told to meet staff and enforce various protocols of protection camps, including group patrol, daily monitoring of water holes, reaching out to local villagers for getting information of outsiders, enhanced frisking of strangers as well as villagers found in unusual locations, maintenance of diary by guards etc. At the same time, officials have been told not to press the panic button. It is being described as an exercise to boost confidence and vigilance level of the field staff, they were told. They have been further asked to ensure that pro forma of monitoring waterholes is regularly submitted by guards.

Community based eco-tourism, a success story

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT K. Vijayanandan, Deputy Director and Wildlife Warden of Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, speaking at the Enviro Meet organised by Osai, an NGO, in the city on Sunday. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan Parambikulam Tiger Reserve has been able to make rapid strides in initiatives relating to eco-tourism as well improve forest management through community based eco-tourism, said K. Vijayanandan, Deputy Director and Wildlife Warden of Parambikulam Tiger Reserve (PTR). He was speaking on the topic “Tribal Development through community based eco-tourism - Parambikulam Experience” at the Enviro Meet organised by Osai – Voice for Nature, an NGO. Mr. Vijayanandan said that Parambikulam Tiger Reserve has many firsts to its credit, made possible through the participation of tribal people. Being a most protected forest area, the reserve has nearly five endemic flora varieties, he said. Ever since the Joint Forest and Participatory Management was introduced, the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve has not witnessed even a single incident of poaching since 2004 and since 2007 there had not been a single incident of forest fire. Employment opportunity for 234 tribal people, benefitting over 260 families, has resulted in the reserve becoming the first domestic cattle-free protected forest area. Tribal people have become part of the Social Tiger Protection Force and are effectively combating forest and wildlife-related offences. There are seven eco-development committees serving the restricted and regulated eco-tourism needs and looking after the livelihood of tribal people. There are 13 eco-tourism packages being made available to tourists by the Department through tribal people. Plastic waste has reduced tremendously and remaining waste are recycled and made into key chains embedded with PTR related images and slogans. They are sold as souvenir for the tourists. The tourism is regulated carefully avoiding disturbance to wildlife by banning the entry of private vehicles. Four new vehicles with 18 seats each have been inducted for taking the tourists around the reserve. Referring to the farming activity in Poopara hamlet by the tribal people, Mr.Vijayanandan said that banana cultivation earlier led to human – animal conflict. Now, with inputs from Forest Department, the tribal people have switched over to ginger, coffee, pepper and turmeric cultivation, which are not sought after by wild animals. Organic certification and good price has turned them a happy lot today, he added. REVENUE Mr. Vijayanandan said that the PTR recorded revenue of Rs. 1.25 crore during 2009-10 and it became Rs. 1.86 crore in 2010-2011 and in 2011-2012 it had risen to Rs. 2.45 crore. Of the revenue generated during the last year, Rs. 85 lakh was disbursed as salary to tribal people employed by the Forest Department, while Rs. 90 lakh was spent towards maintenance and upkeep. He said that with eco-tourism initiatives aided by tribal people, the tiger reserve has become almost self-sufficient. During the previous fiscal, a total of 47,500 tourists had visited the tiger reserve, he said. Referring to the ongoing problem of tree cutting in Coimbatore, Mr. Vijayanandan said that the 245-year-old Connemara teak, the oldest in the entire country, has so far benefitted the earth to a tune of Rs. 8 crore in terms of oxygen generation. He said that trees need to be looked at for the ecological value and the benefits it gives to humanity. On involving the generations of tomorrow towards the task of conservation and inculcating the ability to appreciate nature, Mr. Vijayanandan said that during 2011-2012, as many as 60 nature camps benefitting 2,250 students were held providing free food and accommodation. C.R. Jayaprakash, Assistant Professor of PSG College of Arts and Science, presided over the function and K. Kalidasan, president of Osai, took part.

Rs 10,000 reward for info on tiger poachers

TNN | Apr 30, 2012, 01.29AM IST CHANDRAPUR: The Chandrapur forest department and NGO Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) have announced separate cash prizes of Rs 10,000 each for any information about the poachers responsible for death of tigers in Palasgaon range. WPSI started distributing pamphlets seeking information on poachers in rural areas on Sunday, while the forest department would start a similar campaign on Monday. Both agencies have sought information about the gang of poachers or any individual having involvement in poaching of tigers in Palasgaon range with the help of jaw traps. Any person giving information about poachers would get a prize of Rs 10,000 cash and his name will be kept secret, forest department and WPSI have assured. Those having information can contact DCF P Kalyankumar (9890954572) and ACF Raju Dhabekar (9422820770) to give information to forest department. Similarly, WPSI's Central India director Nitin Desai (9422803037) can be contacted to reveal any information about poachers. Meanwhile, the forest department has stepped up search operations for poacher gangs in the district. Assistant director of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) Shaik Karimulla along with his associate Madivanan too have arrived in Chandrapur to investigate and assist in the case. "We are here as the matter is related to professional poaching. Death of a tiger and injury to other one is unfortunate," said Karimulla. Sources claimed that the forest department suspects the involvement of hard-core poacher Keru Rajgond and his cousin Ajit alias Rajkumar in the case. Intelligence information of his presence in Chandrapur and Gadchiroli around two months back has led to the suspicions. Chandrapur police had arrested Keru and Ajit with assistance of WPSI here in November in connection with recovery of tiger skins and bones in Sampark Kranti Express in Nagpur. The accused duo was handed over to CBI, which was investigating the case. But both disappeared once they were given bail by the court, nine months after staying in jail under MCR.

Valparai tiger loses battle

TNN Apr 29, 2012, 04.16AM IST COIMBATORE: The tiger that entered a homestead in Valparai and got gored by a cow died on Saturday morning. A postmortem on Saturday evening linked its death to a bad meal the big cat had a few hours before it went to retrieve the remains of a previous kill it left behind two days ago in the cowshed. The tiger, according to the postmortem report, had eaten a porcupine hours before attacking the cow. Quills of the porcupine had pierced the tiger's heart and intestine. The tiger breathed its last at around 8am on Saturday inside the cage where it was kept after given the tranquilizing shot late Friday evening, according to Manampallai forest ranger officer Arokiaraj Xavier. The medicines administered by veterinarian Dr N Kalaivanan, who had come from Mudumalai National Park in the Nilgiris on Friday evening to tranquilize the tiger, could not save the 10-year-old animal. The attack of the cow and the internal injuries it suffered after eating the porcupine had left the tiger weak. Throughout the day, the animal was confined to the cowshed of R Gnanasekaran, a resident of Periyar Nagar in Valparai. The absence of a vet with expertise in the use of tranquilizers locally had delayed officials from providing proper treatment to the animal. Forest officials did not dare to go anywhere near the injured animal to provide food, water or medicines fearing retaliation. The aged animal, officials, said could not fight off the fatigue and the injuries. At 1.30pm on Saturday, Kalaivanan returned to conduct the autopsy in the Manampally Forest Range Office premises in the presence of senior forest officials, World Wide Fund For Nature representatives Dr Ajay and Mohanraj and Valparai police inspector M Subramanian. The autopsy revealed that one of the legs of the tiger was damaged in the attack by the cow. Its nails were broken and blood stains found on the nail beds. There was a deep cut on the stomach which was caused by the sharp quills of the porcupine. There were numerous cysts in the intestine and the lungs too were damaged. Two quills had pierced its heart. According to Kalaivanan, the tiger would have hunted and eaten a porcupine before moving to Gnanasekaran's property. The tiger was cremated at a spot close to Meenparai on the way to Top Slip in the presence of a large crowd. Meanwhile, forest officials assured locals that they would take up the request to station a vet with expertise in tranquilizing animals in Anamalai Tiger Reserve, which includes the forests in and around Valparai. Residents of Valparai are prone to frequent attacks by elephants and leopards.

Tiger found dead

Hunsur, (Mysore dist), April 29 2012, DHNS: A male tiger, about five years old, was found dead with severe injuries in Nagarahole National Park on Sunday morning. The incident came to light during the routine beat of the forest staff. It is suspected that two male tigers had fought near Gadde Hadi in Nagarahole range on Saturday, leading to the death of one of them, said Nagarahole Conservator of Forests Vijay Ranjan Singh. There are deep injury marks on the dead tiger, which are believed to be inflicted by another tiger, he added. The tiger succumbed to the injuries. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests B K Singh and Field Director of Project Tiger B J Hosmath visited the spot. Veterinary Officer Dr Umashankar conducted the postmortem.

Injured tiger brought to Nagpur for treatment

Vijay Pinjarkar & Mazhar Ali, TNN | Apr 29, 2012, 02.05AM IST NAGPUR/CHANDRAPUR: The full-grown tiger that got injured in jaw traps set by poachers and was rescued on Friday was brought to Nagpur for treatment on Saturday at 11am. A sub-adult tiger had died in the same incident that took place at a water hole in the Palasgaon range on the outskirts of Tadoba and Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Chandrapur district. Doctors from the Government Veterinary College - NP Dakshinkar, Shirish Upadhye and Gautam Bhojane - are supervising the treatment. Medication has been started to ensure that gangrene doesn't set in on the tiger's injured left paw. "The further course will be decided after x-ray and operation if any will be done only on Monday," said sources involved in the rescue. Veterinary doctor PD Kadukar, who supervised the rescue and initial medication, claimed that the injury is serious. "There's swelling on the paw and the tiger has difficulty in standing," he said, adding that the tiger has been under tremendous strain for almost 18 hours while its leg was caught in jaw trap. "It could have struggled hard to release his paw, which only worsened its injury," Kadukar added. Earlier during the day, National Tiger Conservation Authority member-secretary Rajesh Gopal visited the spot. Terming the incident as unfortunate, he instructed forest officials to enhance surveillance and strengthen intelligence gathering to prevent such incidents. He held meetings with APCCF (wildlife) AK Saxena and TATR CCF Vinay Kumar Sinha in Chimur. "Gopal revealed some intelligence information he had regarding poaching and asked for enhancement of vigilance," said Sinha. Saxena said that Gopal had called for strengthening of surveillance in jungles, particularly at vulnerable spots. "He claimed similar poaching attempts were happening elsewhere in the country. He stressed on complete scanning of all waterholes in forests of Chandrapur to check presence of similar traps at other places," said Saxena. State PCCF (wildlife) SWH Naqvi commended the forest staff for the quick detection. "It was possible only because Phase IV of the census is on. It's sad that one tiger is dead," he said. "We will start group patrolling during the monsoon season." He said it's too early to talk about the injured tiger's release. "Should it be radio-collared and where should it be released will be decided in consultation with NTCA and other experts," said Naqvi. "Moreover, we will have to see how quickly the tiger will recover from its trauma and injuries." Following the success of a tigress being released with a radio collar in November last year, the forest department may repeat the experiment with the current injured tiger. "Radio collaring is a possibility," said Naqvi. After the tiger was brought to the Forest Department's premises in Seminary Hills from Chandrapur, it took nearly three hours and 20 people to lower the cage. The forest officials didn't seem ready with any plans. Only after the cage was lowered was a 500 sq ft area enclosure created with a white cloth. A cooler has been kept near the cage. The tiger is readily lapping up a lot of water but was yet to touch the mutton pieces that it's being fed when reports last came in.

Watching Machli, the Tiger Queen of yore…

SUNNY SEBASTIAN Machli, once the reigning carnivore in the entire Ranthambhore is a toothless tiger now. She needs feeding. The photograph was taken by Bina Kak, Rajasthan Minister for Forest and Environment The Queen Mother of the tiger dynasty is now in her sunset days. It may be a painful fact to accept but Machli, the tigress that reigned supreme in the woods of Ranthambhore for over a decade and produced numerous litter, is now a toothless tigress. Not that Machli, now 17 years old, has lost all her grace. The animal, though without most of her canines, still remains a magnificent creature, with her attractive fur and elegant looks intact. Age has not withered her. Perhaps only when she moves, does the infirmity show. Machli is a celebrated tigress — she was the subject of “Tiger Queen” a 50- minute film by ace cameraman Nalla Muthu which was shown in National Geography and Animal Planet channels a few years back. Continuing with the tiger dynasty trail, Nalla Muthu followed Machli's daughter Bhagani (T-18) to the Sariska Tiger Reserve where she was shifted to from the Ranthambhore National Park in July 2008 as part of a project to revive the extinct tiger population there. Nalla Muthu's encounters with Bhagani have led to the making of the impressive wildlife film, Tiger Dynasty. Tiger Queen presented Machli as the “most dominant carnivore of Ranthambhore” during her heyday. As Machli had displaced her mother to be the reigning queen of the woods, her daughter, a doughty female with the code name T-17, did the same to Machli too some years back. Now every animal in the forest is seemingly doing the same to a toothless Machli. Rajasthan Minister for Environment and Forests Bina Kak, who was in the Ranthambhore National Park recently, watched her, talked to her (that is what the Minister told The Hindu!!!) and clicked her pictures. That surely gave her some insights into the lives of tigers in the wild when they are aged. “All her canines are gone. She has difficulty in chewing. Now she survives on the baits [domestic animals tied to a tree or post] provided on a regular basis by the staff of the Forest Department,” Ms. Kak told The Hindu on her return. “At times, even the bait kept for her is snatched away by other tigers — like T-24 and T-25. Machli is old. She needs protection now,” Ms. Kak, observed. This may be defying the law of the jungle in which only the fittest survive. “A dedicated team is looking after her in Ranthambhore. There is a viewpoint in conservation circles that the animal should be allowed to die a natural death. But with Machli, with a tigress they all knew so intimately, they say, they cannot do that,” Ms. Kak said. Yet, in her difficult days also, Machli's survival instincts are helping her. “She is a clever female. Once she kills the calf that is tied as bait, she immediately drags it across a stream and hides it on the other side of the bank. This way the other animals would not follow the scent and snatch the prey from her,” Ms. Kak explained. “I saw it at least three times. I am sure she is doing it purposely to evade the rest of the predators and scavengers,” Ms. Kak asserted.

Tiger conservation body member calls for heightened surveillance to prevent poaching

TNN | Apr 29, 2012, 01.54AM IST CHANDRAPUR: National Tiger Conservation Authority member-secretary Rajesh Gopal visited the tiger poaching site at Palasgaon range on Saturday. Terming the incident as unfortunate, he instructed officials to enhance surveillance and strengthen intelligence gathering to prevent such incidents in the future. A sub-adult tiger died while a full-grown one was injured after getting stuck in traps laid by poachers on Thursday. Gopal was received by APCCF (wildlife) AK Saxena and CCF, TATR, Vinaykumar Sinha in Chimur. After inspection of the site, Gopal also held a meeting with forest department officials. "Gopal revealed some intelligence information he had regarding poaching and asked for enhancement of vigilance," said Sinha. Saxena claimed that Gopal had called for strengthening of surveillance in jungles, particularly at vulnerable spots. "He claimed similar poaching attempts were happening elsewhere in the country. He stressed on complete scanning of all waterholes in forests of Chandrapur to check presence of similar traps at other places," Saxena said. He said that the forest department has already initiated scanning of all waterholes as such places are most vulnerable spots during summer. "We will ensure complete surveillance of waterholes during summer. Where there is lesser manpower, additional forest labourers will be deployed for protection to check such incidents," he said. He denied the possibility of initiating action against anybody for failure of protection in this case. At the poaching site, Gopal inspected the places and the waterhole where poachers had laid the trap. He also took stock of efforts being taken to track the poachers responsible for laying traps. NGO activist Bandu Dhotre gave demonstration of operation of jaw traps used for poaching to Rajesh Gopal. Gopal also visited proposed rehabilitation site for TATR's village Navegaon (Ramdegi) in Chimur tehsil on his way back to Nagpur. He, however, did not respond to phone calls made for his comment.