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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Honey badger, flying squirrels sighted around Gateway to Tiger Land

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | May 9, 2012, 02.11AM IST NAGPUR: The 24-hour machan (waterhole) census conducted in tiger reserves, sanctuaries and national parks on May 6, the Buddha Pournima day, not only delighted wildlife buffs but also revealed hidden wildlife treasure in Vidarbha's rich forests. Sighting of rare animals like mouse deer in Navegaon National Park and, honey badger (chaandi aswal) and flying squirrels in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) were reported. TATR is known for its tigers. It lived up it as 40 tigers, including cubs, and 12 leopard sightings were reported from its three ranges - Kolsa, Moharli and Tadoba. On the same day last year, sighting of 39 tigers, 15 leopards and 191 bears was recorded. Although, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) doesn't approve the waterhole census, terming it as unscientific, the number of sightings is an indicator of animal density in the particular area. Of the 1,707 tiger estimated to be in India, 169 are in Maharashtra. In a few months, tiger numbers of each reserve will be announced. After the withdrawal of machan census in 2007, barring TATR no park allowed volunteers. It was only after the recent Palsagaon incident when a tiger was killed and another got entangled in a metal trap, panic buttons were pressed by the forest department and NGOs were allowed to take part. TATR continued to be the most-sought destination by wildlife buffs with 144 volunteers being allowed to take watch on 138 machans. In Tadoba range, this time 11 tigers, 2 leopards and 19 sloth bears were sighted. Sarang Mishrikotkar, a student, was lucky enough to sight two honey badgers. "I also saw a mother sloth bear carried her 2 offsprings on her back to quench its thirst and a leopard secretly crouched near the waterhole waiting for its prey to come closer," said Sarang. Dr Swati Kulkarni (three of the four in Pandharpaoni, Tadoba range) and Anuradha Dorlikar (Telia female with four cubs, Moharli range) were among the lucky ones to spot tigers. "I was lucky to sight 15 sloth bears including 4 cubs from my Dewada road machan. A bear even tried to climb our machan at 11.30pm," said Rohan Vinkey of Cobra Adventure and Nature Club, Yavatmal. A forest guard at Yenbodi machan in Tadoba too had a similar shock when a tiger cub attempted to make its way up. The Pench tiger reserve and the newly declared Mansinghdeo wildlife sanctuary adjoining Pench emerged dark horses with 12 tiger and 8 leopard sightings. Three tiger sightings were also reported in Tipeshwar sanctuary in Yavatmal. GK Vashisht, assistant conservator of forests (ACF) for Pench, said 8 tiger sightings were recorded in East Pench followed by 2 in West. He added that 2 tiger sightings were recorded in Mansingdeo's Chorbahuli range near Pench and a leopard sighting in Saleghat. In Bor sanctuary, while rains played spoilsport, Navegaon, New Navegaon National Park, Nagzira and New Nagzira sanctuaries showed up good herbivore and carnivore sightings. Record reveals that in Navegaon 6 leopards, 85 sloth bears, 311 bisons, 36 sambars, 30 chitals, 151 wild boars and 272 nilgais were sighted. Interestingly, in New Navegaon park, the sightings included 17 leopards, 5 sloth bears, 46 bisons, 17 sambars, 19 wolfs and a rare mouse deer besides 13 boars. In Nagzira, five tiger sightings were reported. In New Nagzira (Umarzari), a tiger was sighted besides, 7 leopards, 28 bisons and 12 sloth bears. There could be record of more animals as reports of sightings from territorial areas were still awaited. In Melghat, no volunteers were allowed. "As time was scarce, we couldn't revamp our machans. The reports of sightings are still awaited," said VM Godbole, deputy conservator of forests (wildlife), Akot. There was resentment among volunteers in Tadoba as several machans were not up to the mark and at many places volunteers were shifted late. To this Sinha says, "We did not want make new machans by cutting tree branches." On the flip side, the volunteers were provided food and water by the forest staff.

Tiger reserve expansion plan goes awry

Subhash Chandra N S, Bangalore, May 8, 2012, DHNS : Experts say a bigger area will help set up anti-poaching camps, aid patrolling The delay in acquiring land on the northern fringes of the Nagarahole National Park has cost the tiger population dear. The demarcation boundary in Doddaharave, between Periyapatna and Kushalnagar range in the north of Nagarahole, has turned into a favourite destination for poachers. According to Forest Department statistics, eight instances of poaching had been reported from the area since January 2009. Sanjay Gubbi, a wildlife expert and a member of the State Board of Wildlife, had suggested acquisition of Anechaukur, Devmachi, Mauvkal and other reserved forests on the northern border of the Park. The proposal made by the Forest department in this regard in 2008 was seen as a long-term solution to consolidate the tiger habitats and expand the tiger reserve by about 20 per cent. The proposal, approved by Dilip Kumar, the then principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden, would have seen the light of day had there been no political pressure or interference from the timber lobby. It is learnt that the proposal was shelved to ensure indiscriminate timber extraction in the area. Declared reserved forests way back in 1891 during the colonial era, these areas have the potential of serving as “sink sites” if included to the tiger reserve. “Adding them to the tiger reserve will facilitate setting up of anti-poaching camps and aid regular patrolling,” Gubbi told Deccan Herald. Poaching widespread There have been several instances of poaching on the northern fringes of Nagarahole. On August 27, 2011, Periyapatna police seized tiger bones, six chital antlers and four chital pelts. Venkatappa, the man wanted in the case, had been at large while Swamy, his arrested associate, had confessed to poaching tigers in the Doddaharave forests. The matter is so serious that B K Singh, former PCCF, has sought an explanation from the assistant conservator of forests and range forest officers of Periyapatna and Kushalnagar.

Mhadei tiger reserve to have 28 villages on the run

May 9, 2012 TEAM HERALD PANJIM: Around 28 villages alone from Mhadei wildlife sanctuary will have to be relocated, if state government goes ahead with its proposal of having tiger reserve there. The Forest department has decided to collect data required to push the proposal for tiger reserve along the wildlife corridor. Renowned environmentalist Nirmal Kulkarni’s help has been engaged by the Forest department to lay camera trap and document the presence of tiger in the wildlife sanctuaries especially in Mhadei region. The department is also contemplating to take help of NGOs working in Ranathambore Tiger Reserve. Additional Principle Chief Conservator of Forest (APCCF) Richard D’Souza said that he will submit a proposal for having a tiger reserve, if department gets data to suffice it. D’Souza admitted that there are tigers along the corridor, which has been proved in the census done in last few years. The APCCF said that most of the villages are on the fringe area of the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary. But as per the data provided to the High Court in a petition filed by former Health Minister Vishwajit Rane seeking denotification of Mhadei area as a wildlife sanctuary, there are 28 such villages inhabited by several thousand people. D’Souza said that the department will have to go for relocation package, if it carries ahead idea of tiger reserve. Forest department has been struggling for decades together in rehabilitating the people living in the wildlife sanctuaries. Environmentalists in the state have been pressing for the declaration of Mhadei wildlife sanctuary as a tiger reserve. The suspicions were raised that the Forest department was averse to declare it as a reserve to protect interest of the mining industry. The animal census held in 2002 had counted presence of four tigers in the state based on pugmarks and other related signs of the wild beast. Later the tiger sightings were reported in 1995, which continued till date. Meanwhile, D’Souza made it clear that whether there is reserve or not, the mines will not be allowed in the wildlife sanctuaries at any cost. He said that once buffer zone committees submit their report, almost 44 mining leases will have to shut their operation, further giving no scope for new mining.