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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

There were 32 tiger deaths this year: Jayanthi Natarajan

As many as 32 tigers have died this year, even as latest official data showed an increase in the population estimates of the big cats. Of these, 18 were natural deaths, Environment and Forests Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said. Expressing concern over the endangered status of the tiger the world over, Ms. Natarajan on Tuesday said the Ministry was looking into the reasons for the deaths. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the first stocktaking meeting of the Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP), Ms. Natarajan said poaching was one of the reasons. Other reasons include man-animal conflict. New forest reserves Delivering the keynote address at the meet, she spoke about the establishment of new forest reserves to ensure a safe habitat for tigers. “We are in the process of establishing more tiger reserves. Based on 2010 assessment, a new tiger reserve — the Kawal Tiger Reserve in Andhra Pradesh — has been constituted. In-principle approval has been accorded for declaring the Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu as a tiger reserve,” she said. The government had launched the fourth phase of ‘Reserve Level Monitoring' to study the big cats' population and habitat on an annual basis. Almost one per cent of country's geographical area was conserved for tigers as their core/critical habitat. “India's commitment for saving the tiger is well-known. Wild tigers thrive in 17 of our States. We have the maximum number of tigers. ‘Project Tiger' was launched in 1973 with nine tiger reserves. Today, the coverage has increased to 41 reserves spread over all the 17 States,” she said. “The wild tiger continues to remain endangered the world over. Threats to the wild tiger and its habitat are due to several factors like poaching, illegal trade catering to a demand for the body parts and derivatives of the tiger, loss of habitat due to extractive industries, infrastructure and revenge killings,” she said. Adaptive management Ms. Natarajan favoured adaptive management to tackle country- and area-specific issues related to tiger conservation. Last year, the government increased its allocation up to Rs. 1,216.86 crore, especially to support the States for securing inviolate space for tigers, she said. The tiger reserves had been directed to raise a Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF); several new technologies were being used to safeguard the animal.

Sariska villagers protest relocation

Jaipur: Hundreds of people Tuesday blocked the main entrance of the Sariska tiger sanctuary in Rajasthan's Alwar district, protesting relocation of their villages falling within the reserve, officials said. The protestors did not allow the forest department officials to open the gates of the tiger reserve, leaving many tourists stranded and forcing hundreds of others to cancel their hotel and travel bookings. It is the second agitation by the villagers in the past two months. They had staged a week-long sit-in near the reserve in March. "The villagers are saying that the forest department had promised to meet some of their demands after the previous agitation. However, they say the demands were not fulfilled," a police officer told IANS. Sariska has about 28 villages which fall in the critical tiger area and need to be relocated to improve the habitat. People living in these villages mostly belong to pastoral tribes. There are about five tigers in the sanctuary at present and the forest department is planning to shift one more from Ranthambore National Park in Sawai Madhopur district. During 2004-05, the forest department and the state government faced all-round criticism over the disappearance of tigers from Sariska, once a tigers' den. A report produced in March 2005 by the Wildlife Institute of India confirmed that there were no tigers left in the Sariska reserve at all. Poaching was found to have wiped out the tigers from their once well known habitat. IANS

Suspicious visitor turns out to be ex-sarpanch

TNN | May 16, 2012, 02.35AM IST CHANDRAPUR: The high alert declared following alleged intrusion of two turbaned persons inside Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve on Monday has reportedly turned out to be a false alarm. The accused identified as Kamaljeet Singh and his aide was picked up during wee hours of Tuesday from Wahangaon village in Chimur tehsil. Forest officials had detained him on Tuesday for questioning. He was detained aty the TAAR Primary investigations have revealed that Kamaljeet is ex-sarpanch of Wahangaon and had no malicious intension in visiting TATR. Panic button was pressed and high alert was declared in TATR and nearby areas after some NGO activists visiting tiger reserve filed a complaint claiming suspicious movement of two bike-borne turbaned persons in Pandharpauni area on Monday morning. Kamaljeet had sought entry into TATR with his in-law Bhupendra Singh to visit Vitthal Masram in Palasgaon inside the tiger reserve in the afternoon. However, a tourist connected to an NGO intercepted them in Pandharpauni area. He first complained to the local forest guard, who in turn searched Kamaljeet and his aide, but couldn't find anything suspicious. Later the guard called the Khatoda gate and asked whether Kamaljeet has been authorized to enter the tiger reserve. After the gate keeper confirmed Kamaljeet having registered his name as visitor, he allowed him to leave. The accused duo exited the tiger reserve from Navegaon gate. Not satisfied, the complainant tourist filed a complaint at Moharli gate, while leaving the tiger reserve. Senior forest officers, who are taking no risk since Palasgaon tiger poaching incident, moved into action on receipt of the complaint. Immediately an alert was declared and search operations were launched to trace Kamaljeet and his aide with the help of police. Forest officials took the statements of complainant tourist and the forest guard who interacted with Kamaljeet. Even the entire Pandharpauni area was searched for jaw traps suspecting the move as poaching attempt during the night. By late night, whereabouts of Kamaljeet was traced to Wahangaon falling under Shegaon police station. A team of foresters from TATR picked Kamaljeet Singh and his aide, reportedly identified as Bhupendra Singh, and took them into their custody during wee hours of Tuesday. It is learnt that Kamaljeet Singh is ex-sarpanch and ex-president of tanta mukti samiti of village and has close connections with local MLA. However, he had been reported to be involved in some forest related crimes few years back. CCF of TATR Vinaykumar Sinha and other officials could not be reached on phone for their comment on matter.

Red alert in Maharashtra as poachers get order for 25 tigers

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | May 16, 2012, 01.44AM IST NAGPUR: With tiger poachers from the Bahelia community of Katni in Madhya Pradesh planning to strike it rich in Maharashtra, specially in Vidarbha region, the state government has sounded a red alert. "Intelligence reports say that Bahelia gangs have been ordered to kill 25 tigers for their skins. These gangs have also been paid an advance of Rs 40 lakh," Praveen Pardeshi, state principal secretary (forests), told TOI. Until last year, in international markets, a tiger skin would fetch $20,000, which is over a crore of rupees at today's rates. Their body parts like nails, hair, bones are sold at the rate of $1200 per kg which converts to about Rs 6.50 lakhs. Bahelias are known for killing tigers with the help of metal traps. Experts say members from this community simultaneously operate at multiple locations at a given time anywhere in the country and are ruthless in their approach. Interestingly, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau's (WCCB) headquarter in Delhi, which should be playing a proactive role in such matters, is unaware about the alert. M Maranko, WCCB's regional deputy director based in Mumbai, said the regional office is not empowered to issue such alerts but admitted that bureau's Delhi officials are investigating the tiger poaching case that occurred on April 26 in Palasgaon on the periphery of the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve ( TATR) in Chandrapur district. On the contrary, SB Negi, the joint director of WCCB said from Delhi that no alert has been sounded from "our office". "If the state government seeks help we are ready to probe the case," Negi said. This brings to fore the indifferent attitude of the WCCB towards poaching of tigers. Meanwhile, Pardeshi has put on alert all the territorial and wildlife wing officials in the state directing them to monitor all water holes daily. He has also asked them to take help of volunteers and wildlife buffs. The range forest officers (RFOs) have been asked to meet all police patils and joint forest management committee (JFMC) members in fringe villages of forests to seek information. Forest officials have also been asked to display posters in every village in Chandrapur district announcing awards of Rs 5,000 to anyone giving information leading to seizure of steel traps and poisoning. Officials have been told to move in autorickshaws to different villages to publicize the award campaign. In another stringent move, forest guards and foresters have been directed not to go on leave till June 15. The additional principal chief conservators of forests (APCCF) have been asked to obtain daily visit and digital image of guards visiting all catalogued water holes that are to be maintained. Poaching activity has been at its peak during the past three years. Since 2008, at least half a dozen tigresses have gone missing from the Tadoba landscape, leaving cubs orphaned and destined to a life in cages. Some cubs died due to hunger as they were unable to hunt. The Amravati-based Satpuda Foundation had in 2008 urged the state government to track movements of Bahelias around tiger habitats in Vidarbha but no action was taken by both police and forest departments. "The wildlife wing should use past wildlife crime data base to design an effective strategy to nail the culprits and also avoid repeat of such incidents in the future," said Kishor Rithe, member of the National Board for Wild Life (NBWL).

Forrest officials beaten up by mining mafia in Ranthambore

TNN | May 16, 2012, 02.35AM IST JAIPUR: At a time when the state has embarked on a special campaign against illegal mining in the state, there is little that is stopping the mafia from going ahead with their activities even in a sacrosanct place like Ranthambore tiger reserve. The government has undertaken a two-month special drive against illegal mining in the state from April 23. A forest ranger and a forester were recently beaten up by the illegal mining mafia in the core area of the reserve. The duo were halted by a group of villagers and beaten with sticks. They somehow managed to come out of the clutches of the mafia. According to sources, Baler range officer Rajendra Singh Chaudhary and forester Bhratlal Verma visited the area after receiving a tip off on illegal mining activities. "After reaching the area they found rampant illegal mining in the zone. The area is part of the reserve and falls in the critical tiger habitat. The officers seized two tractors that had been laden with stones and were on their way through the highway when they were halted by a group of villagers," said the sources. "The villagers blocked their way with the help of three bikes and tractors. Thereafter, the officers were beaten with sticks and their uniforms were torn. The officers received injuries in their shoulder and arms and the two seized tractors were taken away from their possession," one of the sources added. An FIR has been lodged in this regard at the Bhairanda Kala police station. When contacted, officers of the forest department confirmed the incident. However, they said that mining activities have been stopped at the reserve. "We have put an end to all mining activities in the reserve with the help of police and the district administration but sometimes these kinds of activities do take place and we are helpless," they said. Illegal mining in and around the reserve has been a menace for the forest and the tiger populace in it. Areas such as Uliyana, Badhlav, Mohanpur Padli, Vasso, Bhuri Pahadi, Sukhwas Chhan, Sanwata and Bhernwanda Khurd, located in the core area of the reserve, used to be at the centre of such activities in the past. According to conservation biologist Dharmendra Khandal of Tiger Watch, "The Baler range is very important for future tiger population in Ranthambhore. If we want the existing cubs to survive we have to support the forest staff and motivate them to work fearlessly on ground."

Maha mulls involving locals to avoid tiger-human conflict in

PTI | 02:05 PM,May 15,2012 buffer zones Mumbai, May 15 (PTI) With an intention to avoid tiger-human conflict in buffer zones outside tiger reserves, the Maharashtra government has decided to involve locals in having a positive stake in wildlife conservation. Officials in the Forest department said because of the spillover of tigers outside the reserves, the government wants to cut down involvement of poachers. "Many times poachers are helped by locals," sources said. There are about 100 tigers outside the reserves without protection and efforts are on to give ownership of the Tiger reserves to the locals. "Villagers in Tadoba run the eco tourist routes. The guards and guide should be appointed from among the locals and the tourists pay the fees directly to them. The fees of local youth working as a tourist guide have been hiked from Rs 100 to Rs 200," sources said. The 79 villages in the buffer zone around tiger reserves in the state are being provided 75 per cent subsidised cooking and biogas for two years. "About 80-90 per cent of the families use fuel, wood. There are about 2,000 families in the 79 villages in Tadoba buffer zone," officials said. Sources said villagers are being encouraged to get their cattle stall-fed instead of leaving them for grazing outside the park. Similarly, compensation for cattle kills is being hiked.

Over thirty tigers dead in more than four months: Govt

PTI | 05:05 PM,May 15,2012 New Delhi, May 15 (PTI) Notwithstanding efforts by the government to conserve tigers, as many as 32 big cats have died in the country in the last over four months, even as the latest official data showed an increasing trend in the national animals population estimates. Expressing concern over the endangered status of the tiger all over the world, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan today said as many as 32 tigers have died this year out of which 18 were natural deaths. "A total of 32 tigers have died this year. 18 were natural deaths and we are constantly looking into the reasons for it," Natarajan told reporters on the sidelines of First Stocktaking Meeting of Global Tiger Recovery Programs (GTRP). She was asked about the number of national animals which died or were killed by poachers this year. Meanwhile, in written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, the Minister informed a total of 14 tigers were poached till May 2012. "Poaching is one of the reasons. Other reasons such as man-animal conflict, we are already addressing those issues," she told reporters. Informing the House on the increasing trend of tiger population, she said, "The tiger population has shown an increasing trend with a population estimate of 1706, as compared to the last country level estimation in 2006, with an estimate of 1411." Delivering her key note address in the first stocktaking meeting of GRTP, Natarajan also spoke about the new forest reserves being established by the government to ensure a safe habitat for the tiger. "We are in the process of establishing more tiger reserves. Based on 2010 assessment, a new tiger reserve-Kawal Tiger Reserve at Andhra Pradesh- has been constituted. Further, in-principle approval has been accorded for declaring the Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu as a tiger reserve," she said.

On the scent of a tiger

May 15, 2012, DHNS: WILDLIFE The Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary has good prey density and could serve as the next tiger reserve in Karnataka. A team of experts has found several prey species,scats, pug marks and other indications of tigers in the sanctuary, reports Subhash Chandra N S With the State Forest Department worried about the safety of the spillover population of Nagarhole’s tigers, the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary adjacent to it seems to be the answer to the problems at Nagarhole. Though smaller, the Brahmagiri sanctuary has a sizeable population of big cats. With good prey density, it is now tipped to be another tiger reserve in the State. The Nagarhole National Park and Tiger Reserve is at the foothills of the Western Ghats and spreads towards the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Kodagu district, closer to the Kerala border. Located in the Western Ghats, the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary spreads over 181 sq km with two ranges, the Srimangala and Makoota Wildlife Range. Spread over 129 sq km of dense forest, Srimangala is the largest range with rich wildlife and the potential to become another tiger reserve in the State. The Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary is connected to Aralum Wildlife Sanctuary of Kerala along the southern border, while the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is on the south. The wildlife sanctuary has reported frequent tiger sightings, direct and indirect. It is presently believed to be home to five-six tigers. The evergreen region has a good prey density with a sizeable population of sambar, the tiger’s favourite food. Camera traps in the forest range also point to the presence of tigers in the sanctuary. According to Range Forest Officer Srinivasa Nayak, a camera obtained from the Indian Institute of Science was installed in the Srimangala Wildlife Range in January this year, when a tiger from the Nagarhole National Park strayed out. “We were able to camera trap two tigers,” he said. Nayak, entrusted with the task of tracking the tiger that strayed out of the Nagarhole National Park, says he could not track the tiger using a camera trap. He then requested his higher-ups to shift the camera to his range, which led to the surprising discovery. Apart from tigers, the camera has also captured leopard, endangered Nilgiri martin, mouse deer and barking deer. The region, according to former dean of Wildlife Institute of India A J T John Singh, is also home to Nilgiri langur and lion-tailed macaque. Tracking the tiger A team of experts comprising former principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden (PCCF) B K Singh, John Singh and others, found several prey species and scats, pug marks and other marks of tigers in the sanctuary. According to B K Singh, “The forest range is a good habitat with flora that helps the survival of herbivores, which, in turn supports bigger carnivores like leopards and tigers. It can definitely be a future hub for tiger conservation.” According to wildlife expert Sanjay Gubbi, Brahmagiri is an evergreen habitat interspersed with grasslands and has potential to hold good densities of prey and predators. “It holds good numbers of gaur and sambar, the principal prey for tigers in the area. It is part of the larger forest complex and is connected to Nagarhole Tiger Reserve through Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Tirunelli and Hilldale Reserved Forests in Kerala,” he said. Pointing out that the postmortem conducted following complaints of cattle lifting and killing also establishes the presence of a sizeable population of tigers, he says, “When everyone talks of source-sink tiger populations, it is important to ensure connectivity between these sites. A classic example is the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve and Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary. Though Brahmagiri has all the characteristics to act as an excellent sink site and also provide connectivity to other protected areas to its north, an important point has to be first tackled. The small gap between Nagarhole and Brahmagiri has to be connected.” Former PCCF Singh adds, “There are two coffee estates - Huvinakadu and Faith coffee estates - on the eastern parts of the sanctuary. Experts and NGOs are suggesting to us to acquire them to provide contiguity. The south-eastern border of the sanctuary has the Tholapatti range of Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary; on the east, it is connected to Mysore Elephant Reserve and on the west, it is connected to Talacauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and Pushapgiri Wildlife Sanctuary. Building this connectivity will ensure that tigers, elephants and other animals are connected to northern Western Ghats in Karnataka. If this critical issue is not addressed now, the forests of the Western Ghats will be permanently disconnected.