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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ranthambore, Sariska buffer zones notified

Rachna Singh, TNN | Jul 10, 2012, 04.22AM IST A tiger rests in a pond ahead of the Census of Wild Animals, at the Ranthambore National Park. JAIPUR: The forest department has finally notified the buffer zones of Sariska Tiger Reserve and Ranthambhore National Park. The notification of buffer zones would help regulate commercialization of revenue land and create a better habitat for the big cat. As per the notification issued under Wildlife (Protection) Act, a 298 sq km of buffer area has been added to the Ranthambore park which is spread over approximately 400 sq km. Similarly, 392 sq km buffer area has been added to the STR, which is spread over 800 sq km. "While the critical tiger habitat was notified earlier, the buffer zones had to be identified and notified for Project Tiger. The consent of villagers has been taken before earmarking the buffer zones as some land also happens to be revenue land. With this we would be able to focus on creating a congenial habitat for the tiger by adding the buffer zone, peripheral to the critical tiger habitat," said A C Choubey, chief wildlife warden, Rajasthan. The tiger reserves are constituted on a 'core-buffer' strategy. The core area is kept free of biotic disturbances and forestry operations, where collection of minor forest produce, grazing, human disturbances are not allowed. "However, the buffer zone is managed as a 'multiple use area' with twin objectives of providing habitat supplement to the spillover population of wild animals from the core conservation unit and to provide site specific eco-developmental inputs to surrounding villages for relieving their impact on the core," said Choubey. The idea is to create a better tiger habitat with support from the Tiger Conservation Plan, without putting any riders on the villagers, he said. Except for the national parks portion if contained within, normally no relocation of villages is visualised in the buffer area, and forestry operations, non-timber forest products, NTFP collection and other rights and concessions to the local people are permitted in a regulated manner to complement the initiatives in the core unit. Besides, the notification of the buffer zones is very significant as it would also lead to protection of the reserves from intensive projects like mining. According to National Tiger Conservation Authority, "the buffer zone of a tiger reserve will not have the status of a national park or sanctuary. Buffer areas with forest connectivity are imperative for tiger dynamics, since such areas foster sub adults, young adults, transients and old members of the population. Habitat management and improvement activities will be carried out in the existing habitat of tiger and its prey species through active involvement of local communities." The existing silvicultural operations will be accordingly modified to promote conservation of the area and the management will be based on specific forest lands forming part of village-level micro plans. Community will be involved in the overall management of the buffer area, lists NTCA. What's a buffer zone? A buffer is a thin layer of protection on all sides of the reserve. Those living in this zone will be given alternative livelihood options to reduce dependence on core forest produce. These zones will be protected from major changes in land use. Unlike the core area, which is exclusive, the buffer zone will be inclusive but importance will be given to protection of wildlife.

Formation of proposed Tiger Reserve justified

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 10, 2012, 09:58 0 Erode: Justifying formation of a 'Tiger Reserve Project' in Sathyamangalam forest, Tamil Nadu Forest Minister K.T. Pachamal has said if such a reserve was formed, the area will get more funds which can be used for the welfare of the tribal people. After inspecting the Vellode Birds Sanctuary near here yesterday, he said "The rights of the forest dwelling people provided under Forest Rights Act 2006 would not be affected." Tribals would be allowed to collect the forest produce in 25000 hectares in the proposed Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve Project area, he added. More than 4000 tribals of Sathyamangalam forest had staged a demonstration demonstration yesterday opposing government's proposal to form a Tiger Reserve project in the area. The Minister also said that the state Government would plant over 680 crore saplings on private lands in the next eight years with an intention to increase the green cover in the state. PTI

Poaching fears return to Sunderbans

Krishnendu Mukherjee, TNN | Jul 10, 2012, 03.59AM IST KOLKATA: The beast of poaching may have reared its ugly head after four years in the Sunderbans, a reserve much feted for its conservation programmes. The death of a tiger cub in the Sunderbans last month and the capture of three cubs a few days later on the Bangladeshi sides of the mangroves have triggered suspicion that the dead cub might have been from the same litter that was being smuggled top Malaysia and may have been killed by poachers. The National Tiger Conservation Authority of India ( NTCA) - which has made a poaching probe mandatory for all unnatural tiger deaths - is yet to give its verdict on the death of the two-month-old cub on June 5. But tiger conservationists in India and Bangladesh are sniffing a link between the two incidents as the three cubs - two females and a male and about two months old - were rescued on June 10, just five days after the body of the dead cub was found floating on the Raimangal river. The narrow river acts as the border between India and Bangladesh. The cubs being smuggled to Malaysia were captured in Halde Bunia forests, just across the river in Bangladesh, less than 2km from the forests on the Indian side. The two Bangladeshi poachers who captured the cubs had managed to make their way to Dhaka before being arrested. The twin incidents come nearly a year after India signed two MoUs with Bangladesh on the conservation of the Sunderbans and the Royal Bengal Tiger. The pledge, however, seems confined to papers. Experts now believe a joint Indo-Bangla joint poaching racket is operating in the thick mangroves. Sudipto Dutt, member of the state wildlife board, said it was possible that the poachers were attacked by a tiger and couldn't capture all the cubs. "One cub might have got separated from its mother and died later. Since the place is very close to the Indian border, the body might have floated to the Indian side. A simple DNA analysis of the cubs can solve the riddle. And this will also open new avenues of international cooperation between two countries," Dutt said. Echoing his view, another member of the state wildlife board, Biswajit Roy Chowdhury, said they would soon approach the forest minister to take up the matter with the Centre. "We will raise the issue in the next meeting of the board. There should be proper probe before dubbing any tiger death natural," he said. Monirul Khan, associate professor of zoology at Jahangirnagar University in Dhaka, called for a joint probe into the death of the cub. "Halde Bunia forests, from where the cubs were captured in Bangladesh, as confessed by one of the arrested poachers, is very close to the Indian border. It's hardly a kilometre or two from the Indian forests of Arbesi and separated only by the Raimangal. With poachers striking so close to the border, there should be joint probe to track the origin of the crime," he said. Yusuf Ali, chief conservator of forests, Bangladesh, added, "They have also confessed that one of their members were killed after a tigress attacked him while trying to protect the cubs. However, the kingpins of the poaching racket are still on the run and we are yet to know what happened to the mother." Though there has been no official case of tiger poaching in Indian Sunderbans since 2008, reports of tiger body parts seizure is nothing new in the state. In 2010-11 alone, five tiger skulls and four tiger skins were seized in Bengal. However, the Indian foresters are in dark over the Bangladesh incident. "It's true that there are two MoUs between the countries, but field level implementation is yet to be done. Unless that's done, we cannot approach our Bangladeshi counterparts officially. Our hands are tied," said Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve director Pradeep Vyas, adding that there have been reports, of late, that cases of poaching are on the rise in the Bangladesh Sunderbans. Bangladesh CCF Ali said that they are ready to help India in probing the cub death. "For that, the Indian officials should approach us," he added.

Tribals protest to scrap tiger reserve project

TNN | Jul 10, 2012, 03.31AM IST COIMBATORE: Hundreds of people from 19 tribal dominated village panchayats under Bhavani Sagar constituency, took to the streets of Sathyamangalam on Monday, demanding the closure of the proposed tiger reserve project in what used to be Veerappan's lair. The protest was organized by CPI's tribal wing Pazhamkudi Makkal Sanghom., had turned remarkable due to the larger turn out of tribals, who normally remain an elusive community. Traffic in the entire region was disrupted till late in the evening. as the protestors moved around urging The protesters want the state government to withdraw its letter of recommendation to the Union government branding the wildlife sanctuary as a tiger reserve.Thenkasi MP P Lingam inaugurated the protest near the Sathyamangalam bus stand. saying the party would stand solidly behind the tribals in their fight to live with dignity. Bhavani Sagar MLA P L Sundaram, Valparai MLA V Arumugam, campaign for Survival and Dignity leader C R Bijoy, CPI Erode district secretary K R Thirunavukarasu, Mudumalai farmers' leader P T Varghese and Nilgiri-based human rights activist M S Selvaraj also addressed the gathering. According to Bhavani Sagar MLA Sundaram, around 5,000 tribals from Thalavadi, Thiganare, Thinkalur, Panakkalli, Naithalpuram, Igalur, Thalamalai, Bainapuram, Hassanur and Germalam village panchayats thronged the venue since morning. The protestors wanted immediate implementation of Forest Rights Act of 2006 and sought permission to collect minor forest produce. They also wanted freedom to transport agricultural products through forest roads and permission to kill wild boars which destroy their farm lands. They also demanded proper compensation for those who suffered losses due to the destruction of crops by wild animals. "These tribals are the most neglected in the state. Their rights were curtailed a long time ago due to the Veerappan threat. After Veerappan's demise, the forest department had constituted several tribal forest protection committees and they functioned well, collecting and selling minor forest produce till now. Twenty seven such bodies had together made a profit of Rs 64 lakh in the last few years. Now the committees are in crisis as the forest authorities have denied them access to the forests,'' pointed out Sundaram. "We are not against tiger conservation. But it should not be at the expense of traditional forest dwellers. Denying tribals their right is beyond logic,'' he said. According to him, there would be more severe agitations in the coming days. "Other than rearing cattle and collecting forest produce, we have no other means of livelihood. Now the department has curtailed all our livelihood means in the name of tiger. It is high time the government scraps the project,'' said Pazhangudi leader P Dorai, one of the organizers of the protest.

Centre sends team to review Kaziranga floods

TNN | Jul 10, 2012, 02.29AM IST NEW DELHI: The environment and forests ministry has decided to send a team of officials from Delhi to review the situation in Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary in wake of flash floods that have inundated Assam. The announcement to send the member secretary of National Tiger Conservation Authority for a spot inspection and review comes a day after TOI reported on the high mortality of animals in the tiger reserve falling in the floodplains of Brahmaputra river. In a release the ministry said, "During normal floods, which are recurring feature, there is less mortality of wild animals. However, flash floods do occur due to breaches in the upper areas of Brahmaputra, which result in increased deaths of wild animals." The ministry said, "The state (Assam) has been requested to declare the adjoining Karbi Anglong Wildlife Sanctuary as a tiger reserve to enable adequate protection with Project Tiger assistance. This would be reiterated for expediting the same. The member secretary, NTCA would be visiting the reserve along with his team for spot appraisal/review, to strengthen the efforts by assisting the state." It noted that, "Being located in the Brahmaputra flood plains, the reserve is prone to annual floods. However, the normal flood inundation is inherent and important aspect of the Kaziranga ecosystem to maintain the large number of water bodies (around175) and the floral/faunal biodiversity of the area." An assessment by the Assam-based member of the National Tiger Conservation Authority M Firoz Ahmed, which TOI had reported on, said that most of the rhino deaths were from the older age group, besides calves. However, three of them have been poached. The hog deer mortality, in particular had been reported to be very high. The report had highlighted the need for relieving the corridor areas from human pressure and avoiding change in land use pattern in the area around the park.

Probe on to trap kingpin

TNN | Jul 10, 2012, 04.53AM IST MYSORE: Forest department officials have recovered five knives bought to de-skin the big cats and Rs 5,000 from the six-member gang arrested in Chamarajanagar recently. They have also seized a booklet containing telephone numbers which might lead the authorities to the kingpin who had sent the poachers here. Jagadish, an accused, is well aware of the tiger pelt trade outside the country, a Wildlife Crime Control Bureau ( WLCCB) officer said. BRT reserve director Vijaymohan Raj told TOI that the gang had help to gain entry into the forest . Preliminary investigation has revealed that the gang had been told to reach the reserved forest through Kollegal. The officials conducted a thorough search in the forest areas to check whether any traps have been laid to catch the tigers. The officer claimed that they have searched the sensitive places in the tiger reserve. The accused have been booked under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.