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Monday, October 29, 2012

Experts question snake bite theory

Vivek Deshpande : Nagpur, Mon Oct 29 2012, 01:39 hrs Though investigators have declared that the death of pregnant tigress in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) was possibly due to snake bite, facts don’t appear to support the theory, say experts. Experts say an animal as strong as a tiger won’t die so soon even when bitten by a snake like cobra. Incidentally, cobra poison is neurotoxic and not haemotoxic. Vipers are known to have a haemotoxic effect, but even humans can survive without treatment for days after bite. “Even a cobra bite will take about 8-10 hours for the tiger to die. But in that case, the body will be fully swollen. In this case, if there was no swelling, it is unlikely that it was a case of snake bite,” said Vivek Sharma, a snake expert from Jabalpur. “The effects of a saw-scaled viper bite may be more disastrous, but the snake goes into hibernation during this time of the year.” TATR field director Virendra Tiwari said, “Snake bite is the doctor’s opinion.” P D Kadukar, the veterinary doctor who performed the post-mortem, said, “The body was fresh, there was no swelling and it wasn’t even smelling foul. The tigress had died around 2 am. We haven’t said it was a viper that bit it. But it definitely seems like a snake bite going by the haemotoxic effect and internal bleeding.” As far as blood clotting is concerned, pesticides like warfarin and even rat poison are known to stop it. Says Sharma: “Presuming that a viper had bitten it many days ago, the animal’s health should have weakened over time. It wouldn’t have been in a position to kill an animal as strong and big as a sambhar, which the tigress — apparently strong till her death — is said to have freshly consumed.” Snake expert Rom Whitaker said, “If the tigress was bitten, she would be in no condition to hunt. She would probably not move for at least two or three days. Russell’s viper venom can cause clotting as well as non-coaguability of blood but other pathological conditions could result in the same symptoms. It is hard to determine whether an animal died of snake bite without carrying out complex lab tests.” Tiwari and Kadukar say, “We have sent the viscera for forensic tests.”

Space for 30% more tigers in core areas

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times New Delhi, October 28, 2012 Tigers reduce their area of dominance provided there is enough prey population, a new government study has said, giving hope to wildlife scientists that core areas of 41 tiger reserves in India can house around 2,400 tigers, an additional of 35%. The Dehradun based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has found that 7 to 20 tigers can live in 100 sq kms of a forest area as compared to earlier assumption that a tiger has a minimum area of dominance of around 10 sq kms. "The exclusivity as thought earlier is not there," YV Jhala, a senior scientist with WII who has been spear heading tiger population estimate across India for the last seven years. "If there is enough prey population the tigers survive in a smaller areas" The study conducted as part of new estimation of big cat population in the tiger reserves across India is a huge fillip to wildlife researchers as it shows that India can provide home to around 70% of world's tiger population (around 3,200) by 2020. The WII study shows that most of the tiger reserves in India have a potential to increase the big cat density by 20 to 25% in the next four to five years with good breeding population. The study says that the terrai tiger belt in Uttarkhand and Uttar Pradesh, which as of now haves 325 big cats can support around 455 tigers. The Central India, which has 560 tigers, has potential to keep up to 840 tigers. The Western Ghats can have 700 tigers as compared to 533 it has now. Jhala said that the 82,000 sq km of tiger-land having 1,706 tigers could home 2,400 tigers. He also suggested wild to wild relocation of tigers to make optimum use of good tiger habitats. But reaching that figure will not be easy as most of the tiger habitats are witnessing gradual decay and the prey population is becoming victim of growing human influence. "The estimate is bare minimum but the potential but largely depend on the health of the habitat and its linkages with other wildlife areas," Jhala said. Environment ministry officials accuse the state governments of being slow in notifying the forest corridors linking two tiger habitats. These corridors are essential for growth of tiger population as it allows them free movement from a densely population tiger reserve to a less densely populated one.

Plea to include parts of Karbi Anglong in KNP

SIVASISH THAKUR GuwAHATI, Oct 28 – The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has strongly recommended bringing a part of the contiguous belt of forests to the south of Kaziranga -- including the North Karbi Anglong wildlife sanctuary -- under Kaziranga Tiger Reserve for ensuring better protection to Kaziranga’s wildlife. Conservationists believe that the absence of security in the nearby Karbi Anglong forests which are widely used by animals to escape the recurring floods warrant such a move. The NTCA recommendation came after the devastating floods that had hit Kaziranga in last June-July that claimed over 600 animals. It was part of a number of short-term as well as long-term measures recommended by the NTCA and endorsed by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. The Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Jayanthi Natarajan, in her letter dated July 18, 2012, to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, endorsed the NCTA recommendations, saying that the measures required ‘urgent implementation’ by the State Government. The vulnerability of Kaziranga’s wildlife during floods was exposed again during September’s floods, with poachers taking advantage of the absence of security arrangements in the Karbi Anglong forests and massacring a number of rhinos in quick time. “Kaziranga’s ecosystem is highly dependent on preservation of forests in the Karbi Anglong hills along with the corridors that are crucial for the movement of animals,” Dr PJ Bora of WWF-India who has worked extensively under its Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Landscape Programme, says. In the past, the forests of Karbi Anglong and the grasslands of Kaziranga formed a single contiguous ecological belt with very few human habitations. But the gradual opening up of the area on the southern side of NH-37 resulted in expansion of settlements, tourist facilities and tea gardens – damaging the contiguity of the plains and the hills. As another long-term measure, the NTCA suggested carrying out a flood vulnerability analysis for the tiger reserve and surrounding areas in the GIS domain with an alert system. “It can also have collaboration with the Central Water Commission on a day-to-day basis during the flood season,” it noted. A crucial short-term measure ignored by the forest authorities related to Army deployment. The NTCA recommended deployment of Army personnel along with vehicles and boats from 4 Corps, Tezpur, to assist the tiger reserve management for a period of three months to deal with emergency situations. “Since the flood situation continues, it is important to engage the Army for assisting the park management up to October 31, 2012. The cost incurred towards this may be provided to the State through hundred per cent Central assistance under Project Tiger…a control room may also be set up at Bagori in this context, with an MoU executed between the Army and the Forest Department for joint action,” the NTCA noted. The short-term measures in the NTCA report which preceded an on-the-spot assessment visit by an NTCA team called for strict regulation of traffic on NH-37 by erecting sufficient number of barricades/speed-breakers, and 24X7 protection in the adjoining forests of Karbi Anglong during flood time. Another recommendation called for construction of flyovers on NH-37 in portions which were traditionally used by animals to cross over to the adjoining Karbi Anglong forests. Providing speed boats and inflatable rubber boats, providing at least five four-wheel drive jeeps along with funding support for their operation and maintenance; five trained koonki elephants for patrolling in the dried-up areas’ supply of medicine and doctors for field staff/local people and veterinary care to wild animals besides disposal of carcasses; constitution of a coordination committee to oversee rescue/relief operations and protection under the Chief Wildlife Warden with local NGO and NTCA representatives, Army, etc., supply of ration through Tiger Conservation Foundation; and preparing a ‘post-flood action plan’ to restore damaged infrastructure were some of the measures.