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Friday, February 8, 2013

Did forest officials’ folly lead to Wayanad tiger attack?

By Amit Bhattacharya, TNN | Feb 8, 2013, 03.03 AM IST NEW DELHI: A tigress captured on Sunday amid high drama in Wayanad district of Kerala, after it had injured five persons, has been found to be the same animal that was trapped by forest officials outside Karnataka's Nagarahole National Park last November and released without being radio-collared that very day in the adjoining Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The tigress was identified by the Bangalore-based Centre for Wildlife Studies, which matched pictures of the animal taken during the two captures using a pattern-matching software. From its database of camera-trap images, CWS also identified the animal as NHT-289 — an original resident of Nagarahole forests. The incident again highlights the dangers of releasing a captured big cat back in the wild without scientifically examining its condition and radio-collaring it to ensure that the animal is quickly captured if it starts lifting cattle or attacking humans. Quite often, forest officials trap a tiger or leopard under political pressure after incidents of cattle-lifting in an area, and release it some distance away, said K Ullas Karanth, director of CWS. "It's like transferring a problem to someone else's backyard. In the past, two captured leopards returned to the wild have gone on to kill people," Karanth said. Last week, the National Tiger Conservation Authority released a standard operating procedure for state forest officials in dealing with tigers that stray into human settlements. It too says a tranquilized tiger should be radio collared before being released in the wild. According to media reports, Karnataka forest officials used a box trap to capture the tigress — now identified as NHT-289 —from Nalkeri village outside the western boundary of Nagarahole NP on November 23. This was after villagers protested against two instances of cattle killing in the area. Forest department vets reportedly estimated the animal's age at three-four years. It was released the same evening at Hidgalpanchi in Bandipur. As CWS's analysis later showed, the tiger was at least seven years old and was first photographed in 2007. CWS suspects that a tiger that was mobbed in Kattayad village near Sulthan Batheri town in Kerala's Wayanad district, and thereafter seriously mauled a person, was NHT-289. This location is 19km from the site where NHT-289 was released. According to media reports, last Saturday (February 2), a tigress "attacked" five persons in separate incidents as well as killed cattle near Vadachirakunnu Colony on the fringes of the Wayanad wildlife range. Around 8am the next day, the animal was seen in a coffee plantation. A people surrounded the tigress, it attacked a 14 year old girl in the crowd. It attacked four more persons before being darted and sent to the Thrissur zoo.

NCTA gives nod to tranquilise tiger that strayed from Panna

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has given its permission for tranquilisation of a tiger, which has been roaming on the Uttar Pradesh-Madhya Pradesh border for more than four months now, after it strayed from the Panna Tiger Reserve. Two teams of forest officials from UP's Lalitpur forest division and two teams from MP's Sagar forest division have been keeping a close watch on the movements of the tiger to avoid any possible incident of man-animal conflict and poaching. Sagar Divisional Forest Officer AK Singh said the NTCA has given its permission to tranquilise and trans-locate the tiger to Panna Tiger Reserve last week. He said a team of officials from the reserve and Wildlife Institute of India will soon come to examine the conditions of the area and check if the big cat can be tranquilised there. The tiger, identified as C-211, strayed from the Panna reserve and moved through Damoh, Chhatarpur and Sagar before being seen in Lalitpur's forest areas which don't have big cats. Lalitpur Divisional Forest Officer VK Jain said the latest location of the tiger was in Madaura forest range on Lalitpur-Sagar border and it had been there for about a month.

‘Poaching grave threat to our fauna’

Feb 08, 2013 India’s leading naturalist and field biologist Dr A.J.T. Johnsingh talks to Rashme Sehgal about his recently released book Mammals of South Asia, which he co-authored with Nima Manjrekar. Excerpts from the interview: Q. What made you take on this rather daunting task of editing a book on the mammals of South Asia? A. The absence of a book giving detailed information on the mammals of the South Asian region prompted Dr Nima Manjrekar and me to work on the book. South Asia has seen lots of research on mammals during the last 2-3 decades and there was a need to put this information together. Q. You were able to record the presence of 574 mammal species. Does this list include the names of animals that were considered extinct? A. Actually the listing was done by my colleague P.O. Nameer, who is an authority on mammalian taxonomy and he is also the Head of Centre for Wildlife Studies in Kerala Agricultural University. The list also includes the names of mammals that are extinct like the cheetah and Javan rhinoceros. The Sumatran rhino is extinct in India and Bangladesh where it was found earlier and its existence in Burma is precarious. The Great Indian rhino, which was once found in the Indus Valley region of Pakistan, is extinct there and is found only in India and Nepal. Q. Many of these species, including the lion, the Sikkim stag and the hangul are facing threats of extinction. As a naturalist, what should the government do to save our precious wildlife? A. The Sikkim stag is not found within the Indian region but its presence is reported from the Chumbi Valley in Tibet. Earlier the Chumbi Valley was part of Sikkim. The status of the hangul is very precarious with its population down to around 200 animals. The population is not increasing primarily because of grazing in the upper reaches of Dachigam National Park in Kashmir which is the only protected area in India which has the hangul. The upper reaches of Dachigam provides the summer retreat for the hangul where the deer go for fawning. There they face competition for feeding from cattle taken there by grazing communities and the fawns get killed by the dogs which accompany the graziers. The status of the lion in Gir landscape is satisfactory but their future is uncertain as they are found only in one landscape. If they are hit by a disease like canine-distemper,then the entire population will be in a serious trouble. In the early 1990s, the Serengeti lions were struck by canine distemper and nearly one third of the population of 3000-4000 lions were killed. Serengeti lions occur in a landscape of 30,000-40,000 landscape. If such a virulent disease affects Gir lions, it may wipe out this small population of nearly 400 lions which are confined to an area of 2,000 Therefore, there is an urgency of establishing the second home for the lions as we are right now carrying all the eggs in one basket. Kuno WLS in Madhya Pradesh is ready to receive some lions but the Gujarat state government has shown no inclination to part with even a few lions. This is extremely dangerous. Q. You have been closely involved with wildlife and our wildlife sanctuaries for several decades now. Are you happy with the state of our tiger reserves and sanctuaries or do you believe much more needs to be done? A. One of the biggest problems being faced by these sanctuaries is the Invasion of exotic which do not belong to the local area, like Lantana camara which has come from South America. Their presence reduces the carrying capacity of a wildlife habitat . The Kaziranga national reserve is invaded by a thorny plant called Mimosa invisa, a native of Brazil, which reduces the habitat available even for the thick-skinned rhino. The understory in the sal forests of the Kanha Tiger Reserve is dominated by Flemingeabracteata another inedible species. Lack of regeneration of species that are palatable to wild animals. In addition to this, we have the growing and the persistent problem of poaching. Tigers are poached to feed the medicinal needs of China when they can easily find medicine from non-tiger sources. Now the Vietnamese have started believing that rhino horn powder is a curative for cancer! Crucial corridors should be established without any delay. Threats to wildlife are increasing. I would like to cite the example of the need for a corridor to be established between the two halves of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve. We have not established it during the last 30 years. Q. With habitats getting fragmented, how can we save India’s diverse wildlife? A. This can only be done by the establishment of corridors and inviolate areas .. Q. The threat of global warming is expected to result in substantial changes in our present ecosystems. How do you see animal population being able to adapt to such changes ? A. Animal populations will suffer largely due to drought which is one manifestation of climate change. We are seeing this happening in the Mudumalai-Bandipur-Nagarahole landscape where rains have failed and a good number of elephants are dying. One thing we should do is to create thousands of garbage-free water bodies in the country.