April 24 (IANS) Two panther cubs have been sighted in Rajasthan's Sariska tiger reserve, which has been in news recently for its dwindling number of big cats, say forest department officials.
"A fortnight ago, a foreign tourist had sighted these cubs from a short distance. After that our team also saw them roaming in the jungle," said Rajesh Gupta, a forest official in Sariska.
The forest officials, who have taken pug-prints of the cubs, are working out a safety plan for the animals.
Wildlife sources, however, said that the forest officials were unable to locate the cubs after sighting them twice or thrice. A forest department team is daily combing the 881-sq-km jungle to find the whereabouts of the cubs.
The Sariska tiger reserve - set up in 1978 - has been in the news in recent times for its disappearing big cats.
A Wildlife Institute of India report in March 2005 confirmed that there were indeed no tigers left in this reserve while an official census in 2004 had put the population between 16 and 18.
The state had submitted a detailed project to the central government for rehabilitation of the tigers in Sariska. The project was sanctioned in November.
The Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India is planning a five-year study on panthers in Sariska from June.
"This is the first time in the country that such a study is being undertaken in which use of habitat, travelling patterns and eating habits of panthers would be monitored and analysed," L.N. Dave, Rajasthan's forest and environment minister, told IANS.
"This study would help in knowing the eating habits of panthers living in Sariska, including the census of prey animals," he added.
As per the 2004 wildlife census, there are over 550 panthers in the state, and Sawai Madhopur, which houses the Ranthambore National Park, has the maximum number of wild cats, including 83 panthers.