Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lonely tigress waits for a mate

Lonely tigress waits for a mate

Rubina Khan Shapoo

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 (Bhopal)
Bhopal Van Vihar has been identified by the Central Zoo Authority for breeding of tigers. But ironically, for the past one year, thirteen young tigress are waiting for their right mate.

Five-year-old Sara is looking for a mate. So is Shweta, but all she can see are people who hardly interest her.

Sita is also roaming about waiting for Mr right. For the past year, 13 tigresses in Bhopal's van vihar have been waiting for a partner.

The Lonely Hearts Club started after Naresh, the only surviving male in Van Vihar was shifted to the Delhi zoo. Two other tigers Gautham and Karan died of illness, which leaves only one more tiger Sagar but he cannot enjoy the company of so many women.

Sagar was rescued from a circus in Chhattisgarh and the Supreme Court says no rescued animal can be displayed or used for breeding.

''Seven tigress of breeding age are of wild origin. These are the best stock for breeding, so we need to have male animals of productive age, preferably of wild origin,'' said J S Chouhan , Director, Bhopal Van Vihar.

Talks are on with zoos in Assam and Andhra Pradesh but who knows how long the tigresses will have to wait for a suitable boy?

Also Read
National award for Madhya Pradesh tiger reserve
Take charge of tigers: PM tells CMs
Indravati Reserve never surveyed
PM convenes emergency meet to save tiger

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Tigers In Trouble

Tigers In Trouble

Section: Voices Date: Feb 28,2008

They need us now

Project Tiger, which was once led by brave and capable people such as Kailash Sankhala, now suffers from a leadership crisis. The latest news is that we have fewer wild tigers alive today than on the day Project Tiger was started in 1973. This is a matter of great shame for all those whose responsibility it was to save the cat, including our Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers of states in which tigers are found. The many conservationists and large NGOs will also be blamed by the future generation for failing the tiger. In truth, all of India itself has failed the tiger.

Why are things suddenly so bad for the tiger? It has not been sudden. Tiger numbers have fallen gradually each year since 1990. India now has less than 1,500 tigers left alive. This means we have lost over 2,300 tigers in the last five years. And even if the number of tigers was less than 3,500 around the year 2000 because forest officers had distorted census figures, the fact is today's numbers are horribly low.

Who is killing our tigers?
Poachers of course are to blame first. But large companies that mine or dam forests in which tigers live and who profit from the sale of trees are equally guilty. In fact, destroying the forest is the surest way to wipe out tigers forever.

Who is financing the poachers?
International crime syndicates and gangs are financing people to kill tigers, elephants, rhinos and almost any other species that can be sold for cash. Even the famous Kaziranga National Park has not been spared. Here, we have lost over 20 rhinos in 2007.

What does the latest report by the National Tiger Conservation Authority say?
In 1973, when the number of tigers in India was estimated to be just over 1,700, the whole world said that tigers were in grave danger and Project Tiger was launched. The new report from the National Tiger Conservation Authority suggests that in some tiger reserves such as Corbett, Kaziranga, Nagarahole, Kanha and Tadoba, the tiger is safe, but outside such protected forests and in forests where human beings still live, tigers have almost vanished, or are likely to vanish in a very short while. The report says that today we may have less than 1,500 tigers left alive. The fact is that tigers are relatively safe in those reserves where there are no humans or very few humans. In others, such as Palamau and Namdapha, they have virtually been wiped out. In 2004, Sariska lost all its tigers. In Panna, not a single tiger cub has been born seen since 2002 and over 50 per cent of the park seems to have no tigers at all. There was one breeding tigress in there, but even she has been missing since the middle of 2007. Late last year, traps and snares were discovered in the core area of the Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh where everyone thought the cats were totally safe. Tiger skins regularly end up in shipments of wildlife contraband bound for far-eastern countries, including China, Japan and Hong Kong.

What are the other threats to the tiger?
Almost every forest in India is under attack from agriculture, cattle grazing and commercial projects including dams, coal mines, four-lane highways, thermal plants, cement factories, steel plants, ports and even nuclear reactors. Those who truly love wildlife are not empowered to save the tiger and those in whose hands we have left the tiger seem not to care about the cat.

What is wrong with the Forest Rights Act?
With this dangerous new law in place, people have already started moving into wildlife areas to cut down trees and claim land. This will not only result in the death of tigers and other wildlife, but will make our existing climate change problem even worse. Over 25 per cent of all greenhouse gasses released by India are a result of deforestation. This situation will worsen and, potentially, 7.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide could be spewed into the air. This will also affect our lakes and rivers and, therefore, our agriculture. Sadly, when land is given to local communities, it will quickly be sold, or snatched away, leaving them as poor as they were before. So the Forest Rights Act will end up helping neither forest dwellers, nor wildlife.

Can't the MoEF do anything?
That is what they were set up to do, but instead of protecting forests, the ministry has become a tool in the hands of politicians who 'somehow' manage to convince the ministry to approve very destructive industrial projects. Over 15,000 hectares of forestland was destroyed with the permission of the MoEF for 49 industrial projects, including mining, irrigation and windmills. This could mean cutting down around three million trees. Additionally, lakhs of trees are being cut for state and central government projects that need 40 hectares of land or less.

What can an individual do?
To start with, write a letter to the Prime Minister. Also write to newspapers, Chief Ministers, Forest Ministers and government officials and speak to friends and teachers. Photocopy these pages and ask your principal to highlight the issue during your school assembly. Ask them to write to Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary Magazine, if they need any clarification, or if they need help to run their campaigns locally.

How can you help right now?
You can be a part of a save the tiger campaign being run on NDTV that is supported by Sanctuary and Kids for Tigers. We want to collect one million signatures to save the tiger, so we can convince our Prime Minister to act before it is too late. We want the Prime Minister to hold an emergency meeting of the National Board for Wildlife to consider the latest threat to the tiger. We do not want any more promises from the Prime Minister.
We want action and we want it now.

Bittu Sahgal,
Editor, Sanctuary Magazine,

146, Pragati Industrial Estate,
N.M. Joshi Marg,
Lower Parel,
Mumbai 400 011

Link to sign petition:

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Full house for tiger

Full house for tiger

Issue Date: Monday , February 25 , 2008

Hundreds of people turned up at Alipore zoo on Sunday for a glimpse of the Royal Bengal Tiger caught at Tridibnagar and brought to the city for treatment.

The big cat was, however, away at the zoo hospital across the street. The other tigers were the top draws in his absence, but the conversation around the enclosure centred on what caused the injuries to the 15-year-old animal.

"Is this the one from the Sunderbans?" 11-year-old Sayantan asked his father, pointing to a tiger. A zoo attendant passing by told the boy that the tiger he was looking for is in hospital. "How can we put him in public view? He is very sick," he said.

Some came to the zoo knowing that they were unlikely to see the captured tiger. "I knew that the animal has lost a foot and is being treated. But still, I came," said Sujoy Banerjee, a college student.

The zoo officials did not allow the public to enter the hospital. According to the officials, the tiger is still weak but responding to treatment.

"He has been put on drip as he is dehydrated. He ate a kg of pork and six kg of beef and can stand up on three legs now, though not steadily," said a veterinarian treating the tiger.

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Injured Bengal tiger recovers

Injured Bengal tiger recovers
25 Feb 2008, 0535 hrs IST,TNN

KOLKATA: The Bengal tiger that was brought to the city for treatment from Sunderbans on Friday, is recuperating in Alipore Zoological Gardens. Though the tiger is responding well to treatment, doctors say it is still not out of danger.

"For the first time since he was brought here, he kept his head in normal resting position on Sunday. This posture is considered to be good for a tiger to take rest. These are signs that it is recovering," said divisional forest officer (South 24-Parganas) Subhendu Bandopadhyay.

"The tiger is taking normal diet and is discharging body waste normally. It is, however, too early to say whether he is out of danger. It is also not possible to say right now how many days the injured animal will take to recover fully," said Alipore zoo deputy director Dr Piyali Chattopadhayay.

The tiger will be kept under round-the-clock of observation for a couple of days.

On Sunday, the tiger was given pork and saline water. Infection from the amputated left hind leg had started to spread to other parts of the body, but medication has kept the infection under control.

Doctors are still administering high doses of antibiotics so that septicemia does not set in.

The animal was at death's door when it was rescued.

Animal experts fear that letting the maimed and ageing big cat out in the wild might not be the right option because it will find it difficult to hunt with a missing foot.

"If the tiger is set free in the jungle after its recovers, it might be difficult for it to hunt for food due to the injury. Whether it will be returned to the jungles or taken to Khayerbari Tiger Rescue Centre depends on his health," said an officer.

Forest department officers want the tiger to stay in the zoo hospital for at least a fortnight before taking a final decision on its rehabilitation.

According to DFO Subhendu Bandopadhyay, an instance of a tiger being bitten on his legs by small sharks on the river was not heard in recent times.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Tiger, tiger, vanishing fast

Tiger, tiger, vanishing fast

Saturday, February 23, 2008

It is official. There are only 1,411 tigers and their numbers are falling. With the threatened species fighting a losing battle against ruthless poaching and shrinking forests, conservationists are demanding that an emergency be declared to save the national animal, reports Vibha Sharma

This month the Centre released what has been termed as the most comprehensive, scientific and accurate report on the status of tigers in India. This, perhaps, is the only redeeming feature of the much-awaited report titled "Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India" that otherwise spelled doom and confirmed the worst fears of tiger conservationists.

The report prepared by the Dehra Dun-based Wildlife Institute of India and the National Tiger Conservation Authority took two years of extensive data collection. It has been commended by a majority of tiger scientists for arriving at a number through a comprehensive documentation of big cats, their habitat and population trends.

Arrived at by using different methodologies and techniques, the latest count indicates how tiger numbers had been grossly misinterpreted in the past to suit the interests of those supposed to be looking after the welfare of the national animal.

The 151-page report has been co-authored by Qamar Qureshi and Y.V Jhala of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and Rajesh Gopal from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) along with a research team that included 67 members. Open to scrutiny at all stages of data collection, this is the most scientific report that puts in place a transparent system that can be traced back to the beat level, says Qureshi.

"It found that where tigers are doing well, forests are also doing well. The report identifies areas where tigers are decreasing and why. Besides the report is not just about tigers and co-predators like leopards and wild dogs but it also looks at the number and quality of prey like sambhar, cheetal and blue bulls. Tigers do respond well to quality and number of prey," he explains.

The report also monitors source population or breeding units and other vital issues like spacing and connectivity. Executive Director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India Belinda Wright calls the report the most scientifically robust estimation ever carried out on the status of tigers in India.

The sentiment is echoed by eminent tiger scientist Valmik Thapar. "At least, now we have an official figure that shows that tiger is in deep crisis in India," he says.

Dwindling numbers
The report spells it all, state-wise, area-wise, dividing tiger habitat into regions like Shivalik-Gangetic flood plains, Central Indian landscape and Eastern Ghats, Western Ghats complex, North-eastern Hills and Brahmaputra Flood plains and the Sunderbans.

Due to the Naxalite problem, Jharkhand and the Indravati reserve in Chhattisgarh have not been covered, while the census in the Sunderbans is not yet complete. But the report does point out that Naxalism, subsistence poaching and fragmentation of forests have worked against big cats in areas that had the capability of holding larger numbers.

As far as figures go, the bottomline is that the number of tigers is at a sinking low of 1,411. The positive is, a candid admission by the Central Government that there is a problem.

Estimates are distressingly low but with clear-cut population and habitat data now available hope has emerged that a strategic and effective way could be worked out to ensure that tiger populations recover and India is able to protect its national animal. The report has also invited criticism from certain states which have expressed reservations about the efficacy of the camera-trap method used to count the numbers. They are not willing to accept the report in its totality, and have questioned the figures released by the WII.

Writing on the wall
Whichever way it is seen, the WII report is unambiguous that the tiger — the most charismatic, the most exciting wildlife species on earth — is in danger in India and fighting a tough battle to survive. The alarm bells that sounded when the infamous Sariska incident came to light some three years ago are now again ringing loud and clear.

From 40,000 in 1900 to an all-time low of 1,411 in 2007, this is an emergency. Scientists say that in a scenario unlike any before, there could be, maybe 1657 big cats, which would still be lower than the 1800 tigers estimated in the first census in 1960. In any case the current figures are definitely a climb down from 2002 when tiger population was 3,642. Simple arithmetic shows that India has lost more than 2000 tigers to three basic reasons: incessant and ruthless poaching, loss of habitat and pressure of people.

The report also exposes that the figure of 3,642 in 2002 was fudged to cover up the failure of the government to protect the tiger. Maybe data was continuously being fudged even as tiger numbers kept dwindling. "Tigers have been continuously falling prey to poachers," Belinda says.

The silver lining
According to the report, the only safe places where healthy population of big cats still exists are Corbett in Uttarakhand, Kaziranga in Assam and other habitats in Brahmaputra, besides Bandipur, Nagarhole, Madurai and Wyanand tiger reserves in the South, Kanha, Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh and some parts of the North-East where tigers had a chance to breed and grow. This signifies that surveillance and good quality habitat and prey does work well for the magnificent predator.

Success stories like Corbett Tiger Reserve that recorded the highest tiger density as compared to other habitats show that if safe zones are created with inviolate core areas surrounded by a buffer, the tiger can survive. Corbett has 164 tigers in 1524 sq-km. Despite limited space, it appears to be doing well in comparison to some larger reserves.

Overall, there are 178 tigers in Uttarakhand, 109 in UP, 10 in Bihar, 95 in Andhra Pradesh, 26 in Chhatisgarh, 300 in Madhya Pradesh, 103 in Maharashtra, 45 in Orissa, 32 in Rajasthan, 290 in Karnataka, 46 in Kerala and 76 in Tamil Nadu.

In the north-eastern states, population estimates are based on possible density of tiger-occupied landscape in the area. They have not been assessed by double sampling. According to these estimates, there are 70 tigers in Assam, 14 in Arunachal Pradesh, six in Mizoram and 10 in northern West Bengal.

Denial syndrome
Several states have preferred to shut their eyes to the existing problem and questioned the latest official figures. During a meeting of senior forest and wildlife officials called by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in the Capital, wildlife wardens from states like Orissa, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh questioned the efficacy of the camera-trap method used in the latest census. The response of the state governments forced Thapar to declare that any state that rejects the report is, in fact, rejecting the future of the tiger. "States rejecting the government figures just means that they are digging more graves for the tiger. For Simlipal (in Orissa), the Centre's figures are 20. The state government claims there are 100 tigers. They can continue sitting with their figures and let whatever tigers are left to also die," says a disturbed Thapar.

"The situation is extremely grim and it is time India declares an emergency for the tiger, The Prime Minister chairs the most important decision-making body, the National Board of Wildlife. He should call an emergency meeting of the board. He should ask the chief ministers to put solutions on board within the next two months. This ego problem between states and the Centre needs to be addressed immediately. The data is already two years' old and if we do not act now, we will slip further. The Prime Minister should create a think tank of those who have worked with tigers all their lives. Not a body like the Tiger Task Force, where three of the members have no experience of working with the tiger," he adds. Belinda agrees. "If Orissa or any other state government does not accept the report they are living in a fool's paradise".

As far as the WII is concerned, there is no reason why states should not accept the numbers. Defending the methodology, Qureshi says that the new system is based on a multivariate approach that has helped converge evidence for data assessment. "The methods are all scientifically valid, well tested and holistic in nature. They address the real-time monitoring of habitat quality and prey and provide tools for conservation planning at landscape level. There is no reason why anyone should reject the methodology," he says.

Checking crime
Some hope emerged when the much-awaited Wildlife Crime Control Bureau to deal with illegal trade finally started functioning this January. The Ministry of Environment and Forests says that the Bureau, with four regional offices at New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai and three sub-regional offices, was fully operational.

Set up at the behest of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to develop infrastructure and build capacity for scientific and professional investigation into wildlife crimes, the Bureau will have two joint directors, one from the IFS and another from the IPS rank, and will be assisted by regional directors. Inspectors and constables will also be sent on deputation from customs and police departments.

But this set-up has not found favour with former Director of Project Tiger P.K. Sen. "The offices will be in Delhi while tigers are being killed in jungles," he says, terming the Bureau "bogus, a complete eyewash".

"To deal with wildlife crimes you require a specialised force. You are not dealing with common thieves or smugglers that can be tackled by officials from the CBI, IB or Customs. Here you are trying to combat people from within your country who are poaching and trading in tiger parts because they are being abetted by those living outside the country. Their operations are based on economics of demand and supply. And to deal with situations like these, you need a specialised force on the lines of the Railway Protection Force or the CISF," he adds.

Dependence on forests
Indian forests have been bearing the brunt of growth and the country has already lost 728 sq-km of forests to dam construction and tsunami. Wildlife scientists fear that the depleting Indian forests may face further destruction due to recent rights given to tribals and dwellers. And any further loss of forests could spell more bad news for the country's wildlife. It was a good start to the new year for lakhs of tribals living in wilderness in the country with the government finally notifying the much-awaited Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forests Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights Act), 2006, almost a year after it was passed by Parliament.

The Act aims to provide forest rights to STs and other people, living and depending on forests for their livelihood for three generations. Some of major rights recognised under the Act include forestland up to four hectares, right to collect, use and dispose off minor produce and traditional rights like grazing inside forests. The very same day the PMO issued a list of core notified tiger reserves that would be out of bounds for human beings, bringing a sigh of relief from wildlife conservationists. It stated that as many as 11 tiger range states had been identified as critical big cat habitats.

The notification said that an area of around 31, 940 sq km of tiger reserves would be completely out of bounds to support a viable population of wild tigers in the country.

Forest rights lobby alleges that the Act has been much diluted, but for wildlife activists the PMO notification came as a big relief.

They said this would initiate a process of creating inviolate areas for tiger conservation in areas where forest rights were likely to be modified or holders of forest right resettled. But fears continue to remain that once rights are given, the already falling forest cover would be reduced further and wildlife would suffer. After all there is a direct correlation between good forests and good wildlife.

The way forward
The Centre says it is doing all it can by providing enhanced funds and support to the states. There is a huge budget to resettle people from core tiger areas. This will help decrease the man-animal conflict and create inviolate zones for the big cats. The compensation for rehabilitation has been increased from Rs 1 lakh per family to Rs 10 lakh per family.

According to the Centre, establishing corridors between tiger habitats to create free movement zones and improving the gene pool is another step that will help to overcome the crisis. The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau is finally in place. Locals and ex-Army men are also being recruited as forest guards to step up the vigilance.

Valmik Thapar, however, says these measures may not be adequate. What the tiger needs to fight the battle is a task force to flush out poachers and timber mafia from forests. "What we need is a dedicated anti-poaching force. Every country that wants to protect its natural wealth has one. We also need to introduce reforms in the Indian Forest Service and create a branch called the Indian Wildlife Service."

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Ever been face to face with the King?

Ever been face to face with the King?

February 22, 2008

Recently released figures from India's National Tiger Conservation Authority put the population of tigers in India in 2008 at a pitiful 1,411.

Sadly, encountering a tiger in the wild is going to become a rarer and rarer experience.

Have you ever encountered a tiger in the jungle in India? Perhaps on a trip to a wildlife sanctuary or a national park? Or maybe unexpectedly -- and memorably -- while traveling through one of India's magnificent forests?

Tell us about it? How did it come about? What time of day was it and where were you?

Send us all the details of your encounter -- year, date (if you remember it), location and more. And if you happen to have some great photographs of that encounter, that you have taken yourself, please do send us those as well and we will put them up right here on!

Mail us at

Also read:

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National award for Madhya Pradesh tiger reserve

National award for Madhya Pradesh tiger reserve

Submitted by Tarique on Sat, 02/23/2008 - 09:25.

Bhopal : The Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh has been selected for the 'Best maintained tourist-friendly national park award' by the union tourism ministry.

The award would be given for achievements in the year 2006-07 at a national tourism award function to be held at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, on Wednesday, an official said.

Pench Tiger Reserve, an amalgam of Indira Priyadarshini Pench National Park, Mowgli Pench sanctuary and other buffer forests, is situated in Seoni district on the southern end of the Satpura ranges. The Pench river, which flows through the reserve, is its lifeline.

The number of visitors to Pench Tiger Reserve, which is the first international tiger reserve in the country, has gone up substantially from 1,333 in 1999 to 45,556 in 2006-07 due to efficient wildlife management and increase in tourist facilities, wild life officials said.

Tourist attractions at the park include jungle visits, elephant rides, boating, river rafting and trekking with ample opportunities for lodging, both government and private.

Carnivores found in the reserve include tiger, leopard, jackal, wild dog (sonekutta), wild cat, jackal, fox, common mongoose and small Indian mongoose while herbivores found in large numbers include cheetal, sambhar, neelgai and chinkara.

More than 325 species of local and migratory birds like the Malabar Pied Hornbill, Indian Pitta, Grey Headed Eagle, White Eyed Buzzard, Short Toed Eagle and six kinds of vultures are found there.

During the winter season, the migratory birds arrive at the reserve, which makes it an ideal place for bird watching.

Pench Tiger Reserve has 90.3 per sq km density of grass-eating animals, the highest in the country, and 6,012 kg per sq km vegetation, the second in India after Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka. It also has more than 1,200 species of vegetables including many endangered near-extinct ones and valuable medicinal plants.

And last but not the least, the tiger reserve known for its natural beauty finds mention in books like "Ain-e-Akbari", R.A. Strandel's book "Seoni, Camp Life in the Satpura", Forsyth's book "High Lands of Central India" among others.

Strendel's autobiography "Seoni" was the main source of inspiration for Rudyard Kipling to write "The Jungle Book".

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Hurt tiger convalesces in city zoo

Hurt tiger convalesces in city zoo

Express news service
Posted online: Sunday , February 24, 2008 at 02:09:49
Updated: Sunday , February 24, 2008 at 02:29:18

Kolkata, February 23 An injured eight feet-long tiger, which was found by forest officials in the Sunderbans, has been brought to the Alipore Zoo for treatment.
Ruling out that poachers could have inflicted the injury to the big cat, forest officials say that the nature of injury in the hind leg suggests of a crocodile or a shark bite.

"Let us conjure up a situation where the tiger has injured himself in a trap laid by poachers. In that case, his fore limbs would have been caught in the trap door and not his hind leg," said DFO Subhendu Banerjee.

In case the perception about the tiger being bitten by a crocodile or a shark turns out to be true, it will be a first of its kind as never before has such an incident been reported from the delta region.

"Such cases are rare and mostly reported from other states. We do not have any official record of such an incident in West Bengal," said Banerjee.

Meanwhile, the vets treating the tiger said that the big cat is responding to the medication that includes a dose of fluids, antibiotics, painkillers and antacids.

"We are continuously monitoring his health. The spread of the infection has been controlled. There is a raw wound in his hind leg where the bone has been exposed. Had treatment been delayed, it could have resulted in septicemia. There is no such fear now. But we will like to observe him for a few more days before we infer anything," said Dr Swapan Ghosh, a senior veterinary doctor at the zoo.

The beast was brought here late on Friday evening and was served one kilogram of pork today.

The authorities are also undecided if the tiger would be released in the Sunderbans since it has lost a part of its limb.

"They learn to adapt and survive. But we will have to nurse him back to health first before taking any decision," said most of the forest officials.

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PM wants states to do their bit for tiger conservation

PM wants states to do their bit for tiger conservation

23 Feb 2008, 0217 hrs IST,TNN

NEW DELHI: In an effort to ensure improved tiger conservation, the
Centre is planning to make states where sanctuaries and parks are
located active partners in protecting the big cat by framing
memorandums of understanding (MoUs) that will tie-in increased
assistance to better management of the reserves.

A review of tiger conservation chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh on Friday considered options to stem the decline in tiger
population in the wake of the latest census released last week.

It was felt that the cooperation of the states was essential for any
conservation effort to succeed. The 30-odd tigers reserves are
managed by forest services of 17 states.

While a press release said that the PM expressed concern at the
decline in tiger numbers, it also pointed out that Singh felt
comparisons with older census figures would be out of place given
that a revised methodology was used in the most recent count.

It was also felt that tiger numbers had declined most in areas
adjoining reserves which were not specifically protected.

In order to get the states on board, it was decided that MoUs
detailing their responsibilities as well as a scheme of incentives
would be drawn up soon. These would be then signed with states with
increased funds being linked to specific measures like requisite
staff, communication and monitoring equipment and patrol vehicles.

This would bring about a sharing of best practices in tiger
conservation. A meeting of CMs of states where tiger reserves are
located will be called and the CMs will be requested to take charge
of conservation and forest management.

The meeting will seek to frame a coordinated response to the
challenge of tiger conservation. While the core areas of tiger
reserves are to be kept inviolate - without people - the buffer areas
are to be managed as safe cohabitation space for people and the wild

An amendment had been made to the Wildlife Protection Act in December
2006 to pursue this but several states are yet to start the process
of such a demarcation.

While MoUs are part of measures that PMO has considered earlier, the
proposal will now be fast-tracked. Similarly, a proposal to allow
tiger reserves to use funds that are generated by tourism-related
activities may be considered. If tiger "foundations" were set up at
reserves they would be able to directly handle recruitment and
purchase of equipment.

The reserves would also be insulated against inefficiencies of
procurement through regular state government apparatus.

The recently announced hikes for the National Tiger Conservation
Programme had also increased to Rs 10 lakh the compensation amount
for relocating families in protected areas. It was hoped that this
would make it easier to persuade population clusters to move out.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Take charge of tigers: PM tells CMs

Take charge of tigers: PM tells CMs

NDTV Correspondent
Saturday, February 23, 2008 (New Delhi)

The Prime Minister has asked the Chief Ministers of states with tiger reserves to take direct charge of the task of protecting tigers.

After a sustained NDTV campaign to save the tiger, the Prime Minister held an emergency meeting on Saturday and had a clear message for the Chief Ministers.

The Prime Minister will hold a Conference of Chief Ministers to put in place a coordinated response to the challenge of tiger conservation.

The government has also decided to sanction whatever amount it takes to save the tiger.

But there's a warning for the states. Any State that doesn't want to save the tiger, or denies the problem will not be given these funds.

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One held for shooting tiger

One held for shooting tiger

21 Feb, 2008, 1718 hrs IST, PTI

BHOPAL: Forest officials in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh have arrested one person in connection with the shooting of a tiger in Uchehara area.

The arrested person identified as Bihari Prasad Kol was produced in a court in Nagoud town yesterday which remanded him to judicial custody till March 3 for further probe, official sources said.

With the arrest of Kol, forest officials are hoping to catch the gang of poachers allegedly involved in the smuggling and killing of animals in the region.

A tiger was shot by an unidentified person following which the animal was seriously injured. The tiger was later shifted to Bhopal for treatment.

Both the hind legs of the tiger were paralysed due to the bullet injury, the sources said, adding a team of veterinary surgeons has successfully extricated the bullet pierced into the spine of the full-grown animal's body.

The condition of tiger is stable and now the animal will be placed in the protected area of the state capital's National Van Vihar Park.

State Forest Minister Vijay Shah, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) VR Khare and PCCF Wildlife Dr P B Gangopadhyaya among others visited the park and instructed the officials to ensure proper care of the animal.

The tiger was found injured on February 16 in the Unchaher forest area of the district and it was reported that the tiger was shot by an unidentified poacher

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Tiger under treatment in Bhopal dies

Tiger under treatment in Bhopal dies

February 23rd, 2008 - 12:47 am ICT by admin

Bhopal, Feb 22 (IANS) A tiger succumbed to bullet injuries from
poachers at the Van Vihar National Park here Friday evening after
veterinarians failed in their desperate attempts to rescue it. The
animal, caught from the Uchehra forest area in Satna district last
week, was brought in a critical condition to Bhopal Monday by
officials of the Panna Tiger Reserve.

The big cat had serious bullet injuries that paralysed its back.

Veterinary experts from Jabalpur were called to treat the seven-foot-
long tiger, which looked extremely strong.

"This type of physique is a rare feature in the tigers of the state,"
said J.S. Chauhan, director of Van Vihar.

"There were two bullet wounds, one at the shoulder and another in the
leg. The second one was so deep that physicians couldn't reach it. So
we decided to call experts from the Veterinary College, Jabalpur, and
they did their best to save the animal," he said.

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Predator on the prowl

Predator on the prowl

Anand Sankar / New Delhi February 23, 2008

With an alarming dip in the number of tigers in the wild, will human-beings succeed in eliminating them altogether? Anand Sankar argues that there's still a fighting chance of their survival provided we control our greed.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has a new number to mull over — 1,411 — and this one isn't going to grow at 9 per cent annually.

With just that many tigers in the wild, according to the recent National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) report, it's hardly surprising the Prime Minister is personally leading the inquest into the disappearance of the royal Bengal tiger — first from the Sariska National Park, prompting Manmohan Singh's Tiger Task Force (TTF) to conduct a post-mortem into the "Sariska Shock" and deliver a comprehensive report on the issues facing the tiger in India. It's first concrete outcome, a report on the Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India, has been released by the NTCA, the re-named avatar of Project Tiger.

The Prime Minister's reaction to the dwindled numbers has been to post a Tiger Conservation Plan to the states, and he will soon chair a meeting with the stakeholders to finalise a plan for its implementation.

Valmik Thapar, conservationist and a panelist of the TTF, bluntly summed up the conundrum facing Dr Singh: "The Prime Minister has to see now how many tigers this country can manage, and where?"

The latest status report on the tiger, compiled over three years, is billed the most "scientific" assessment ever. It has covered all existing tiger landscapes in the country except the Sunderbans and the large swathes of jungle in the grip of the Naxal insurgency in Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Jharkhand.

The numbers are being hailed across the board for definitively debunking the earlier "pugmark census" which, for years, has been accused of grossly inflating tiger numbers, both due to genuine misinterpretation and mass malpractice.

Instead, the median of 1,411 has been arrived at using a combination of data collection (animal sightings and presence indicators), satellite imagery (layered with inherent factors such as habitat quality, human presence and livestock density), camera traps for direct imagery and, finally, tracking individual tigers using GPS and radio tracking.

But what is one to make of the number?

Dr Rajesh Gopal, member secretary, NTCA, says "the tiger numbers can be more". The report addresses the long-standing issues plaguing the tiger — direct poaching, subsistence killing of prey by humans and habitat degradation and loss — but an analysis actually helps in identifying areas where the tiger has the best chance of survival.

These are "Nagarhole-Madumalai-Bandipur-Wayanad (south India), Corbett (Uttarakhand), Kanha (Madhya Pradesh) and possibly the Sunderbans (West Bengal) and Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong (Assam)." They are the last remaining contiguous tracts of forest for the tiger to roam in.

The common call for saving the tiger has been due to its position at the apex of the ecological food chain. But over the years, realisation has sunk in that the tiger is the "key piece" in a myriad, multi-layered jigsaw that encompasses a variety of interests — primarily economic.

The TTF 2005 report points out that typically, tiger habitats are the most fertile and resource rich, thus facing the most acute human and development pressures.

Scientists Ullas Karanth and Raghu Chundawat have been the biggest proponents of using science for studying and managing the tiger in India. After years of being "sidelined", they are finally being credited for their efforts, though Dr Karanth remains short of actually "endorsing" the report.

He says that using previously identified density benchmarks "there is habitat for up to 6,000-7,000 tigers. We can sustain that tiger density, it is doable", blaming the large-scale subsistence hunting of prey "in the vast forests of the North-east, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa" for the disappearance of the tiger there.

When Project Tiger was envisioned in the '70s, a minimum of about 2,000 sq km of core habitat was deemed necessary for a breeding population. It was soon revised to 1,500 sq km and now stands at between 800 and 1,000 sq km.

"That is the number needed for a breeding population of, say, 20 female and 10 male tigers. If there is good prey density, that can result in support for a total of 60-70 tigers, which includes cubs, juveniles and dispersing individuals," says Dr Gopal.

Dr Gopal and his co-researchers have identified that 31,111 sq km needs to be the country's "core tiger habitat", which should be inviolate to human presence. For this purpose they have suggested that Rs 10 lakh be set aside to relocate and resettle each family settled in villages inside these areas.

If events during the TTF in 2005, when the panel was polarised on the issue of relocation and resettlement, are a barometer, it remains to be seen how the process will be smoothened now.

There is also the matter of the Forest Rights Act being passed. Shankar Gopalakrishnan, who is part of a campaign called Campaign for Survival and Dignity, insists that defining Critical Tiger Habitats (CTH) under the Wildlife Act a day before passing the Forest Rights Act, which already contained the Critical Wildlife Habitat (CWH) clause, was unnecessary and done in hurry.

"The notion that because of the Forest Rights Act one cannot relocate people, and that with the CTH people have no rights, is wrong. People have rights and relocation can be done only if it is voluntary and proven absolutely necessary. You need the right compensation packages, not just a financial package. You need a provision for alternate livelihoods," he argues, insisting on a review of how these habitats are identified.

Gopalakrishnan cites cases of improperly implemented relocation attempts, such as at Sariska, where the relocated returned to the reserve because it is said the land they were granted by the state was "barren".

He stresses on the need for alternate livelihoods by pointing to examples such as the Soliga adivasis in the BR Hills of Karnataka, who generate 60 per cent of their income from wild honey.

"We need a transparent process to monitor resettlement because there are huge sums involved," says Gopalakrishnan. Others are pressing for a "Director of Resettlement" drawn from outside the government cadre to oversee the process autonomously.

Rights activists say the biggest threat is not humans but resource exploitation, and question the role of the Supreme Court's Centrally Empowered Committee (CEC) on forests, of which Valmik Thapar is a panelist.

They quote data which says: "Forest diversion for other uses from 1980-2001 (before the CEC) was 8,27,857 hectares or an average of 37,629 ha per year. From 2002 to April 2006, with the CEC, 3,38,345 hectares or an average of 78,139 ha per year — a rate of forest diversion 2.08 times greater than before the committee."

Thapar insists that "every little patch of forest given was scrutinised in detail". "We need to question the model of development. Everybody is after the land of the tiger, and this development is most going to affect the lives of simple people," he says.

He adds that the CEC's task is doing a thorough "double check" and cites the case of its coming to the aid of the people against Vedanta Alumina's bauxite mining initiative in the ecologically sensitive Niyamgiri hills in Orissa's Kalahandi district.

To give a fillip to the population of tigers, both Dr Gopal and Dr Karanth feel genetic exchange between surviving isolated populations is critical. While Dr Gopal's team might soon reintroduce tigers to Sariska from Ranthambore, Dr Karanth and Thapar feel it is an expensive proposition that only "distracts attention".

"We need to identify critical habitats outside current protected areas as some current areas are write-offs. We can use the money to resettle the right villages in the right habitats," they argue.

What is worrying now is a perceived "rift" between the state governments and the centre. The Orissa government has a lot of explaining to do after the NTCA released camera trap images of subsistence level hunting of the tiger's prey. Dr Gopal says the loss of prey is the biggest reason for just 20 tigers being identified at Simlipal.

Next in line is the Sunderbans. Despite the West Bengal government's protests, official sources in the centre and eminent scientists say a "rude shock" awaits the nation when the numbers are officially released.

With more states expected to follow Orissa's example of ordering an independent count based on the "pugmark method" to prove increased numbers, it remains to be seen how much time the tiger has, at least in the wild.

Median of estimated tiger population (excluding the Sunderbans and reserves under Naxal insurgency) — 1,411

Number released during last census in 2001, using the pugmark method of counting — 3,642

Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, home to the largest number of tigers at 300 and 290

Highest tiger density — Corbett at 19.6 tigers per 100 sq km

Biggest shock — Simlipal, where poachers were camera trapped, and the count has revealed only 20 tigers compared to the 100 claimed in the 2001 count

The Orissa government has gone on record to dispute the latest count and ordered an independent count using the old method

31,111 sq km of core tiger habitat identified in 17 states in the current report compared to 17,612 sq km in the TTF report in 2005

Since Project Tiger was launched in the early '70s, 80 villages and 2,904 families have been relocated

Largest relocation — Kanha in Madhya Pradesh, in the 1970s and 1980s, and also the most criticised

Most-lauded relocation — Bhadra in Karnataka in 1998. The centre spent Rs 11.68 crore and the state Rs 4.65 crore. 439 families were settled in "extremely productive and irrigated land" at a cost of Rs 8.3 lakh per family against a stipulated Rs 1 lakh.

Current report recommends Rs 10 lakh per family

The TTF report estimated the relocation of 1,500 villages within the 28 tiger reserves. That is roughly 65,000 families or 3,25,000 people

NTCA gets about Rs 600 crore in the current five-year plan, and the final bill could be around Rs 1,600 crore

Six reserves — Panna and Kanha, Melghat, Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam, Indravati, and Bandipur — contain 217 of the 273 villages in the core areas. 79 per cent of the human habitations in the core areas of tiger reserves are found in these reserves

NTCA gives each tiger reserve Rs 2 crore annually. Its 2007-08 budget allocation was Rs 60 crore; the 2008-09 budget might raise it to Rs 80 crore. Total funds spent on the tiger since 1972 could be around Rs 2,000 crore

Ranthambore in 2003-04 saw 1,11,375 visitors, which earned it a revenue of Rs 1.67 crore. But the larger monies go to the hospitality industry, which has been known to charge up to Rs 30,000 for a night's lodging and on occasion has been known to offer "guaranteed tiger sightings"

The conservation lobby has often been accused of being elitist and having a stake in the booming tiger tourism business

Upto $25 million is rumoured to have been pumped into Tiger NGOs by foreign donors

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National animal faces nation wide threat

National animal faces nation wide threat

Gokul Chandrasekar, 21 February 2008, Thursday

Poaching and the loss of tiger habitats amid India's rapid economic development have been blamed for the slump. The biggest decline in tiger numbers occurred in poorer central states, which have traditionally had the highest concentration of tigers.

THE LAST thing India's national animal needed was a fresh controversy on just how many tigers exist. The number of tigers in India has plummeted to around 1, 411, nearly half the previous estimate, as humans either kill them for their body parts or encroach on their habitat, according to a government survey. The estimate comes from the latest tiger census by the government-run National Tiger Conservation Authority, and is based on a more complex counting method. The previous census, carried out in 2001 and 2002, said there were 3,642 tigers. The earlier tiger counts were made based on pugmarks unlike the latest one where more scientific methods have been used, according to the claim.

The report: State of tiger, co-predators and prey in India said there had been an overall decrease in the tiger population except in Tamil Nadu where the numbers have gone up substantially. Poachers have cleared some reserves, such as Sariska in Rajasthan. Others, such as Bandhavgarh in Madya Pradesh, have seen sharp drops due to encroachment on the forest.

Poaching and the loss of tiger habitats amid India's rapid economic development have been blamed for the slump. The biggest decline in tiger numbers occurred in the poorer central states, which have traditionally had the highest concentration of tigers. The encroachment of humans on areas inhabited by tigers has been a key factor in the decline. Local conservationists say this leads to more "man-animal conflict" and reduces the amount of tiger prey available.

A century ago India had a population of more than 40,000 tigers. Tigers are killed for their body parts, with their skins is prized and bones used in medicines. Pelts are sold for more than £8,000 apiece in China. Even after the bans imposed by the government warning not to gather even wood from the hunting grounds, poaching of tigers continue.

The report recommends tiger populations be connected through buffer zones where human land use is restricted. It also suggests better incentives for local people to protect tigers.

However, conservationists say a new government policy intended to help poor indigenous people threatens to hasten the decline in tiger numbers. Under the proposal, these tribal people will have the right to gain access to large tracts of remote forests.

The Indian government is planning to create eight new tiger reserves. Under the plan, about 250 villages, probably accounting for 200,000 people, would be relocated, with each family given one million rupees. But this would take five years to set up, and is expected to cost the taxpayers a whopping Rs 600 crores.

The country is home to 40 percent of the world's tigers, with 23 tiger reserves in 17 states.

In Andhra Pradesh the population of tigers stands at 95 (as compared to 192, when the last census was carried out). Similarly, Chhattisgarh has 26 (227), Madhya Pradesh 300 (710), Maharashtra 103 (238), Orissa 45 (173) and Rajasthan 32 (58). Sariska has no tigers left.

In the Western Ghats, Karnataka is left with 290 (compared to 401 in 2002) and Kerala 46 (71).

Tamil Nadu has been an exception where the population has increased 76 (60).

In the Northeast Hills and Brahmaputra Plains, Assam has only 70 tigers against 354 in the previous census. Arunachal Pradesh has 14 tigers against 61, Mizoram six (28) and North/West Bengal 10 against 349 earlier.

Strong imperatives are the need of the hour to safeguard the national animal.

Related Articles

Forest officials botch up tranquilising tigress
India's tiger population dwindles


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State forest department questions WII tiger census

State forest department questions WII tiger census

Express news service

Posted online: Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 2354 hrs IST

Lucknow, February 22

The Uttar Pradesh Forest and Wildlife Department today questioned the census conducted by Wildlife Institute of India (WII), which stated that the number of tigers in the state is falling. Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and Wildlife D S Suman said the department had not received the complete report of the new census.

He said: "As per my knowledge, census report does not detail the criteria used for counting and the limitations of the sampling technique."

Suman also pointed to the possibility of the exclusion of tiger cubs below 15 months in the census. "Besides, the state is known to have 'cane tigers' whose habitat is the cane fields. Whether these have been included in the census is not clear," Suman stated.

He added that the department had communicated the possibilities to WII.

Suman blamed the new method for showing a decreased number of tigers. Earlier, the census was done with the help of voluntary organisations along with representatives of WII. The Government of India had approved this method, he said.

Suman said earlier the pugmark-identification method was prevalent but now it had been replaced by the camera-trap method.

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Tigers don’t change their stripes

Tigers don't change their stripes


Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Friday, Feb 22, 2008

From The "Young World" Section

Most of the areas designated as protected are isolated islands of

Tigers are large wild cats. Cats are carnivorous and territorial and
with the exception of lions are solitary animals. These
characteristics translate into specific ecological requirements for
tigers (sufficient numbers of large-sized prey for them to hunt and
feed on, extensive and contiguous habitats with little or no human
disturbance), requirements when compromised negatively impact the
survival of individual tigers and the growth and persistence of tiger
populations. This has been documented in the recently released report
of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Wildlife
Institute of India 'Status of tigers, co-predators and prey in
India'. This is the first nation-wide attempt to assess the status of
tiger habitat, its prey species and the population status of tiger
and its associated predators using scientific sampling techniques.
Till now policy makers, wildlife managers and the public including
the media have been obsessed with total counts of endangered species.
Such counts by definition are unreliable.


Currently the estimated population of wild tigers in India is between
a minimum of 1165 and a maximum of 1657 and they occur in several
populations most of which are small and isolated. The states with the
highest numbers of tigers include Madhya Pradesh (236 to 364)
Karnataka (241 to 339) while the numbers are low in states like Bihar
(7 to 13).

Given the current low number of wild tigers and their precarious
conservation status due to their fragmented habitats and extensive
poaching, we as a nation will have to make an immediate and strong
commitment to provide for the ecological needs of the tigers and also
afford its habitat, prey and the tigers themselves adequate
protection. This will show our commitment to the conservation and
survival of our national animal, which has strong cultural links. If
we do not invest sufficient resources soon, it is quite possible that
the tigers will go extinct within the next few years and India would
then have failed its citizens as well as citizens of the world by
mutely presiding over the extinction of probably the most evocative
icon of Indian wilderness.

The writer is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Ashoka Trust for
Research in Ecology and the Environment.

Dire thought

Most of our protected areas are isolated islands of wilderness. They
are set in a matrix of habitat that is increasingly hostile to nature
and have rather small populations of tigers. These need protection
and active management failing which they will become locally extinct
like what happened in Sariska Tiger Reserve.

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Wounded leave their lair ‘Hungry’ tiger walks into trap

Wounded leave their lair
'Hungry' tiger walks into trap


The caged tiger, on way to Calcutta. Telegraph picture
Jharkhali (Sunderbans), Feb. 22: Around six this morning, Tridibnagar woke up to the frantic bleating of a goat.

The tiger whose pug marks they spotted yesterday couldn't, after all, resist the lure of meat and walked into a trap.

Principal chief conservator of forests Atanu Raha said it had injuries in the hind legs, which suggest the "possibility of poachers' attack".

A crocodile may have also attacked the tiger while it was crossing the river.

It was brought to the Ali-pore zoo hospital late tonight.

After treatment, the tiger will be taken to a reserve in north Bengal.

Fishermen had spotted the pug marks on the bank of Herobhanga in Jharkhali, 150km from Calcutta, yesterday.

The forest department set the trap and villagers lit up torches and cordoned off the riverbank adjoining Tridibnagar with nets to prevent it from straying in.

"But around six, we heard the goat bleat and a tiger growl," said Bichitra Biswas, 35, a member of the local forest protection force.

The villagers knew that a tiger was in the village but were not sure if it had been trapped. "We heaved a sigh of relief when we saw it," said Dibas Sardar, 40.

"We are used to tigers coming to the village. But we were scared after the Deulbari incident," said Innat Mollah, who owns a mechanised boat.

Four days ago, a pregnant tigress attacked five villagers trying to catch it in Deulbari, 100km from here.

The animal was tranquillised after it had been stoned and thrashed mercilessly.

Pradip Vyas, the joint director of the Sunderbans Biosphere and special chief conservator of forests, said it must have been looking for a safe place. "Tigers eat up cubs and so a tigress looks for safer places for giving birth."

In the Sunderbans, tigers also stray into villages in search of sweet-water ponds as the water in the core area of the forest is brackish.

Vyas said tigers were known to venture into human settlements in search of food, as was possibly the case in Tridibnagar.

"This tiger was hungry. It not only finished the goat but also the two chickens served to it later," he said.

The cage was covered with tarpaulin sheets and leaves and pulled on to a launch, waiting on the Herobhanga with vets on board.

Thousands of villagers gathered on the riverbank for a look at the animal that had given them a sleepless night.

Around 3pm, the launch started for Canning. When it reached there some three-and-a-half hours later, nearly 1,000 villagers were waiting on the bank of the Matla.

Nearly 40 people were needed to lift the cage onto the mini truck that took the animal to Calcutta.

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Second stray tiger from Sundarbans caught

Second stray tiger from Sundarbans caught

A Sify Correspondent
Friday, 22 February , 2008, 11:17

Kolkata: A second Sundarbans tiger was captured on Friday by the West Bengal forest officials from a village outside the core habitat area of the big cat.
The royal resident of the thick canopy of mangrove swamps had strayed into human habitation supposedly for food and left pugmarks that led to his capture.

"We have captured the tiger early in the morning. A goat was kept as bait and the tiger walked into the trap. No tranquiliser was used and so the growling tiger is in full senses," Sundarbans Tiger Reserve (STR) field director Niraj Singhal said.

The tiger was captured from Jharkhali area of outer Sundarbans in South 24 Parganas district, about 120 km from Kolkata.

Sundarbans, which comprises about 10,000 sq km of marshlands and mangrove forests along the coast of the Bay of Bengal, is one of the last natural habitats of the tiger.

Also Read: Only 1, 411 tigers in India
Where have all the tigers from Sunderbans gone?

A pregnant tigress was captured on Sunday last and then released in the wild on Monday after it strayed into another South 24 Parganas village.

"We are taking the tiger to a secluded place in the reserved forest area for examination by two veterinary doctors. If the tiger was injured, as claimed by some, it could be ascertained there only," Singhal said.

"The tiger had strayed into the village area Thursday and the pugmarks made it possible for us to capture him," he said.

Villagers and forest officials kept nightlong vigil and in the early hours of Friday the Royal Bengal tiger was finally caged as it started binging on the bait.

TV footage showed the captured king of the tiger helplessly growling at his human captors. Some forest workers said the tiger has sustained injury earlier.

Wildlife expert Debasis Chakrabarti said the tiger could have been injured while fighting another male for a female tigress and then strayed outside the core area. The winter-spring mating season of the tiger is not yet over.

According to experts, a Sundarbans tiger generally strays out of the forest area either due to old age/injury when hunting becomes difficult, or in fighting during mating. On some occasions it loses direction in a territory intermingled with water and land.

On Tuesday the nation watched a spectacular sight on TV when another Sundarbans tigress that was captured Monday amid high drama from a village jumped magestically from a boat into the river, turned back with a growl at her captors, swam ashore and then melted into the thick mangrove forest.

Capping a two-day drama over the ham-handed capture of the pregnant tigress from a village in South 24 Parganas district, the inmate of the forest was finally returned to her habitat after she was treated for her injuries caused by villagers.

However, this time the forest officials, who were criticised for their inept capture of the tigress when she was poked and stoned by villagers, were cautious and the entire operation was done skillfully.

While the latest census did not cover the Sundarbans, forest officials said there were 249 tigers in the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve and 279 in greater Sundarbans.

But the number, based on pugmarks of individual tigers, was contested by an analysis of the same pugmarks by the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI).

ISI experts said in July 2006 there were only 75 tigers left in the Sundarbans after the analysis with the help of new software. The forest department was quick to rubbish the figure and the software.

According to the latest tiger census released by the government last week, the total number of tigers across the country stands at 1,411, a dramatic fall from 3,642 in the 2001-02 census.

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Tiger paws put village on toes

Tiger paws put village on toes

Issue Date: Friday , February 22 , 2008

Calcutta, Feb. 21: Pug marks near a Sunderbans village prompted forest officials to lay a trap and keep vigil through the night.

Some villagers from Tridibnagar claimed to have seen the tiger this evening, Atanu Raha, the principal conservator of forests, said.

A group of fishermen spotted the marks on the banks of the Herobhanga river in Jharkhali around 8 this morning, four days after a pregnant Royal Bengal Tiger had been stoned and thrashed in another Sunderbans village.

"As soon as villagers informed our forest officers, they rushed there. It was clear that a tiger had strayed into the area," said Pradeep Vyas, the special chief conservator of forests and joint director of the Sunderbans Biosphere.

"We have taken all possible precautions to stop the animal from entering the nearby Tridibnagar village."

Nylon nets have been laid around the village and a goat has been kept inside an iron cage as a bait. Four teams from the forest department and villagers will stand guard through the night, flaming torches in hand.

But this Big Cat will probably be spared the treatment meted out to the Royal Bengal Tiger in Deulbari. Villagers had pelted the tiger with stones and hit it with bamboo poles after it was brought down from a tree with the help of a tranquilliser bullet. It was set free on Tuesday.

"The Tridibnagar villagers have been told not to attack the tiger if they spot it. Our men will ensure its safe return to the forest," Raha said.

"If the animal falls into our trap, our officials will immediately tranquillise it and set it free."

Raha added that if the tiger had indeed been spotted, it might return to the village tonight.

Minister for Sunderbans affairs Kanti Ganguly is camping in Tridibnagar to oversee the arrangements.

The Deulbari incident has made Tridibnagar residents cautious. "We have asked people not to harm the animal. Forest officials will handle the matter," said 40-year-old Mantu Naskar.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Hungry tiger slays leopard

Hungry tiger slays leopard

The Vladivostok News
February 19, 2008

An Amur tiger killed and ate a Far Eastern leopard in an encounter in Primorye's Khasansky County which environmentalists attribute to a 'lack of food', a press statement from the Far Eastern branch of Russia's WWF (World Wildlife Fund) reported February 15.

The leopard, most likely a cub, was attacked and killed while it was resting under the roots of a fallen tree. The tiger, with a footprint of 11.5 centimeters, is allegedly an adult male residing in the area.

The tiger managed to devour half of the carcass before being scared off by people approaching, the statement said.

"The killing of a leopard by a tiger is normal for predators which live in the same territory and are competitors for the same prey," the statement cited Pavel Fomenko, coordinator of the biodiversity preservation program at the Amur branch of WWF as saying.

The major reason for such predatory attacks, Fomenko said, might be the shortage of food.

The probes taken by Russian environmentalists will determine the leopard's genetic traits to further find out the range of shared interbreeding, with assistance from Japanese specialists.

This has been the second case of a tiger killing a leopard, the statement said.

According to the latest census of Far Eastern leopards taken in the winter of 2006-2007, there are only about 30 of the rare wild cats left in the territory today. The population inhabits southern Primorye, along the Russian-Chinese border.

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Tiger deaths: Wildlife body protests, writes to PM

Tiger deaths: Wildlife body protests, writes to PM


Posted online: Wednesday, February 20, 2008 at 0053 hrs IST

The reasons for tiger deaths in the country are beginning to show.Members of the National Board for Wildlife, the apex conservation body chaired by the Prime Minister, wrote to him on Tuesday saying decisions approved by him, including the one on forming a sub-committee for the tiger, are not being followed and even minutes of meetings are not being properly recorded.

The board has 15 independent members, who say that a sub-committee formed to look into the issue of tiger conservation has not actually been formed. "The National Board for Wildlife is failing the nation as the minutes of meetings are being erroneously recorded," they said.

In a meeting of the Standing Committee with Minister of Forests and Wildlife S Regupathy on Tuesday, the members said that they could no longer be a part of any decision until the ones taken in previous meetings were followed up.

The members had written to the PM on December 24 also, where they gave an instance of "erroneous recording of the minutes of the meetings". It was decided in one of the meetings to take "immediate measures to create a Tiger Protection force".

However, members pointed out that "this was recorded as Central assistance is being provided for creation of a Tiger Protection Force comprising ex-Army personnel and people from local communities complementing the efforts of the field staff". Such an approach was diluting the issue, they added.

Some of the decisions taken on November last year included formation of a sub-committee to look into tiger conservation, marine protected areas and the impact of the Forest Rights Act.

"We are disappointed and disillusioned by the manner in which the NBWL is functioning, and are seriously concerned that despite the productive meeting chaired by you, there has been virtually no progress on the important decisions," their latest letter to the Prime Minister said.

"Since these key decisions are not being followed, the independent members of the National Board for Wildlife will not participate in any fresh decisions till the old ones are followed. This kind of attitude is not only harming the tiger but also other Indian wildlife", said Dr Bibabh Talukdar, a Standing Committee member after attending Tuesday's meeting.

"The minutes of the meetings are not being taken down. There was also a decision to include more independent members in the Standing Committee, but that has been disregarded too," says Belinda Wright, an eminent conservationist who is part of the NBWL.

"The Standing Committee has been relegated to a clearing house for issues like de-notifications. The tiger crisis needs to be looked into, but there has been absolutely no response from the Ministry of Environment and Forests," Wright said.

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Tiger found dead in Melghat

Tiger found dead in Melghat

Express news service

Posted online: Thursday, February 14, 2008 at 2343 hrs IST

A tiger was found dead in the Dhakna range of Melghat Tiger Reserve two days ago. T U Shevte, Assistant Conservator of Forest, Melghat Tiger Reserve, told The Indian Express that the cause of death appeared to be injury caused by porcupine quills.

"The sub-adult tiger's legs had been pierced by a few sharp quills. Apparently, it might not have been able to run and catch a prey and eventually died of hunger," Shevte said, adding, "but this is just a preliminary observation. A post-mortem has been conducted and a detailed report is expected soon."

Tigers have a special liking for porcupine meat, but often have problems with its quills, which are difficult to remove. Leopards, however, are known to have special skills in tackling the problem.

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Cat woman saves tigers

Cat woman saves tigers

Editor:Sharon Lee
Updated: 2008-2-21 9:44:47

Quan Li, the 46-year-old Beijing native who is known as "the woman trying to save Chinese tigers," says her life is defined by two love stories, both of which are a mix of sweetness and agony.

"I have always loved cats," says Quan cradling a black cat on her lap in her Beijing apartment dotted with sculptures, paintings, cushions and toys featuring tigers, leopards and cheetahs.

She says she has been keeping cats as pets since her childhood even though her parents, both serving in the army, were strongly against it.

Over the past two decades, Quan has experienced many changes, moving from one country to another, mainly in Western Europe, except for the two years between 1986 and 1988 when she pursued her MBA at the Wharton Business School in the United States. Over the years, she also changed her profession - from teacher to fashion industry executive.

But her passion for cats, "among the most beautiful creatures in nature," remains.

"I love all cats, big or small, wild or tame," Quan says. "I love the unity of opposites displayed in their character: their soft, smooth coats and elegant contours form an aesthetic whole; their wild nature and speed indicate their strength; their lazy and laidback nature contrasts with their explosive power - a perfect combination!"

For a long time, Quan dreamed about spending all her time traveling across the world to see all kinds of cats.

Quan came close to realizing that dream when she quit her job in 1997 in Italy so as to join her then boy friend and current husband Stuart Bray, an international banker based in London.

She came to know Bray when they were both studying at Wharton Business School. While they fell in love soon after their graduation, they lived separately in pursuit of their separate careers.

By the time she moved to London, Quan was already heading Gucci's worldwide licensing business.

"But in the end, I discovered that fashion is all about now and endless change. Most of the time it deviates from beauty simply for the sake of 'change,'" Quan says.

She lost her interest and the agony of separation also became increasingly intolerable. At that time, Bray was also thinking of an early retirement. The two then took a vacation to a wildlife park in South Africa.

Quan recalls that it was her first exposure to life in the wild and how it benefited from eco-tourism.

"For the first time, I realized what wildlife conservation really meant and that was sustainable development," says Quan. "I said to myself, 'why can't this concept be applied to wildlife conservation in China?'"

After her trip to Namibia in the summer of 1998, this desire developed into a sense of mission.

During this trip, Quan came across a pet cheetah newly released back into the wild soon after the country enforced its prohibition of private wildlife breeding.

Quan was in a jeep when the cheetah approached her. "When I looked at the cheetah, he was looking at me too," Quan recalls. "At that moment, I read the unbelievable message in his eyes, desire, begging and sadness."

Quan says she could never forget that look. "It told me the fragility and loneliness an animal experiences when it has lost the ability to survive in the wild," says Quan. "I worried about that cheetah and even tried to find him but I never saw him again. That sad memory kept haunting me."

Quan decided to devote herself to the conservation of wildlife in China. She went to the State Forestry Administration (SFA) and said she would like to do something to help protect Chinese tigers, by which she actually meant Siberian tigers since at that time she had little knowledge of South China tigers.

Native to China, South China tigers are also known as Chinese Tigers, Amoy tigers or panthera tigris amoyensis. As direct descendants of the ancient tigers, all other tiger species in the world can trace their roots to these tigers. It is also the prototype embedded in China's tiger culture, like the Chinese zodiac and traditional Chinese literature and paintings.

However, with fewer than 30 remaining in the wild and about 60 kept in zoos, even less the number of giant pandas, they are among the world's top 10 species on the verge of extinction.

While some major conservation groups have written off the Chinese Tiger as "functionally extinct", Quan refuses to call it quits.

"Many people don't understand the goal is not just to save a few endangered tigers but to save a Chinese cultural symbol," says Quan, who is herself born in the Year of the Tiger.

In August 2000, Quan convinced Bray to help fund the Save China's Tigers Foundation in London.

"He was reluctant at first," Quan says. Yet, after a few field visits to China and convinced by Quan's determination and the Chinese government's full support, Bray joined her effort, which Quan jokes is a demonstration of the Chinese saying, "love me, love my crow."

In 2002, the foundation negotiated an agreement between China and South Africa for a joint project designed to reintroduce the offspring of zoo animals back into the wild.

Basically the project aims to take zoo-born tigers from China, release them into the wild and allow them to learn to hunt for themselves again in South Africa and then breed them before returning their wild off-springs back to China. Save China's Tigers provides the funding for the project, which includes the purchase of a 33,000-hectare estate in the semi-desert Karoo region of South Africa, which is currently known as Laohu Valley Reserve.

Since 2003, four tigers have undergone training to return to the wild at Laohu Valley Reserve, located 600 km from Johannesburg. They have learnt to cope with the elements and to catch a variety of prey from wild guinea fowl and hares to blesbok. They have learnt the necessary hunting skills using stalking and camouflage techniques.

The most exciting recent news was the birth of the first male cub on Nov 23, 2007. Currently, the cub, soon to be three months old, is still hand-reared in a nearby wildlife sanctuary. But it will soon return to the reserve for training to live in the wild. If everything goes to plan, this cub might become the first to be reintroduced to the wild of China.

But things haven't gone on as smoothly as Quan had hoped.

Her dedication to the conservation of South China tigers, a species regarded by many as "too late to be saved," her unconventional conservation method which involves relocations of the rare animals and her lack of prior knowledge and experience in wildlife conservation, have come under fire.

Quan admits that in the beginning, she was shocked and confused but decided to brush aside the criticisms and concentrate on her conservation efforts. Gradually, as the project made progress, the critics quietened down. At the same time, Quan finds herself joined by more in her efforts.

Among them is a cleaner who once donated all the coins he had collected, 17.9 pounds in total, to the charity.

No one knew how hard it would be to start and manage the project. Quan admits that even she had not anticipated how costly, complicated and time consuming it would be.

She says she finds few occasions when she can stay at home for an undisturbed dinner. Quan adds she feels guilty when she thinks of her husband who could have retired and enjoyed an easy life, yet has returned to work to raise funds for her project.

"Occasionally he might complain about not being able to enjoy a meal prepared by me," Quan says. "That always makes me sad. But as always, it ends up that he feels guiltier by saying that since no one knows better than him, how busy I am."

Despite all the progress so far, her ambitious plan, which has so far cost approximately $10 million, won't succeed until the re-trained tigers are released back to the wild in China.

To achieve that, the establishment of a pilot reserve for the eventual return of these tigers is imperative.

So far, two places, Zixi in Jiangxi province and Liuyang in Hunan province, have been recommended to the State Forestry Administration after careful study.

According to Quan, it will take at least 30 million yuan ($4.1 million) for the first phase of the construction, and a total of $20 million to fully restore in the region an ecosystem that's ideal for the survival of the South China tiger in the wild.

"Saving the Chinese tiger is a huge project, and it has just started," Quan says. "From time to time, I feel that this project actually controls me more than I control it I will for sure either continue the project until it succeeds, or give up when I really cannot salvage the situation. This project is without doubt a challenge to me and worth devoting the rest of my life to."

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