Friday, March 28, 2008

Forest fire engulfs tiger reserve

Forest fire engulfs tiger reserve

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nagpur: A devastating forest fire has engulfed around 100 sq km of forests and wildlife area in Melghat-Gugamal tiger reserves in Amravati district, approximately 250 km from here.

The areas that have been badly affected were: Dhakna, Wan, Sonala and Somthana forest ranges of the region. Sources said most of the forest officials, particularly middle-ranking and senior personnel, have been on leave since March 21. "The absence of staff has affected fire fighting efforts. Even incessant drizzle over the last two days, it has not helped us in any way to bring the fire under control," an official said.

The Forest Department said the area destroyed in the fire would be anything between 2,000 and 2,200 hectares of forestland.

A noted environmentalist, who visited the spot told Hindustan Times, on conditions of anonymity, that more than 50 sq km has been destroyed in the fire. "The fire continues to rage in most parts even on Tuesday evening. Not only have we lost forest areas but several species of wildlife were also affected," he said.

Environmentalist and secretary of Satpuda Foundation, Kishore Rithe, pointed out that almost all incidents of fire were man-made. "Some were done intentionally and some due to negligence. We have also witnessed incidents of fire due to carelessness of people who collect forest produces, particularly during the season when they collect Tendu leaf," Rithe said.

BS Hooda, field director of Melghat Tiger project, however, said only 2,100 hectares of forests were destroyed due to the fire. "We are trying our level best to extinguishing the fire," he said and claimed that the fire affected a small area of the tiger project.

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Cowatch: Protecting tigers

Cowatch: Protecting tigers
Section: Voices Date:Mar 27,2008

By Bittu Sahgal

One of the world's foremost authorities on tigers, Dr Ullas Karanth is a senior conservation scientist and Director of the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society's India Programme. The central thesis of his work has been the connection between prey and predator numbers and the arena of most of his fieldwork has been Karnataka, particularly Nagarahole, though he has, of course, studied tigers across India. Winner of the Sanctuary-ABN AMRO Lifetime Service Award 2007, he speaks here with Bittu Sahgal about tigers, science and conservation.

Some would say you live a most adventurous life. You must have a host of unforgettable wildlife experiences to share with our readers.
I think darting of tigers from a precarious tree perch, which was well within a tiger's leap certainly ranks high in terms of sheer thrill. I will never forget moments like the one from my field diary of 17 years ago: "Then, I spotted the tiger: a brief glimpse of black and sunlit gold. The Randia leaves made a harlequin pattern of light and shade on his body. Padding calmly down a trail, massive head swinging side to side, the tiger was a picture of power and grace… I swung my dart gun around very slowly hoping his keen eyes would not catch the movement… As his shoulder, flanks and, then the right thigh appeared behind the crosshairs, I gently squeezed the trigger…"

Has your life ever been threatened in the course of your work?
Not really. There have been potentially risky moments with elephants while sneaking quietly on transect surveys, or I might have been darting tigers, but I would say I face a greater potential risk by driving on the streets of Bangalore.

How much of an influence on you was your illustrious father, Dr Shivrama Karanth and what were his views on the wildlife issues so close to your heart?
He was a huge and a very early influence. He was the one who pointed me towards nature. He absolutely loved wildlife and read widely about animals. Our home was, in fact, a haven for all sorts of animals, and I grew up on stacks of nature books and Jim Corbett's tales of man-eaters.

I guess there must have been several other influences from your family.
My aunt Vasantha Satyashankar who gave me my first Sálim Ali book in the 1950s and encouraged me to watch birds; my cousin, senior forester Shyam Sundar who took me to the jungle in the 1960s, and forest ranger and long-time friend since the late 1960s, KM Chinnappa, who taught me field craft in Nagarahole. Of course, looming large as an intellectual influence, there was George Schaller, whose work on tigers I read first in 1965 in Life Magazine.

Where did you actually grow up and where did you complete your schooling, Masters and Doctorate? I grew up in Puttur, a rural town in the Western Ghats region, 50 km. from Mangalore in Karnataka where I studied in a Kannada-medium school. I then went on to study engineering, and worked for a while. I got to study wildlife formally for my Masters degree in Florida and completed my Doctorate in Mangalore.

What does a day of your job entail?
At one time, my day involved getting up early morning to radio-track tigers. Now, I mostly supervise the work of my younger colleagues or students. I do try to get to the jungle as often as I can… when I do so, I go around checking camera traps set in the forest to photograph tigers and identify them in order to count them…

So would you say the rigors of academia are imperative for sound wildlife conservation action on the ground?
Absolutely, while it is really our hearts and passion that lead us to conservation action, unless we ensure that reason and science guide these, such actions may not deliver effective conservation. As in technology, medicine or agriculture, science has a major role in shaping results and letting us know in real time whether we are on the right track.

And Wildlife First, what prompted you to start and invest time and energy into this organisation?
I am an advisor to rather than an activist of Wildlife First. When a mob of thoughtless locals invaded Nagarahole in 1992 and tried to destroy the wildlife that Mr. Chinnappa had protected for two decades and tried to hamper our efforts to learn through science, I realised that focussed advocacy was necessary to counter such ignorance.
I also saw that most 'wildlife conservation' was confined to big city folks in India. The need to recruit middle class youth from rural and small town areas was essential to break the barriers of class and English language that isolated conservationists from people who made decisions on ground … After all, look at passionate advocates of other interests… women, adivasis, farmers - or at outfits like Maoists, communists or RSS - their core cadres come from this middle India. Now my Wildlife First idea has blossomed in the form of other advocacy groups: Bhadra Wildlife Trust, Kudremukh Wildlife Foundation, Wild Cat-Chikmagalur, Growing Wild and others are some newer examples. Another key element of the Wildlife First philosophy is not just to take 'action', but take action that is guided by reason and science.

What is the future of tigers in India now that the Forest Rights Act is a reality?
Most breeding tiger populations in India are now confined to some Protected Areas and a few critical habitats - less than 10 per cent of the tiger's natural range. It is time to show some generosity towards nature. If the Rules framed under the Forest Rights Act ensure that within critical areas, a policy of fair and adequate relocation and compensation should guide the process of redressing past injustices, tigers can still survive. At least those who claim to have interests of both tigers and people at heart must now focus on this win-win approach rather than go on day-dreaming about painless coexistence of tigers and people in the face of increased forest use, even within remaining critical habitats. Conservationists must never forget that, Act or no Act, every forest dweller is free to move out voluntarily to a better life - no one can stop that.
Of course, there are those who say we don't need tigers or nature anymore and India should be carpeted wall-to-wall with Special Economic Zones (SEZs), sugarcane fields or even tiger farms! I would like to politely differ: as the Earth heats up and becomes less and less habitable, they will, hopefully, change their views.

Bittu Sahgal is the Editor of
Sanctuary Magazine

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Sumatran tiger population in Seblat park down to 136

Sumatran tiger population in Seblat park down to 136
03/28/08 07:27

Muko Muko, Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - The population of the Sumatran Tiger (Phantera Tigris Sumaterae) in the Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS) has continued to decline, a foreign nature conservation worker said.

The tiger population in the park now was only 136, down from 150 spotted in 2007, coordinator for Sumatra of Flora Fauna International (FFI), Debby Martin, said in a report on the results of her research here Thursday.

Hunting and land clearing had become the main threat to the rare animal`s population, she said.

The research was conducted by FFI in coordination with the TNKS administration and some universities in a Sumatran Tigers` Monitoring (MHS) project.

The research had also shown that conflicts between humans and tigers which ended in the tigers` death had also reduced the population of the endemic species.

"Based on our last research, the current tiger population is not more than 136 or some 25 percent of the total number of existing Sumatran tigers. Land clearing and conflicts will become the main threat after hunting has been stopped," she said.

Debby said land clearing for plantations had recently triggered conflicts between tigers and local residents.

Land clearing activity had narrowed the territory where the tigers usually hunt for prey and forced them to encroach on farmers` lands.

"Recently in South Lebong, Lebong District, a tiger was seen in a farmer`s rubber plantation. We tried to make sure that both the tiger and the farmer remained safe," the British researcher said in fluent Bahasa Indonesia.

According to Debby, her team had helped to settle more than 20 conflicts between tigers and humans in the region.

Usually, she said, a tiger appears in a village to prey on livestock.

An FFI official, Agung Nugraha, said the FFI had monitored Sumatran tigers` movements in four provinces within the national park, namely Jambi, West Sumatra, Bengkulu and South Sumatra.

Since 2004, the monitoring team had installed tracking cameras in 88 sample areas.

Based on the survey, 90 percent of Sumatran tigers` activity was taking place inside TNKS conservation forests.

"Currently we are focusing on four locations in the southern coast of West Sumatra to Musi Rawas, Lubuk Linggau," he said.

Taking part in the research were students from Dice University of Kent, UK as well as local students and institutions.

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Hope for endangered wildlife with breeding in parks, zoos

Hope for endangered wildlife with breeding in parks, zoos

WWF-MALAYSIA refers to the recent news "Hope Remains for Siberian Tigers" of the Siberian tiger cubs born in the Lost World of Tambun Sunway City.

The three new tiger cubs are the third generation born since they started breeding Siberian tigers in 2004. The birth of the cubs, according to the article, appears to bring hope for the conservation of Siberian tigers and they are being displayed to the public every day for half an hour for educational purposes.

The park is looking into rehabilitating the tigers once they have reached adulthood.

WWF-Malaysia supports educational and awareness-raising programmes using captive populations of endangered wildlife. These programmes, when designed properly, have far reaching impact on the public in understanding the ecology and plight of the endangered species.

However, breeding and rehabilitation of endangered species, especially of large carnivores such as the tiger, need to be based on organised and scientifically-controlled management.

Such conservation breeding should be part of a holistic species survival plan that includes in-situ research of the needs and feasibility of releasing the captive-born animals back into the wild.

While zoos and theme parks are a good avenue for conservation education, very few tigers are needed for this purpose. Tigers live 10 to 15 years in captivity, and for the display purposes only, it is not necessary to breed them year after year.

Specific awareness activities need to be developed as well to explain and educate the public on tiger conservation.

Educational signage, awareness-raising talks and support towards in-situ conservation in terms of research and funds are examples of activities that could be carried out by zoos and theme parks.

Although there are benefits to captive-breeding of tigers, such as having a gene pool for tigers, it does not contribute significantly to the conservation of tigers in the wild.

The possibility of releasing captive-bred tigers in the wild itself is small. These captive-born tigers will face great difficulties in surviving in the wild as they would have lost most of their instincts and hunting skills that need to be taught by their mother when they were cubs.

Finding a location to release these tigers would be another challenge as these areas must have adequate food resources and must offer very little opportunity for the tigers to come in contact with humans.

Furthermore, captive-bred tigers put back into the wild could be easily poached due to their lack of fear of humans.

In Malaysia, efforts to conserve wild tiger populations are still important. The National Tiger Action Plan, developed by the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat), provides a platform for streamlining tiger conservation efforts and knowledge within its five partners.

It outlines specific activities for the next eight years in saving wild tigers in Malaysia, and as such, does not include management issues relating to captive tigers.

With adequate protection of habitat and prey, coupled with enforcement of existing laws, there will be greater hope for the survival of Malaysia's last 500 wild tigers.

Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma,
Executive Director/CEO,
WWF-Malaysia .

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Three tigers identified for rehabilitation in Sariska

Three tigers identified for rehabilitation in Sariska

24 Mar 2008, 1431 hrs IST,IANS

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan forest department has identified three tigers in Ranthambore national park for their rehabilitation in Sariska tiger reserve as part of the government's plan to reintroduce the big cats in the reserve after they were wiped out by poachers over three years ago.

The exercise to identify the tigers has started after the prime minister's office gave a clearance to the department's rehabilitation project recently, the officials said on Monday. The tigers are between 20 and 30 months old.

The Sariska tiger reserve has an area of around 866 sq km, and is located some 110 km from Rajasthan capital Jaipur. The reserve is also home to leopards, different varieties of deer, jungle cats and birds, among others.

"We have identified three tigers and as per plan one of the tigress would be first brought to Sariska from Ranthambore. After a few months one more tigress and a male tiger would join her. All of them would be radio collared," a senior official of the forest department said.

He said initially these wild cats would be kept in enclosures and their activities would be monitored.

"The tigers would be introduced in a seven-hectare enclosed area. Once they are acclimatised to the new habitat, they would be let out into the wild," the official said.

According to the proposal, five tigers would be brought here in a span of three years for rehabilitation, the official said. The date of shifting the remaining two tigers would be decided later.

Around Rs155 million has been earmarked for the rehabilitation exercise.

The Ranthambore national park, from where the tigers will be relocated, has an area of around 400 sq km and is situated in the Sawai Madhopur district, some 175 km from here. It is considered one of the finest tiger reserves in the country. It was declared a national park in 1981.

As per the recent census, the park has 32 tigers, up from 26 in 2005, as per a state government census. "We are optimistic that we would be able to successfully implement it, as Sariska forests are in good health with adequate prey base for the tigers," he said.

"If everything goes as per our plan, Sariska should have tigers by the end of this year," he added.

One of the priorities was to create a tiger-friendly environment before undertaking the rehabilitation exercise, he said.

Meanwhile, the relocation of villages from inside the tiger reserve has started and only after their relocation would the tigers be released in the wild.

In October last year, the Bhagani village in Tehla forest range was relocated to an alternative site near Behor in Alwar district, some 100 km from Sariska. The village was located in the heart of the reserve. The process of shifting the second village, Kankwari, has already started.

After the tigers were wiped out of the reserve in 2004, the central government had decided to reintroduce the big cats there, provided the state government created a safe habitat for the tigers.

The Tiger Task Force in the ministry of environment and forests had recommended the relocation of four villages in a time-bound plan, though there are 28 villages in all in the core area of the reserve.

Out of the four, the relocation of Bhagani village is complete. A second village will have to be relocated before the tigers can be reintroduced in the forest.

"After fully relocating two of the villages, we plan to start the process of rehabilitating the tigers," the official said.

The other two villages would be relocated later.

In the recent past, the state government and forest department had faced criticism from various quarters over the disappearance of tigers from the reserve.

A report brought out by the Wildlife Institute of India in March 2005 had confirmed that there were no tigers left in the reserve, although an official census conducted the previous year had indicated the existence of 16 to 18 tigers in the reserve. Poaching was blamed for the disappearance of the tigers.

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Tiger preservation to get boost in Madhya Pradesh

Tiger preservation to get boost in Madhya Pradesh
March 25th, 2008 - 10:17 pm

New Delhi, March 25 (IANS) The Planning Commission Tuesday approved Rs. 141.82 billion as the plan outlay for Madhya Pradesh, including Rs. 1.5 billion for special projects like preserving tigers in the state during the 2008-09 fiscal. The outlay was approved at a meeting between Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and the Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

According to the state officials, the funds of Rs. 1.5 billion would mainly be spent on the initiatives for preserving tigers.

"Rs. 1.5 billion will be spent on the tiger preservation and other projects of special importance for the state," an official, who did not like to be named, told IANS.

There are nine national parks - including the famous Kanha National Park - and 25 sanctuaries spread over an area of 10,862 square km constituting 11.40 percent the state's total forest area.

"Efforts are also underway to increase the protected area network to 15 percent of the forest or 5 percent of the geographical area as suggested by the State Wildlife Board," the official said.

As per the population estimates of 2003, there are 712 tigers and 1,090 panthers in the state.

Ahluwalia said the government needed to pay more attention on human development through initiatives aimed at creating investor friendly environment in the state.

"The government should avail benefits available under various social sector schemes, and special attention should be given to the schemes meant for Bundelkhand area," Ahluwalia said.

Bundelkhand area in Madhya Pradesh is constantly faced with the problem of drought and the backwardness on all fronts.

"Livelihood opportunity will be created through generating economic activities based on natural resources. A number of new initiatives like Mukhya Mantri Mazdoor Surakhsah Yojana," Chauhan said.

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Tiger kills villager in Nagbhid Forest

Tiger kills villager in Nagbhid Forest
25 Mar 2008, 0323 hrs IST,

CHANDRAPUR: In yet another incident of tiger attack, a villager was killed in the protected area of Nagbhid forest range under North Chandrapur Forest Circle on Monday morning.

Kashinath Suryawanshi (50) became the sixth human to have been killed by the big cat in Chandrapur district so far this year. He had gone to the jungle with his family members to collect leaves of the Palash tree, which are used to make leaf-plates (patrawali).

Sources said Suryawanshi, a resident of Jankapur village in Nagbhid tehsil, had gone to the forest under Mindala beat, close to the nearby Adyal Mendha village on Monday morning. Around 11 am, while the entire family had scattered in the forest to collect Palash leaves, the tiger attacked Suryawanshi, killing him on the spot.

Alerted by the loud noise, other family members rushed to the spot. And, before the tiger could drag away Suryawanshi's body deep into the jungle, the members started raised an alarm that scared the tiger away. Later, the Suryawanshis reached Adyal Mendha village and reported the incident to the forest department.

"The tiger attacked Suryawanshi from behind and he must have been instantly killed. Injury marks were found on his neck and we have recovered tiger pugmarks on the spot," said Rahul Sorte, RFO, Talodhi forest range, who was amongst the officials who performed inquest on the spot. He said an ex-gratia of Rs 2,000 had been given to the family as instant financial help, while compensation as per norms would be provided after completion of formalities. He also confirmed that there had been a similar incident in the same area in August last year, in which a villager was injured. However, it is entirely different area from Talodhi forest range, where last year a tiger had created menace, Sorte clarified.

This is seventh incident of tiger attack on human in the district this year, in which six persons have lost their lives while one was seriously injured.

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APP irregularities threaten massive climate and tiger impact

APP irregularities threaten massive climate and tiger impact

25 Mar 2008

Pekanbaru, INDONESIA – One of the world's biggest carbon stores and a key tiger habitat are threatened by a new logging road in Riau Province, Sumatra, according to a new investigative report published today.

An absence of permits and other irregularities suggest that the new road cutting into Kampar peninsula is likely to be illegal, says Riau's Eyes on the Forest group, a coalition of local NGO network Jikalahari, Walhi Riau, and WWF-Indonesia.

The road, like another exposed in January threatening indigenous peoples, elephants, orangutans and tigers in Sumatra's Bukit Tigapuluh forest landscape, has been constructed by companies linked to controversial conglomerate Asia Pulp and Paper (APP).

"It is morally reprehensible for one of the world's largest paper companies to so brazenly ignore Indonesian laws and destroy the natural resources that belong to the people of Riau," said Teguh Surya of Walhi Riau.

"We strongly urge APP to join the ranks of responsible businesses and conduct its operations within the law. Until that time, the world's paper buyers and investors should stop doing business with APP."

Kampar peninsula can be considered a single hydro-ecological system, consisting entirely of a single dome of peat at depths mostly over 10 meters – extremely deep for a peatland, with an enormous store of carbon.

Drainage and plantation development activities on the top of the Kampar peat dome could cause the dome to collapse and emit large amounts of carbon, according to Eyes on the Forest.

Last month, a report by WWF, Remote Sensing Solution GmbH and Hokkaido University found that deforestation, peat decomposition and forest fires in Riau Province resulted in annual carbon emissions equivalent to 122 percent of the Netherlands total annual emissions, 58 percent of Australia's annual emissions, 39 per cent of annual UK emissions and 26 per cent of annual German emissions.

That report also found that the province had Indonesia's highest deforestation rates, substantially driven by the operations of global paper giants APP and competitor Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL).

Kampar peninsula is a contiguous peat soil area of around 700,000 hectares. Until 2002, the 700,000 ha of Kampar peninsular were still fully covered by by natural forest, but clearing for APP and APRIL pulp mills and related plantation development has been the major factor in cover being reduced to 400,000 ha by 2007

The Kampar peninsula area is also considered one of the last havens for critically endangered Sumatran tigers, whose wild population is estimated to be down to just 400-500. It is feared that Sumatran tigers may be on course to follow Indonesia's Java and Bali tigers into extinction.

The landscape was designated a "regional priority" tiger conservation landscape by the world's leading tiger scientists in 2006. A preliminary estimate by WWF-Indonesia shows that a well-managed Kampar peninsula could be home to as many as 60 tigers.

"Even as our investigators were out surveying the site last month, they came across tiger tracks walking along the APP logging road," said Nursamsu of WWF-Indonesia and Eyes on the Forest coordinator.

"But the tigers of Kampar don't stand a chance once APP begins logging full-scale and the poachers discover there's easy access to this critical tiger habitat."

Local NGO network Jikalahari and WWF have formally proposed that the Ministry of Forestry protect the natural forest of Kampar. Jikalahari also jointly signed an MoU with Siak and Pelalawan District Administrations at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali last year.

APP told Eyes of the Forest that the Siak district government had granted the company permission to build the highway to connect the two remote villages of Teluk Lanus and Sungai Rawa. But satellite images show that the road was not built anywhere close to the two villages, but does connect to two new logging concessions affiliated with APP.

"APP claimed that it was building this state-of-the-art, paved highway for the benefit of the local communities," said Susanto Kurniawan of Jikalahari.

"It's shameful to see a multibillion-dollar enterprise hiding behind the needs of desperately poor, isolated villagers, who will receive absolutely no benefit from this road but will likely suffer the consequences of APP's activities."

The logging concessions also suffer from irregularities, not least being an apparent contravention on clearing natural forest in good condition for plantation development or clearing on deep peat soils. Both concessions are based on licenses issued by District heads, who are not supposed to issue such licenses, according to Eyes on the Forest.

As well as Bukit Tigapuluh, APP also is currently threatening the Senepis and Kerumutan peatland forests in central Sumatra.

Related links
Illegal logging and road building threatens tigers and tribes of the Heart of Sumatra
Pulp and palm oil the villains in Sumatra's global climate impact

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Tiger pugmarks 'left behind'

Tiger pugmarks 'left behind'

26 Mar 2008, 0735 hrs IST,Vijay Pinjarkar,TNN

NAGPUR: In a bid to keep abreast of modern conservation methods and, at the same time, address an array of parameters related to the survival of tigers, 'Project Tiger' (now called the National Tiger Conservation Authority) has decided to discard the age-old pugmark method of counting tigers and adopt new techniques from this year.

Nandkishore, chief conservator of forests (CCF), wildlife, Nagpur, confirmed the development saying his office has received a notification from the chief wildlife warden on this issue. "The decision has been taken at a meeting with NTCA member-secretary Dr Rajesh Gopal. The issue had even come up for discussion in the meeting of top forest officials at Kanha on March 14-15."

Nandkishore informed that tigers, co-predators, prey and their habitat monitoring would now be done with the help of line transact method wherein field data collection protocols will be followed in consultation with field managers and scientists. "It'll be like knowing about the species with the blend of best available science and technology," he said.

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Elephants capture amazing tiger footage

Elephants capture amazing tiger footage

By staff writers

March 25, 2008 01:00pm

ELEPHANTS fitted with high definition video cameras have been used to capture up-close footage of the life of tigers in a world-first.

UK documentary-maker John Downer replaced traditional cameramen with four elephants that had cameras attached to their trunks and tusks.

He describes the result on his website as "the most intimate portrayal of tigers ever captured".

View a trailer for the new documentary here

"Using these Tuskcams and Trunkcams the elephants can film the tigers wherever they go, even on the move," he said.

While the documentary, Tiger: Spy in the Jungle, focusses on the lives of tigers living in an Indian jungle, other animals make cameo appearances – including a group of monkeys so curious about the equipment attached to the elephants they reportedly began tapping on the camera lenses.

Footage of leopards, a sloth bear and jackals was also captured.

"(The documentary) also provides a unique insight into how the relationship with other jungle animals changes as (tigers) mature," Mr Downer said.

He told the Daily Mail newspaper that he came up with the "Trunkcam" idea after he noticed how carefully elephants carried firewood to a camp.

"Elephants do not see tigers as a threat, and tigers are comfortable with elephants. So we had the perfect team," he said.

"Elephants are natural inhabitants of the reserve, so the tigers aren't fazed at all by them. Eventually, they realise that we humans are no risk either.

"So we became, effectively, invisible - filming one of the world's most beautiful creatures in a way no one has ever done before."

The documentary will be shown on TV by the BBC.,23599,23428661-2,00.html

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Mother tigers breed multiple cubs in Sunderbans

Mother tigers breed multiple cubs in Sunderbans

Sujit Roy, 22 March 2008, Saturday

West Bengal forest analysts are happy to note that the biosphere of Sunderbans is still conducive to tigers and the breeding pattern may check the ringing alarm bells in respect of the Indian tigers' count being only 1411.

WHILE THE effect of the fast rising sea level due to global worming and human aggression on the jungles have become a serious threat to the future existence of the Royal Bengal Tiger in Sunderbans, the forest department of the Government of West Bengal has come out with a happy information – the number of cubs female tigers are breeding, is increasing. Five years ago, the mother tigers were found to breed only one or two cubs at a time. Now it has been established that they are delivering three or four cubs at a time. This has helped the total number of tigers to increase to more than 300 (estimated) I place of 240 a few years ago. The forest analysts are happy to note that the biosphere of Sunder bans is still conducive to tigers and the breeding pattern may check the ringing alarm bells in respect of the Indian tigers' count being only 1411.

The fact emerged when a group of forest officials found the newborn babies with their mother in the core forest area recently. Then the forest department conducted a direct sighting survey on the issue to understand whether it was a single incident or a natural course of breeding. The survey has reported that the breeding pattern of the Sunderbans tigers has developed and the number of tiger is increasing.

According to Shukla, the growth rate of the Royal Bengal Tiger is being closely monitored. "Five years ago, it was found the number of tigers is declining in the Sunderbans. Now after the recent survey we can say the coming tiger census will surely prove that the number of tiger has increased a lot," he said. Because mother tigers are now breeding multiple cubs and are able to save them from the male partners who are naturally prone to kill the cubs.

The state forest officials claim that they are still unaware of the situation in other states. Only a national census report can tell the truth. But the development in Sunderbans is surely a major development in the history of tiger conservation in the country. They claimed that despite the human population in the Sunderbans increasing, the jungle in the core area has also increased. This is because the theft of plants has been checked. The incidents of illegal killing of tigers in the Sunderbans area have also come down due to intensified coast and jungle patrol. The number of deer has also increased a lot and the tigers are no longer suffering from lack of food. Ecology specialists are claiming that all these factors together have contributed positively to the increase in the number of tiger cubs in the Sunderbans.

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Killer tiger consumes food, struggles in zoo environment

Killer tiger consumes food, struggles in zoo environment

Mysore, UNI: The big cat was brought to the city from Kodagu after a 120-km journey on Wednesday. In its struggle to break free, it had got itself injured. However, the agitated wild animal finally consumed food today.

A seven-year-old tiger that created terror in
South Kodagu by killing cattle and later trapped by forest officials
is now struggling to settle down in a new environment at the Mysore

The big cat was brought to the city from Kodagu after a 120-km
journey on Wednesday.

In its struggle to break free, it had got itself injured. However,
the agitated wild animal finally consumed food yesterday.

Zoo Executive Director Vijay Ranjan Singh was a relieved man as
the tiger, which had reacted violently after being put in a cage by
hitting itself against the wall and losing a fang in the process,
was calmer.

''He ate twice and is battling to settle down in the new
environment. We are relived that despite being injured, he is
now doing okay.

''It is under severe stress as it had inflicted some wounds even
before it had been been caught, possibly fighting with another
tiger,'' he said.

The official said administering antibiotics had become a problem
for the zoo vets.

The zoo had earlier treated a tiger belonging to Bandipur which
was badly injured and lost its limbs.

''We successfully treated it and it is now rehabilitated in
Bannerghatta Wildlife Sanctuary near Bangalore,'' he said.

The tiger weighing more than 100 kgs was trapped in South Kodagu
by forest officials on Monday and brought to Mysore.

Straying from its habitat in Nagarhole National Park, it had
created terror among villages by killing 32 heads of cattle.

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Five trained jumbos shifted to Dudhwa National Park to monitor rhino and tiger

Five trained jumbos shifted to Dudhwa National Park to monitor rhino and tiger

Jaldapara, Mar 23 : Five trained jumbo elephants have been shifted from Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary in Bengal to the Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh by forest department to monitor the rhino rehabilitation centre and the tiger reserve.

Two males - Gajraj and Mohanlal and three she-elephants Madhu, Chameli and Sulochana were chosen for the purpose of patrolling.

The rhino rehabilitation centre in Uttar Pradesh is spread over 27 sq cm.

UP forest official P.P. Singh said, "I have come from Dhudwa tiger reserve where we have a major population of tigers. Our reserve is situated in the Terai region and during monsoons, it becomes difficult to patrol this region. That is why we had to ask for the elephants."

Jaldapara has nearly 56 trained elephants at present and the West Bengal Government spends at least Rs 1 lakh a year in rearing the elephants that includes the salary of the mahout, fodder, medicines and other expenses.

"This is an understanding between the forest departments of UP and West Bengal. We are having surplus elephants and will donate them as they need them for patrolling and other such works," West Bengal principal chief conservator and warden, S.S. Bist said.

There are 25 rhinos at the rhino rehabilitation centre in Uttar Pradesh at present.

Last year two young elephant calves Rahul and Devi were sent to Okinawa kids Discovery Kingdom in Japan.

India has more than 50 per cent of Asiatic elephants but its population has been dwindling due to frequent poaching.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bengal govt and statistical institute in a pug of war

Bengal govt and statistical institute in a pug of war

Madhumita Mookerji
Friday, March 21, 2008 03:11 IST

Counting of tiger population in the Sundarbans is the bone of contention between the two

KOLKATA: The West Bengal government and the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) seem to be in a battle over pugmarks. And neither is in a mood to back off.

It all began in 2004 when the state government, as part of a larger United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project, commissioned ISI to develop software for identifying tiger pugmarks in the Sunderbans as a counting method.

Supported by a 2004 census, the state forest department provided ISI with sketches of 1,400 pugmarks from the Indian side of the Sunderbans. ISI's job was to ascertain the number of tigers.

But ISI's software picked only 1,059 pugmarks and it concluded that there were only 75 tigers in the Sunderbans.

In 2005, the ISI submitted an interim report, when the state government asked it to re-submit the report "with modifications".

"A few months later, the forest minister officially announced that there were 249 tigers in the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve and 25 in the outside area. Thus, there was confusion," says Prof Debashish Sengupta, who headed the project at ISI. "The state government did not accept or reject the ISI report. Then it subsequently rejected the ISI figure of 75 tigers in the Sunderbans without giving any reason," says Sengupta. "It seemed the state government did not want us to conclude the project," says Sengupta, who stands by the ISI findings.

P Shukla, director, Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve, told DNA: "ISI had submitted the final report but there were some technical issues. We had told them to rectify these. There were problems of identical pugmarks collected from two different places. But ISI officials did not respond. Thus, the entire issue is still hanging fire."

ISI says it still has not been paid 40% of the Rs9-lakh project. To this, Shukla said: "This is because ISI has not submitted a revised report which has to be accepted by the committee concerned."

Meanwhile, the state forest department is going ahead with a tiger census with the Wildlife Institute of India and this is not linked to the ISI study.

"There are various methods of counting - sighting, pugmarks, radio collar and the like. The software to identify pugmarks is a different issue and was commissioned for future use," said Shukla.

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Tiger on prowl caught, shifted to Mysore Zoo

Tiger on prowl caught, shifted to Mysore Zoo
Wednesday March 19 2008 09:55 IST

MADIKERI: The tiger that had been on the prowl, killing cattle and posing a threat to the people of South Kodagu, was finally trapped on Monday night. As soon as the news spread, people from surrounding areas heaved a sigh of relief and thronged to see the tiger in captivity.

The captured tiger, a male, is aged about eight years, forest officials said. The cage was kept at a paddy field at Vatekadu village in South Kodagu on Monday morning and the tiger was trapped at around 8 pm when it entered into the cage to eat the carcass of a bison kept inside it.

Though the department had planned to shift the tiger by Monday midnight, the people objected, demanding compensation for the cattle it killed. Finally, the tiger was shifted to the Mysore Zoo on Tuesday afternoon. The wild animal was seriously injured in a vain attempt to escape from the cage.

The tiger had killed 32 heads of cattle in West Nemmale, Teralu, Sreemangala, Beeruga, T.Shettigeri, Kutta, Nalkeri and other villages in South Kodagu. Deputy Conservator of Forests, (Madikeri division), B B Mallesh, assistant conservator of forests, Nagarajachar, assistant conservator of forests, Govindaraju, range forest officers from Virajpet and Nagarahole National Park, Gajanana Bhat and Poovaiah, veterinarian from Mysore Zoo, Nanjappa, circle inspector Mallesh and others visited the spot.

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'Corbett has lost 15 tigers since 2006'

'Corbett has lost 15 tigers since 2006'

22 Mar 2008, 0555 hrs IST,Nitin Sethi,TNN

NEW DELHI: The tiger is under threat in what everyone thought was its safest den till date — the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand. Since 2006, the park has lost 15 tigers and 16 elephants.

An alarmed Environment Ministry has shot off repeated advisories to the park authorities to tighten the act.

The missives point out that there have been recurring reports of body parts of wild animals being seized in the vicinity of the park which, according to the recent tiger estimation study, reported the highest density of the big cat.

In an indication that the park authorities have not been paying attention to their core duty - patrolling each corner of the park - the Centre has reminded the authorities that the chowki level monitoring records of wild animals is not being maintained.

Such parks all over the country are divided into 'beats' to demarcate patrolling duties for the ground staff. The staff at each beat is expected to keep records of the wildlife sighting while on patrol. It were these records which provided researchers with information that Sariska had in real lost its tigers even though the 'census' recorded increasing numbers each year.

In the case of Corbett, the Union government has also pointed out that the monthly monitoring reports on tiger presence have also not been prepared for the last two years. With the reports and field data missing for more than two years, the task of keeping track and forecasting troubled zones of the park in view of poaching incidents becomes difficult.

To add to the lax protection regime, heavy tourism pressure is distracting the staff from its core duties. The problem is being exacerbated with a retinue of VIP visitors owing to the proximity of the park to Delhi and its high profile in the north Indian tourism circuits.

In order to entertain the VIPs without compromising on the protection regime, the Centre has advised the park director to designate an officer to take care of the needs of tourists and free himself and his field staff from this revenue earning but distracting activity. With the buffer zone of the tiger reserve still not demarcated even though the law requires it, the government has asked the park to focus on scientifically tracking the tigers that are straying out of their traditional areas.

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Tiger protection: Centre threatens to block state funds

Tiger protection: Centre threatens to block state funds

22 Mar 2008, 0611 hrs IST,Nitin Sethi,TNN

NEW DELHI: Unable to convince the states to take adequate measures for tiger protection, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has set up hard deadlines for tiger-bearing states and threatened to cut off funds if they don't deliver.

Tiger reserve authorities in the 18 tiger-bearing states have been asked to provide a plan to relocate the remaining villages in the tiger reserves by May 15. They have also been asked to send in draft tiger-conservation plans, which are now mandatory under the amended Wildlife Protection Act. The plans are meant to lay out the entire gamut of management activities necessary for protection of the big cat.

Besides this, the Centre has warned that unless states sign a memorandum of understanding with the environment ministry, the funds to tiger reserves would be choked. The MoU is to ensure that the enhanced funds provided under the centrally-sponsored scheme are not held up in the state financial system but routed promptly to the protection authority. It sets strict rules for spending the money the NTCA provides for tiger parks and sanctuaries.

The authority also informed field directors of each tiger reserve at a two-day meeting held recently in Madhya Pradesh that another MoU would be put in place to tighten operational imperatives for tiger reserves to avail resources from the Centre. "The MoU will be the enabling instrument for a strong relation between states and Centre to work together on tiger conservation, laying down the framework for time-bound action," said Rajesh Gopal, member secretary of the NTCA.

This MoU will include a condition that state governments will create a panel of motivated wildlife officials from which the field directors — operational heads of the tiger reserves — are selected.

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MLAs in Andhra join NDTV's tiger campaign

MLAs in Andhra join NDTV's tiger campaign

TS Sudhir
Wednesday, March 19, 2008 (Hyderabad)

NDTV's Save the Tiger campaign has got overwhelming support not just from civil society.

In Andhra Pradesh, legislators across party lines came together to unanimously declare their vote in favour of NDTV's campaign for the majestic animal.

The only cats politicians generally know are the black cat commandos. But on Wednesday, MLAs in the Andhra Pradesh assembly showed they are a different kettle of fish and that they care for the big cats.

''The concern has moved from the top to the village level. Today's resolution appreciates the efforts of NDTV and other organisations like WWF,'' said Suresh Reddy, Speaker, Andhra Pradesh Assembly.

The House committee on wildlife has in fact made recommendations, worried that the number of tigers in the Nallamalla forest in the state has come down from 77 to 55 in the last 20 years.

''Our House committee has recommended regulation of traffic in the national parks,'' said N Manohar, MLA, Congress.

Some voices of concern were perhaps not so practical but nevertheless showed the hearts of the MLAs are in the right place.

''Give two tigers each to every MLA and we will take good care of them,'' said Kishen Reddy, MLA, BJP.

''So you want tigers instead of gunmen to protect you,'' asked the Speaker to Kishen Reddy.

It is a pity that Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy, who was in his younger days known as the Kadapa tiger for his fiery temperament, was not present in the Assembly when the resolution was moved.

It was a day when all the 150-odd MLAs present in the House agreed that the state needed to take emergency steps to save the real tigers.

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Centre formulates plan to save tigers

Centre formulates plan to save tigers

Sandeep Bhushan
Thursday, March 20, 2008 (New Delhi)

National parks and sanctuaries will be in trouble if they don't implement the Centre's tiger conservation efforts. Officials say that funding will be stopped. This warning from the Centre for the States follows a meeting of all field officials in Kanha.

Now the proposal is under active consideration of the Prime Minister Office.

The number of tigers at Panna is down to single digit in Madhya Pradesh. There could be more bad news for the national park, if a fresh arrangement between the Centre and states gets through.

''If state government's do not follow the letter spirit of this MoU all funding will be stopped,'' said Dr Rajesh Gopal, member-secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority.

This could happen if parks and sanctuaries don't fill up vacancies and put an intelligence system in place.

The MoU also proposes a specific tiger conservation regime for Naxalite-affected areas coordination between forest and paramilitary forces.

Parks will have more autonomy. They will use the money they earn and will not get it from the state government.

In the last few years, a spate of legislative changes have been made by the central government, a token 50 crores have been sanctioned in this year's annual budget. But senior officials say that state government has not backed tiger conservation efforts.

The states are yet to respond to an earlier MoU proposed by the Centre. Only four states have set up steering committees headed by chief ministers, under the Wildlife Protection Act.

The same act also says each state must have a Tiger Conservation Foundation and a conservation plan, less than four states have done this.

The prime minister has sent two reminders to the states. The forest officials say that only one state has responded. Perhaps this is an indication to show how committed the tiger conservation efforts are.

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Sariska gets 2nd chance with tigers

Sariska gets 2nd chance with tigers

Jay Mazoomdaar, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 21, 2008
First Published: 00:31 IST(21/3/2008)
Last Updated: 01:57 IST(21/3/2008)

In a message intended to boost India's losing battle to save its national animal, the Prime Minister's Office on Thursday cleared a plan to reintroduce tigers to Rajasthan's Sariska tiger reserve, where the Royal Bengal Tiger's local extinction in 2004 sparked worldwide alarm.

Three tigers — a male and two females — have been identified at the Ranthambhore tiger reserve, home to Rajasthan's only surviving tiger population. Officials plan a "soft release": the three tigers will be first introduced in a 5-6 hectare enclosure within Sariska, a former hunting reserve of the Maharaja of Alwar. Scientists and officials will keep the new tigers under observation for a few weeks before they are fitted with tracking collars linked to an orbitting satellite and released into the scrub jungles of Sariska.

India first realised its tiger conservation programme was failing when Sariska lost all its tigers in 2004. Since then, a crisis has emerged with most reserves reporting declining numbers of Panthera tigris tigris, the scientific name of the Royal Bengal tiger.

"The process of financial clearance has already begun. The first installment of funds required for relocation is expected next week," said Dr Rajesh Gopal, member-secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

The PMO had set up a tiger task force after Sariska lost its tigers, and the Supreme Court asked the CBI to investigate what was happening. Eventually, Project Tiger, the national tiger-conservation programme, was given more powers and reborn as the NTCA and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau in 2006.

Today's clearance comes with Rajasthan's written commitment to fast-track a pending agenda: the relocation of villages, regulation of pilgrim traffic inside the reserve, and development of areas that serve as buffers between the core of the reserve and the outside world.

"We don't want to reintroduce tigers before we feel it is safe," said Gopal. "The Centre has enhanced the relocation package to Rs 10 lakh per family. So far only one village has been relocated from Sariska. A lot remains to be done." The budget for the Sariska tiger recovery plan prepared by the Wildlife Institute of India is Rs 1.50 crore.

(Jay Mazoomdaar is an independent journalist. He broke the Sariska story in January 2005)

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Corbett Park supports Save Tiger campaign

Corbett Park supports Save Tiger campaign

Dinesh Mansera
Monday, March 17, 2008 (Corbett Park, Uttaranchal)

NDTV's Save the Tiger campaign reached at the gates of the most famous home of the royal Bengal tiger, the Corbett National Park.

The latest tiger census has put the number of tigers in the country at a little over 1,400. But if there is good news, it is from Corbett and the Terai region.

And to ensure that it remains this way, Corbett foundation joined hands with NDTV's campaign to petition the Prime Minister. From forest guards to tourists, everyone was unanimous, the tiger needs to be protected.

''Tiger is the most gorgeous animal,'' said a tourist.

''I am so happy this is being done. Each individual must do their bit to save the tiger,'' another tourist said.

As per the census, Corbett park has 163 tigers. But the last few months have not been good for the big cat. Six tigers have died in as many months. The park administration realises it cannot let its guard down.

''NDTV's campaign is really commendable. We need to come together to mobilise people. It is generating the kind of interest that is needed if we are to save the species,'' said Dr Rajeev Bhartree, Director, Corbett Park.

Experts feel the campaign will need to be backed by political will.

''This is the last resort. Everything depends on political will,'' said Dalip Khantaou, Member, National Wildlife Board.

And everyone who signed on hoped that each time they come to a tiger Reserve, they do not go back disappointed.

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Children join NDTV's tiger campaign in Assam

Children join NDTV's tiger campaign in Assam

Kishalay Bhattacharjee
Saturday, March 15, 2008 (Dibrugarh)

Children in Upper Assam's Dibrugarh have picked up the 'Save the Tiger Campaign' keeping it alive with their own initiatives.

Not far from the Kaziranga National Park in the tea township of Dibrugarh a voice is growing louder, a voice to save the tiger after NDTV's campaign across the country.

''Tiger means 'Tiger Is Getting Endangered Rapidly','' said Arnav, student.

Children from several schools are talking about the tiger. They are fighting for the national animal in every way possible using their imagination to convey the growing sense of urgency.

''We want the next generation to know about tigers rather than just read about them like we read about Dodos and all we actually want to see the tigers not just read about them,'' said Viraj.

The Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi also signed on for the campaign. With Assam's poor record in wildlife protection he should be concerned.

Poaching is at an all time high, 24 rhinos were killed last year. As for tigers there's no record of how many have disappeared.

To tackle just one of the problems, the Centre has asked Tarun Gogoi to immediately take on more staff in wildlife parks.

This could be the last effort to save the big cat. But for the children it's the new anthem.

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Srinagar: Students paint to save tiger

Srinagar: Students paint to save tiger

Nazir Masoodi
Saturday, March 15, 2008 (Srinagar)

The students in Srinagar may not have seen a tiger, but their dwindling population has clearly made them worried.

A painting competition, organised in Srinagar, was the Valley's first attempt to spread awareness to save India's national animal.

''It is a shame the tiger are most magnificent animal in the world is also most endangered. Now it is the time for us to wake up,'' said a participant.

''Killing of tiger at such a rate automatically affect our national pride. What I think is India is losing in this particular field and I can't see India lose. That is what inspired me to come forward,'' said another participant.

After more than a 1000 of them signed on to NDTV's Save the Tiger campaign, students of Srinagar's Burn Hall school came up with the best ideas to save the big cats.

''When we can live, why don't we allow the tigers to live also? It is God's gift,'' said a participant.

The students at Srinagar's Burn hall school all the student have one demand - save the tiger.

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Another tigress dies at Bhopal national park

Another tigress dies at Bhopal national park

March 15th, 2008 - 1:39 am ICT by admin

Bhopal, March 14 (IANS) A three-year-old white tigress died Friday evening at the Van Vihar National Park here, taking to 14 the number of big cats that have died at the reserve over the past one and a half years. Taking serious note of the tiger deaths, state Forests Minister Vijay Shah has removed national park director J.S. Chouhan and instituted a three-member committee to probe the death of the tigress, called Rashmi.

She had suffered an injury six days ago after a fight with another white tigress, when both accidentally were put into one enclosure.

"Brought to the park in 2006 from Borivali National Park, Mumbai, Rashmi was suffering from chronic septic arthritis," a park official said.

"The tigress might have died of shock following the scuffle with another tigress," said A.K. Khare, assistant director of the park.

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Students body protests Bhopal tiger deaths

Students body protests Bhopal tiger deaths

March 18th, 2008 - 1:11 am ICT by admin

Bhopal, March 17 (IANS) A students body affiliated to the opposition Congress Monday held a demonstration protesting the rising number of tiger deaths in the city's Van Vihar National Park and demanded that the staff at the park be replaced. Eight big cats have died at the national park in the last one-and-a-half years, with the last death reported Friday when a three-year-old white tigress 'Rashmi' succumbed to a jaw injury she had sustained during a brawl with another tigress. She was also suffering from chronic septic arthritis for some time. The tigress had been brought to the park in 2006 from Borivali National Park, Mumbai.

The National Students Union of India (NSUI) activists, led by former Congress MLA P.C. Sharma, alleged that the animals were dying due to the negligence of the staff.

The activists also burnt an effigy of Forest Minister Vijay Shah and demanded that the staff at the park be transferred and new appointments be made.

Piqued over the frequent deaths of big cats in Van Vihar, Vijay Shah had Friday removed its director J.S. Chouhan and instituted a three-member committee to probe the death of 'Rashmi'.

The director's removal incensed the park employees, who kept Van Vihar closed for tourists the next day demanding reinstatement of Chouhan.

"How can a park official be held responsible for the death of the canine when all the treatment arrangements were in place. Also, how can anyone be held guilty without any inquiry," asked Madhya Pradesh Wildlife Conservation Employees Union president Budhraj Bhagwan, who led the employees agitation.

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PM thanks NDTV for tiger campaign

PM thanks NDTV for tiger campaign

NDTV Correspondent
Monday, March 17, 2008 (New Delhi)

After receiving nearly five lakh signatures on Save the Tiger
Campaign from all over the country, the petitions were handed over to
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday.

''The government is with you. We are committed; we will do a lot more
to save the tiger. Thank you for creating awareness through the tiger
campaign,'' said the Prime Minister.

The response to NDTV's Save the Tiger Campaign, supported by
Sanctuary Asia and Kids for Tiger, has been overwhelming. Even a week
after the rallies held across the country, a remarkable 4,97,944
people came forward to sign the petition.

It has been little over a month since the government came out with
the latest tiger census. According to the government's latest census,
there are only 1411 tiger left in the wild, 50 per cent down from
3642 in 2001-02.

The figure was an acknowledgment of the fact that tigers in India are
in serious danger. Following this, NDTV carried out a campaign to
raise awareness and make people put pressure on the government to be
more vigilant.

Tiger numbers
Uttarakhand - 178
Karnataka - 290
In the northeast (Assam) - 70
Rajasthan - 32
Madhya Pradesh (Kanha, Bandhavgarh and other national parks) - 300

Most promising tiger growth is in the Terrai region of the Himalayas,
which includes Corbett, Rajaji National Park, Dudhwa and the Valmiki
tiger reserve in Bihar.

It may sound magnificent, but for how long? All attempts, even by the
Prime Minister, seem to be failing.

According to the government, the record looks so bad because the
counting method used last time was not very accurate.

This time, they have used the camera trap method, which identifies
tigers by its stripes and then adds up.

The methodology will be debated hotly in the days ahead but the key
question is whether the government has been successful in conserving
the tiger? On that, however, the government is far from confident.

''The problem is that cameras are placed in tiger reserves. But what
about tigers outside the protected areas, we have plenty like these
in Maharashtra,'' said B Majumdar, Chief Wildlife Warden, Maharashtra.

One thing that adds to the problem is the shrinking forest cover in
Assam, where 70 of the remaining tigers live.

''Depleting forest cover is bad news for tiger conservation,'' said
Rajesh Gopal, Director, Project Tiger.

The next tiger census will begin at the end of this year. Till then
the government has to come up with a strategy that will check the
declining tiger population.

Aim of the campaign

The aim of NDTV's public campaign is that leaders and politicians
should see the urgency of the problem and declare an emergency for
the tiger and save the national animal from extinction.

The campaign has had a huge response.

The Prime Minister is the head of the Wildlife Board, the highest
decision making body on these affairs and the CMs are responsible for
the tiger population in their states.

NDTV wants to make sure that saving the tiger immediately becomes a
Central responsibility and not that of the states. Armed guards must
protect India's sanctuaries and India's intelligence agencies must be
used to stop poaching.

Efforts by the govt

So far, after the latest census revealed that there were just 1411
tigers left in India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for an
emergency meeting and till now the following steps have been taken by
the government:

Rs 600 crore sanctioned for conservation in the next five years

Rs 50 crore will be spent specifically on tigers

Conservation of tigers to become responsibility of the Chief Ministers

Suggestions to save tigers:

An elite, well-trained protection force in Tiger Reserves
An intelligence network to check poaching
Centre to take over sanctuaries and parks in Naxal controlled areas
No permission for big projects like mining and industries in tiger habitats
Push for more convictions in poaching cases
Appoint a chief for the Wildlife Crime Bureau

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Unarmed forces to shield tigers

Unarmed forces to shield tigers


Ranchi, March 18: An army would be raised to protect tigers but they would not be armed to keep preying Naxalites away.

Encouraged by the new initiative in tiger conservation with a special provision of Rs 50 crore in the Union budget, Palamau Tiger Reserve (PTR) has decided to raise a Strike Force and a Tiger Protection Force.

Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) A.K. Singh said: "The guards would help us protect the tigers but they would not be armed. Arms are a sure lure for Naxalites, who could target the guards to steal the guns."

The decision to form the squads was taken at a special meeting of field directors of tiger reserves. The National Tiger Conservation Authority had organised the meeting at Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh on March 15.

Field director of Palamau Tiger Reserve Ram Naresh Prasad said PTR had no force to guard the reserve. "But now a 31-member Strike Force would be formed and would consist of ex-army men while the Tiger Protection Force would comprise local people and ex-army men," he said.

The strength of the protection force would depend on the grants sanctioned.

The Centre would provide funds for both the forces, the field director said.

PTR is also preparing a Tiger Conservation Plan that would be submitted by the end of this month.

"So long we had a tiger management plan in Palamau. It mainly focused on management of the tigers' populace at the reserve. Issues such as conflict of humans and animals featured in this plan. But now, we would be formulating a Tiger Conservation Plan. One of the major issues to be tackled under the new programme is ensuring that the reserve is poaching-free. Saving the habitat of tigers and increasing grasslands to supply fodder to the carnivores would feature in the plan," said Prasad.

The reserve is also preparing a blueprint to relocate the residents of about eight villages in the core area so that the tigers would get a better natural habitat. However, the principal chief conservator of forests said, the relocation would not be compulsory.

"There are about eight villages and we are planning to relocate them. Once the plan is ready, we will submit it to the Centre for approval. The plan would have details on the area where the villagers would be relocated and the modus operandi. All relocation will be voluntary," Singh added.

The Palamau sanctuary was brought under Project Tiger in 1973 and is among the first nine such reserves of the country. According to the last census, there are just 17 tigers here. However, forest officials said the dwindling number cannot be attributed to poaching alone.

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