Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chain-link fences can keep tigers at bay

Chain-link fences can keep tigers at bay

Sunday, September 28, 2008 : 1840 Hrs

New Delhi (PTI): Iron meshes as chain-link fences can be handy in preventing predatory cats from entering villages near wildlife parks but buffer zones can be more effective for such cases, according to environmentalists.

Wildlife officials in Madhya Pradesh have decided to use chain-link fencing, a mesh made of iron, within the Bandahvgarh tiger reserve to 'save' animals particularly big cats from coming in conflict with the villages located on the periphery of the park spread over an area of 448 sq km.

"The long term impact of putting up chain-linking fence needs to be looked into if it is proposed for a longer period as there have been cases of ungulates not being able to save themselves when chased by predators once they are pushed to the fence," said acclaimed wildlife activist Belinda Wright, who is also the director of Wildlife Protection Society of India.

According to her as the reserve is a high density area with number of tigers increasing, there is a need to develop a buffer zone instead of adopting short-term formula like erecting the fence.

Officials, however, say since the wildlife habitat is very close to the park particularly in Tale region where a tiger and two cubs have been sighted, the fencing would ensure safety of the animals that would not be able to venture into the human habitat and in the process get killed.

There are around 62 villages on the fringes of the park which has at least 38 tigers. It was declared as a tiger reserve under Project Tiger in 1993. "At present, big cats are found in those areas where biotic pressure is quiet high," a park official said.

Villages around tiger reserves to be shifted

Villages around tiger reserves to be shifted

29 Sep 2008, 0337 hrs IST, Nitin Sethi,TNN

NEW DELHI: Turning tiger-inhabited forests into inviolate — people free — zones would pick up pace soon. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has requested the Planning Commission for Rs 261.58 crore to relocate more than 40 villages from the core of nine tiger reserves by the end of the financial year.

Considering that the government was able to relocate only eight villages in 30 years since the Wildlife Protection Act was implemented, this would be a big leap in a direction that conservationists and wildlife experts have been clamouring for long.

The big fillip to the relocation process has come, NTCA officials believe, with the enhanced R&R package approved recently. As compared to the Rs 1 lakh that was earlier available per family for settling forest dwellers, NTCA will now provide Rs 10 lakh per adult to those who agree to relocate.

Under the enhanced package, the affected people will have the option to either demand land and a comprehensive rehab package or opt for cash. Proposals from Sariska and Ranthambore tiger reserves in Rajasthan, Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Satpura and Panna in Madhya Pradesh, Simplipal in Orissa, and Kalakad Mundanthurai and Mudumalai reserves in Tamil Nadu have been approved for relocation by March 2009. Rs 40 crore has already been released by NTCA under the centrally-sponsored scheme for the relocation from seven of the nine reserves.

Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, which was in the news for providing the wild cats to repopulate poacher-decimated Sariska, will see two dozen villages being relocated, the highest among the nine reserves.

"We had identified 26,749.09 square kilometre as core zones within all the tiger reserves. These will be formally notified," said Rajesh Gopal, member secretary of NTCA. Under provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, the core zones are to be turned inviolate.

International Tiger Day - September 28, 2008

International Tiger Day - September 28, 2008

Tiger Day in Russia unites efforts of Government, scientists, NGOs and World Bank to save tigers and preserve biodiversity

26 September 2008

(Vladivostok, Russia) - On September 28th, the traditional Tiger Day event will take place in Vladivostok, and will also be celebrated in other nations across the world. This closely follows the June 2008 launch of the Global Tiger Initiative by the World Bank president jointly with major international conservation organizations and various pro-environment celebrities such as Harrison Ford and Ilya Lagutenko. Tiger Day was initially started in Russia and is now celebrated in Europe and other parts of the world on the last Sunday of September.

Regional and federal officials, scientists and practitioners responsible for tiger conservation in the Russian Far East will be joined at the Tiger Day events by representatives of the World Bank, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), AMUR, Phoenix Fund, Zoological Society of London, other members of the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA), leading international tiger experts from the Smithsonian Institution and Save The Tiger Fund (STF) in Washington DC, as well as popular Russian TV personalities and musicians.

On September 26-29, the group will visit nature reserves and rural communities in Southwestern Primorye, meet with field scientists and local anti-poaching brigades, participate in the Tiger Day Festival, a film screening, a tiger conservation planning workshop, and a tiger strategy roundtable organized by the Primorsky Kray Administration. Additional high-level discussions will take place in Khabarovsk on September 30th through October 1st in conjunction with the Far Eastern International Economic Forum.

These events aim to boost public image and solidify official support of the exceptional and successful efforts by Russian and international scientists and conservation practitioners to preserve and sustain the population of the unique Amur tigers and their precious natural habitats, a rare example of how coordinated action can really work at a global scale. This cooperation was highlighted during the recent visit of Prime Minister Putin to Primorsky Kray.

This “flagship” species is not just a noble emblem of the Russian Far East but also treasured by rest of the world community. The survival of wild tigers also represents the health of ecosystems for both human and animal well-being and an undeniable mark of sustainability of regional economic development, one of the slogans of the forthcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit to be hosted by Russia in Vladivostok in 2012.

The group will hold discussions with the Russian officials specifically sharing progress of the ongoing work in priority areas and implementation of the new Federal and Regional Tiger Conservation Programs that could benefit from participation in the Global Tiger Initiative launched on June 9th, 2008. This could include international knowledge-sharing and training efforts for conservation practitioners and managers in environmental economics, public outreach, law enforcement and cross-border cooperation, as well as in designing innovative financing mechanisms.

The Global Tiger Initiative ( unites leading international organizations, charity foundations, regional associations and national participants from the 13 tiger range countries. It aims to stop and reverse the catastrophic global decline of wild tigers by helping sustain their habitats and prey base, decrease illegal trade and trafficking in tiger parts, reduce human-tiger conflict and strengthen wildlife enforcement. The Initiative calls to convene in 2010 the “Year of the Tiger” Summit where leaders of participating governments and international organizations could announce their specific commitments to save these unique wild animals.

Over the past century, the worldwide population of tigers has shrunk from 100,000 to below 4,000.

Participants of The Global Tiger Initiative applaud the recently announced measures of the Government of the Russian Federation to strengthen conservation of the Amur tiger. The following practical priority measures should be further considered in this regard.

Devise strategies and action plans in partnership with all stakeholders to address the illegal trade and other conservation needs.

Explore and develop alternative and new funding mechanisms for tiger conservation.

Facilitate country workshops and other platforms for partnership with NGOs, governments, and the scientific community at the national level to develop appropriate models of conservation.

Substantially increase the number of government inspectors responsible for the protection of tigers and leopards and other animal species and provide them adequate law enforcement rights.
Substantially increase punishments for poaching of prey in hunting areas, for possession and trade in tiger skins and other tiger parts (typical punishments are approximately RUB 2,000, whereas the potential profits are many times higher). Guns used by poachers should be confiscated permanently (presently rifles are returned to poachers after they have paid a small fine).

Protected areas provide core habitat for tigers with abundant prey for them to reproduce. In 2007 two National Parks were established in the Amur tiger habitat. More protected areas are needed and existing protected areas need to be linked with corridors.

The needs of leopards and tigers should be taken into account when planning large infrastructure projects such as oil and gas pipelines.

The man-animal war for food and space

The man-animal war for food and space

Abhishek Law

KOLKATA, Sept. 26: Global warming coupled with behavioural pattern of tigers is leading to an increase in man-animal conflict in the Sunderbans. And as a result of this conflict, increased instances of tigers straying into human habitation and attacking villagers are coming to the fore. Environmentalists say that at present the average number of annual deaths due to mauling stood at 52 and the annual average number of incident of tigers straying into human habitation has increased from 37 in the previous year to 50 this year.

“Till a decade ago tigers straying into human habitation was not so frequent or common. But things have changed over the past few years with an increase in global temperatures since 2000,” said Prof Pranabes Sanyal, cat specialist, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

Explaining his findings, Prof Sanyal pointed out that an increase in global temperatures have led to a consequent increase in the surface salinity level of water in creeks of the area. As a result, tigers, which generally prefer water with low salinity levels for drinking, have started migrating towards northern areas of the Sunderbans. The northern areas of the Sunderbans, which act as a buffer zone, are areas where human activities are permitted.

Hence these areas lie adjacent to human habitation. This has led to increasing incidents of tigers straying into the villages of Sunderbans. Moreover, he added that there are some behavioral patterns, characteristic to tigers of the Sunderbans because of which they stray into human habitation.

One of these reasons being partial disability of tigers. Old or injured tigers generally are unable to catch prey and hence prefer to move into human habitation because of easy availability of prey like domestic animals and stray dogs. Such incidents of straying are also common during mating season, which is between September and October, when rejected or injured tigers venture into human habitation looking for prey.

Another reason for straying is the fact that tigers in the Sunderbans, unlike those in other parts of the country, are not territorial animals. A tiger generally marks his or her territory through urination marks. However, with the Sunderbans experiencing two high tides and two low tides everyday these markings are obliterated. As a result, the animals have no idea of their territory.

Moreover, the tigers seem to consider that the areas around the mangrove trees planted at the periphery of villages are their territory, when actually these trees are planted to strengthen embankments. This again leads to incidents of tigers straying into human habitation.

However, despite so many incidents of straying, environmentalists are happy with the fact that villagers are not killing tigers. “While incidents of tiger straying have indeed increased over the past few year, number of cases of tigers being killed by villagers has gone down substantially,” Prof. Sanyal said.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tiger and Elephant Conservation In Myanmar

Tiger and Elephant Conservation In Myanmar

Wildlife keepers warn against elephants tendency to move sanctuary

Updated: 2008-09-26 13:36

YANGON -- Wildlife keepers in Myanmar have warned against tendency of move of sanctuary of wild elephants from deep mountain range in western Rakhine state to agricultural field as elephant feed is running short there this year, the local Biweekly Eleven News reported Friday.

Such wild elephants are being found shifting from the May Yu mountain range bordering Bangladesh to agricultural farms with crop plantations of local farmers and destroying the plantations for the sake of feed, the report said, calling on the farmers to take measures to prevent the crop plantations from being spoiled out of the wildlife's move.

The report attributed the tendency of the elephants to the extinction of bamboo plantation in the Rakhine Yoma natural bamboo forest during this year which the elephants depend on for their feed.

Meanwhile, Myanmar has taken measures for elephant conservation by restricting the catching of such animal in the country's Bago Yoma mountain range in the central part where most of the elephants take sanctuary, other local report said.

In order to prevent elephant from extinction in the country, the Myanmar forestry authorities allowed catching of the wild elephants in the mountain range's Hlegu area only once in three years, prescribing the ratio of the elephants caught to be handed over to the authorities, according to the report.

Similarly, in the wake of tiger extinction threat, Myanmar wildlife police and forest rangers have also planned to step up combating wildlife trade and crimes in the tiger reserve and special training programs have been introduced jointly by the Myanmar forest ministry and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) .

With only 150 tigers reportedly remained alive in Myanmar's tiger reserve, tiger conservation is being undertaken in Hukaung Valley, the geographical condition of which creates a suitable place for survival of the tigers.

The Hukuang Tiger Reserve in Myanmar's northernmost Kachin state, which was established in 2004, covers an area of about 22, 000 square kilometers, and is claimed the largest of its kind in the world.

Special force for protection of tigers mooted

Special force for protection of tigers mooted

New Delhi (PTI): With the tiger population facing grave threats from poachers, a move is afoot to create a dedicated Special Task Protection Force (STPF) on the lines of Indian Reserve Battalions (IRB) to protect the highly endangered royal big cats in the country.

National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has moved a proposal to the Environment Ministry seeking its approval for deploying a fully armed force in the 15 tiger reserves in the country which is left with only around 1,400 big cats.

The move is a follow-up of the policy initiated by Finance Minister P Chidambaram who in his budget speech early this year allocated Rs 50 crore as grant for developing such a special force for the threatened species.

As per the proposal, the STPF would comprise of 1,680 personnel distributed in 15 companies each with a total strength of 120 personnel and to be headed by an assistant commandant of the rank of assistant superintendent of police and three sub-inspectors.

Each company would comprise three platoons which in turn would have a sub-inspector of police assisted by six head constables and 30 constables, the proposal said.

To ensure that the force is not diverted for any other purpose other than the protection of the tigers, the NTCA proposes to sign an agreement with the states restraining them from taking a casual approach towards the STPF.

"The force not being an 'Armed forces of the union,' the NTCA stipulates that it would be used exclusively for tiger protection and under no circumstances would be required in aid of civil authority, for any other district work."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

European Parliament Offers to Help India Save Wild Tigers

European Parliament Offers to Help India Save Wild Tigers

BRUSSELS, Belgium, September 24, 2008 (ENS) - In advance of the Europe-India summit in Marseille next Monday, the European Parliament today passed a resolution calling on both parties to renew efforts to save the wild tiger, and to place the issue on the summit agenda.

The resolution calls on both Europe and India to redouble efforts to tackle the organized gangs behind the trafficking of tiger parts, and to work together to protect forest habitats.

In June, the government of India established a dedicated agency for tackling wildlife crime, the Indian Wildlife Crime Control Bureau.

The parliamentary resolution, "Welcomes the foundation of the Indian Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, while remaining deeply concerned about the plight of the wild tiger, and calls on India to protect tigers from habitat loss and trafficking by transnational criminal networks."

Baroness Sarah Ludford, Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for London, who has campaigned on the issue, said, "By setting up the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, India has taken an important step towards improving enforcement and tackling the networks behind illegal tiger trade."

"By raising this issue we are calling for the European Union to offer technical and financial assistance, and to ensure that the issue gets maximum political support," said Ludford.

The resolution calls for specific EU assistance for this conservation effort in the form of technical expertise, financial support and the reinforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, an international treaty that lists all subspecies of tigers as endangered and prohibits trade in live tigers or their parts.

Currently, there may be as few as 2,500 tigers left in the wild, of which just over half are in India, says the Environmental Investigation Agency, a nonprofit group based in London, UK and Washington, DC, which works to combat environmental crime.

These few thousand tigers are the only ones left from the 100,000 wild tigers that are estimated to have lived at the beginning of the 20th century, according to the IUCN's Cat Specialist Group.

These remaining tigers are threatened by demand for their skins and body parts from China and East Asia, and habitat loss due to forest clearance and illegal industrial development.

Currently the main demand for tiger products comes from China, where bones and body parts are used in medicine; while skins are used for home d├ęcor, clothing and non-financial bribes.

Recent undercover work by the Environmental Investigation Agency, found whole tiger skins on sale in China for RMB 100,000 (US$15,000).

Despite widespread evidence of the serious and organized nature of wildlife and environmental crime, enforcement efforts in many parts of the world remain inadequate.

Still, conservationists are optimistic, pointing out that if the right measures are taken tigers can recover rapidly.

Alasdair Cameron of the Environmental Investigation Agency said, "Protecting the tiger is not just about protecting a species, but about protecting the forests it lives in and the ecosystems which depend on it.

"In many cases we know what we need to do, but it requires political will," said Cameron. "India has taken the lead in developing a 21st century approach to wildlife crime, we need other countries like China to do the same."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tigers, humans forced to share India forest

Tigers, humans forced to share India forest

Animals have little other habitat, people are too poor to move elsewhere

By Sam Dolnick
The Associated Press
updated 6:51 p.m. ET, Fri., Sept. 19, 2008

JHARKHALI, India - The fishermen were hauling in the first net of the morning when the tiger pounced.

Kumaresh Mondal managed to run a few steps before the 450-pound beast knocked him down with a leap, tore into his throat, and dragged his limp body into the dense mangrove forest.

"I tried to chase the tiger, but I couldn't find any path," said Monoranjan Mondal, another of the four men fishing that day in March. "There were no tracks, no broken branches... He just took him away."

The Sundarbans, a tangle of unforgiving islands at the mouth of the Ganges River, are home to perhaps the world's largest population of wild tigers — as well as millions of the poorest people in India and Bangladesh. Despite decades of attempts to keep the tigers at bay, they still kill about two dozen people every year.

Now, experts fear environmental changes and shrinking land could lead to more tiger-human conflicts, with disastrous results for both. Villagers who can no longer grow enough crops are venturing into the tigers' domain in search of fish, crabs and honey to sell. And tigers are creeping ever closer to villagers in search of fresh water and food, according to scientists who track their movement.

"There should be no people living here," said Pranabes Sanyal, former field director of the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve. "It's too dangerous."

In the Sundarbans, whose 3,700-square-mile mangrove forest is the world's largest, families scrape by as stubborn rice farmers, overmatched fishermen and barefoot honey collectors. Nearly everyone has a friend or a relative who was attacked by a tiger. There are believed to be close to 250 tigers on the Indian side of the Sundarbans, and another 250 on the Bangladesh side.

No choice but to venture out
The predator's long shadow looms large over village life. Tigers are fixtures in folk songs and mud-roofed shrines, real-life monsters who steal away those who test them.

Madhusudan Mondal saw a tiger kill his father and two other men while they were looking for honey in the forest six years ago. Still, he enters the woods every spring to collect honey, which can earn him thousands of rupees, compared to the 70 rupees ($1.75) a day he makes working the fields.

"I have to go," shrugged Mondal, a father of seven. "I have to make a living."

Honey collectors like Mondal — a common name in the area — walk barefoot into the knotted woods, armed only with a thick branch and a mask worn on the back of the head in hopes of scaring away tigers that folklore says always attack from behind.

To ward off tigers, villagers beat drums and shine floodlights at night. Electrified dummies shock animals that get too close. And recently, officials built a massive nylon fence around the tiger reserve, an ambitious solution that needs constant upkeep.

Most people feel their best defense is the blessing of Bon Bibi, the forest goddess, who controls the tigers, snakes, sharks and crocodiles that roam her kingdom. Before venturing into the fickle woods, which are reshaped constantly by the tides and shifting sands, they visit her shrine and ask for her protection.

But the bright-eyed goddess' job is getting harder.

Rising sea levels, erosion and increasingly brackish waters have ruined once-dependable crops, forcing farmers into the forest to forage. Scientists say global warming has contributed to the Bay of Bengal rising more than three millimeters a year, causing more floods. One of the largest islands is predicted to shrink by 15 percent by 2020.

As India booms, its many irrigation and hydropower projects have also reduced the flow of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers which feed the Sundarbans. That means less fresh water in the tidal basin.

The changes have made watermelons, once an attractive crop, impossible to grow. Rice paddies, the backbone of both the village diet and its economy, are producing less. Harvest season comes earlier every year.

The tigers are suffering from the changes, too. Once more commonly spotted in the south, where no humans live, they have been increasingly seen in northern woods, closer to the inhabited islands.

"It's certainly become more inhospitable than it used to be," said Anurag Danda, senior program coordinator of WWF India Sundarbans. "Of course people are scared, but that sense of fear has always been there."

Despite the fear, the villagers also prize the tigers because they know the beasts are all that's keeping the crowded outside world from encroaching on their homes.

"Without the tiger," said Bish Tarafdar, a fisherman who was mauled last year, "there would be no jungle."

He's almost certainly right. As India industrializes, it is facing serious deforestation problems elsewhere.

But it's also true that without the tiger, Tarafdar's uncle would still be alive. A tiger killed the fisherman 30 years ago, and his widow still dresses all in white, the color of mourning.

"The tiger is an enemy," said Dulali Tarafdar, his widow. "If I could, I would curse the tiger. I would tell him, 'You have ruined me.'"

Place of last resort for both
As hard as life is, the villagers can't leave the Sundarbans because they have nowhere else to go. Many are descended from families that came here generations ago as landless migrants from Bangladesh or rural east India. This menacing forest was the last frontier, and their last chance.

The Sundarbans may be where the tiger also makes its last stand. There are only 1,500 left in India's reserves and jungles — down from about 3,600 six years ago and an estimated 100,000 a century ago. The tigers have adapted to the harsh environment by learning to eat fish and crabs, swim against powerful currents, and drink salty water — though the water is becoming too brackish even for them, scientists say.

Monoranjan Mondal hasn't returned to the forest since that March day when a tiger killed his friend. But money is running out, and the forest is calling.

"I am very scared," Mondal said. "But I have to go back.

Wildlife experts demand revival of Kailadevi sanctuary

Wildlife experts demand revival of Kailadevi sanctuary

Sunday, September 21, 2008 : 1715 Hrs

New Delhi (PTI) : Worried over the territorial fights among big cats in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, wildlife experts have stressed that the adjacent Kailadevi Sanctuary should be revived immediatly for free movement of the royal predator.

In a recent meeting of the Standing Committee of the Wildlife Board, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) member-secretray Rajesh Gopal expressed his displeasure over the Rajasthan Government not identifying buffer areas. Spread over 674 sq km, the Kailadevi sanctuary is presently a part of the 'buffer zone' of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve but due to depleted preybase, the region is least frequented by the predators.

"It's high time that the area is made free to facilitate movement of tigers which have so far restricted themselves from venturing out to Kailedevi sanctuary where prey-base is nil worsened by regular human interference," said Y V Jhala, senior scientist with Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

Since Ranthambore is not able to retain the increasing number of tigers which are all set to fight for their individual territory, the new area will ensure their better conversation, more so in view of growing cubs which are around two dozens in the area.

There are around 25 tigers besides over a dozen cubs in the dry deciduous habitat spread over 392 square km.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tiger census begins in Neora valley

Tiger census begins in Neora valley

Statesman News Service

JALPAIGURI, Sept.15: Primary work for tiger enumeration began at the Neora Valley National park today.

Speaking on the subject, the DFO wild life, Jalpaiguri division Mr Tapas Das said: “This year, a special pre-enumeration system called pugmark impression pads (PIP) would be used to make the tiger count more accurate.”

By the system, the forest officials would first locate the tigers’ travelling zones. “Normally Royal Bengal Tigers prefer to walk along the open areas of the forests. After locating the areas we would dig loosen the soil to take the pug impressions more accurately. The same process would be applied to the riverbanks and the salt licks normally frequented by the tigers. The pugmarks would have to be collected regularly for accuracy. The PIP programme started today and would continue for the next two months,” the forester, said.

The actual census of tigers at Neora Valley would start in November. “We have proposed to the higher authority to hold the enumeration between 1 to 15 November,” Mr Das added.

The forest department is keen to arrange the programme early this year as snow fall and the cover of dry leaves in the winter makes it difficult to collect pugmarks. “Moreover, tigers wander off to the Pangolaka Sanctuary in Bhutan adjacent to the Neora Valley Park, which could upset the census,” the DFO added.

The department would also for the first time use trap cameras to enumerate tigers this year.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

National Save a Tiger Month Highlights Conservation Efforts

National Save a Tiger Month Highlights Conservation Efforts

New initiative aims to reverse a decline in wild tiger numbers.
Posted: September 13, 2008 3 a.m. EDT

The month of September, designated as National Save a Tiger Month, serves as a reminder that the largest cat in the world is struggling for survival, with 4,000 tigers left in the wild, according to World Wildlife Fund’s Dr. Shannon Barber-Meyer, Tiger Conservation Program officer.

The depletion of prey and habitat as a result of uncontrolled development and poaching for the illegal trade in tiger skins and bones has led to the sharp decline in tiger numbers from more than 100,000 a century ago.

Efforts to reverse the downward trend include the new Tiger Conservation Initiative, a worldwide alliance of tiger conservationists, scientists and celebrities that have joined forces with the World Bank Group and the Global Environment Facility to help save wild tigers. The program kicks off with a series of dialogues in tiger range countries to find out what has worked locally to protect the tigers and their 13 landscapes, which include Russia, China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Dr. Barber-Meyer of World Wildlife Fund, a partner in the new initiative, said tigers occupy only 7 percent of their range and 40 percent less than they did a decade ago, a grim reality that shows wild tigers are in a perilous situation. The biggest threats to tigers include the following:

Killing tigers directly to fuel demand for the black-market tiger trade
Depletion of tiger habitat as a result of logging and urban expansion
Loss of prey that supports tigers, such as deer, wild pig and cattle

“These threats are just everywhere,” Dr. Barber-Meyer said, “and they are very real and at scales that are very alarming.”

The decline in tiger numbers must be reversed before it gets beyond saving, she said, adding that the key to saving tigers is going to be successful anti-poach patrol and enforcement.

Cat owners, she said, can rally behind these efforts knowing that there’s a real connection. “We’ve got this domesticated animal in our home and a cousin is out there in the wild struggling for survival,” she said.

She pointed out that tigers, just like domestic cats, do have a high reproductive rate and are able to rebound with the help of efforts such as the Tiger Conservation Initiative.

Railways willing to stop trains in Uttar Pradesh tiger reserve

Railways willing to stop trains in Uttar Pradesh tiger reserve

12 Sep 2008, 1143 hrs IST,IANS

LUCKNOW: Indian Railways are willing to shut down the 200-km railway line passing through Dudhwa National Park, the largest tiger reserve in Uttar Pradesh, where trains have run over at least five tigers in the last eight years.

"If the Uttar Pradesh government so desires, we will not hesitate to shut down the railway line completely," Lucknow divisional railway manager Ashima Singh said.

The state wildlife department filed a complaint against Ashima Singh and other railway officials for failing to control the speed of trains when they passed through the national park.

What brought matters to a head was the death of a tiger that was run over by a train on Sep 6. "It was a brutal end as the tiger was dragged for at least 700 metres before the train came to a halt," said Dudhwa National Park director Uma Shankar Singh.

"As many as 23 animals had died after being knocked down by trains in the park area since 2000 and these included five tigers and three elephants," he added.

The number is significant because India's tiger population is down to a little over 1,400, according to the latest estimate of the central government.

The Dudhwa national park is a part of the Katarniaghat, Dudhwa, and Kishenpur-Pilibhit forests. The three forests have a total estimated tiger population of 95, the government announced early this year.

Experts have said the Dudhwa-Pilibhit population has high conservation value since it represents the only tiger population with the ecological and behavioural adaptations of the tiger unique to the Terai habitat of the Himalayan foothills.

Attributing the deaths to callousness of the railway officials, Uma Shankar Singh said: "the railways had formally agreed not to run trains faster than 15 km per hour while traversing the 33 km through core area of the precious wildlife reserve; but it was quite apparent that the drivers and other railway staff do not adhere to the speed limit."

He lamented that no action was taken against the defaulting staff.

While admitting that such a binding was in place, Ashima Singh sought to point out: "The death of the tiger on Sep 6 took place at least 40 km away from the earmarked 33 km stretch area with a speed limit regulation".

She added: "We would have no hitch in closing down the railway route if the state government wanted it that way; in any case the 200-km long line was not cost-effective at all, we have been running it simply because it has been there for more than a century."

The track was laid down in the early 20th century essentially to cart timber from the rich forests of terai to other parts of the country.

"But now that cutting of trees has been banned for decades, the tracks are used only for passenger trains which run far below their capacity because of negligible traffic on the route," Ashima Singh added.

The issue had also been taken up by the previous chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who wrote to Railway Minister Lalu Prasad; but that failed to resolve the deadlock.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

State to get second tiger rescue centre at Jharkhali

State to get second tiger rescue centre at Jharkhali

11 Sep 2008, 0433 hrs IST, Somdatta Basu,TNN

KOLKATA: The state has finally embarked on a project to set up a second tiger rescue centre at Jharkhali in the Sunderbans, following the Central Zoos Authority’s approval.

The centre will treat injured tigers rescued in the Sunderbans and make it unnecessary to send them for treatment to the state’s lone tiger rescue centre at Khairbari in the Jaldapara forest.

Forest department officials are concerned with regular instances of Sunderbans tigers straying into human habitat and fishermen and honey collectors falling prey to them. Over the past six months, there have been four cases of tigers straying into villages in the Sunderbans. The big cats were later rescued by forest officials, treated and released.

"The last tiger that had strayed into the locality had to be released in the jungle without complete treatment. It is not always possible to send them to Khairbari. Thus began our initiative for a new tiger rescue centre in the Sunderbans," said principal
chief conservator of forest Atanu Raha.

The centre will come up on 100 acres of a 300-acre sprawling plot at Jharkhali. The remaining 200 acres will be utilized to develop a mangrove research station and an eco-tourism centre. The land is proposed to be transferred by the relief department to the forest department.

"There are no settlements on the land earmarked for the project. Thus, there is no question of acquisition. Work will begin soon," said Raha. However, no residential facility will be available in the eco-tourism centre, he said.

Currently, there are 11 tigers at Khairbari. Besides tigers from the wild, it is also home to tigers rescued from circuses. The last one to find a home at the centre was the injured tiger that had strayed into a village at Jharkhali in February. Though the facilities in Khairbari are good, it is facing a space crunch.

"The new centre will be used for treating animals and rehabilitating them in the forest. It will have facilities for treating other Sunderbans animals, too," Raha explained.

"The project is still in a nascent state. We are working on developing a plan soon," added a senior forest official.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sariska Tiger Reserve vetoes road conversion proposal

Sariska Tiger Reserve vetoes road conversion proposal

4 Sep 2008, 0541 hrs IST, Anindo Dey,TNN

JAIPUR: The empowered committee of Supreme Court for Sariska Tiger Reserve has recommended converting parts of state highway no 13, connecting Thanagazi and Sariska in Alwar district as well as state highway 29A, linking Sariska to Tehla and Pandupole, as forest roads.

Currently, they are under the jurisdiction of the public works department (PWD).

Both the roads have been in controversy in recent times after forest authorities began efforts to reestablish a tiger populace at Sariska. While the former road skirts the tiger reserve, the latter passes right through it.

However, the heavy traffic plying on both the roads is being seen as a deterrent to re-establishing tigers at the reserve with threats of pollution and poaching looming large over it.

"We had given a proposal to the empowered committee in this regard. We have learnt that the committee has vetoed our report. However, we will have to wait till it comes through from the apex court itself as on order," sources said.

The proposal had suggested that parts of SH-13, including the stretch from Bharatri crossing to Sariska, and that connecting Sa-riska and Tehla and Pandupole be turned into forest roads.

"The proposal would not affect the daily commuters much but en-sure that the movement of long distance buses and trucks is restricted. Movement of traffic would also be restricted on Sariska-Tehla and Pandupole road that see hundreds of devotees passing through the reserve to reach the temple, especially on Saturdays and Tuesdays," they explained.

About 2,000 vehicles ply through SH-13 daily honking and shooing away neelgais, spotted deers or monkeys coming their way.

Incidents of run over of wild animals have also been reported in the past. In fact, SH-29 A linking Sariska to Tehla passes right through tiger reserve giving way to not only a populace of about 12,000 people and 35,000 cattle of the 28 villages situated inside the park, 11 of which are in its core area, but also to many an overcrowded state roadways buses. On Saturdays and Tuesdays, considered pious, more than 700 vehicles ply on this road.

Forest officials said that after the SC ratifies the proposal, the right of way on the Sariska-Pandupole-Tehla road for private vehicles and buses would be stopped.
"We have started a move where in convoys of vehicles of devotees are being escorted from the gateway of the reserve to the temple. We would not only make this a rule but also introduce battery-operated vehicles for a shuttle service for the devotees," they added.

Tiger released after treatment

Tiger released after treatment

5 Sep 2008, 0436 hrs IST,TNN

KOLKATA: The tiger that had struck terror at Annpur village in Gosaba last week was finally released at Chamta more than 60 km away. After spending two days in captivity at the Sudhanyakhali forest where it was treated for a minor injury, the four-year-old animal was taken in a boat deep inside the core area and released early on Thursday morning. Forest officials said the big cat was fully fit.

A minor injury on the left foot had prevented officials from releasing the tiger on Wednesday. It was trapped with a bait late on Monday night. An examination revealed that the tiger had a wound on the leg. It was given glucose and antibiotics that worked wonders, according to doctors who treated the animal.

"We could have released it earlier but waited for a day to allow the injury to heal a little more. It is not a serious one and will not prevent the tiger from hunting in the wild. The antibiotics have proved to be very effective," said Neeraj Singhal, director, Sunderban Tiger Reserve (STR). Forest officials got the tiger examined by another doctor on Wednesday.

The young male had strayed into Annpur village last Thursday and Friday. It killed a cow and four goats leading to a terror in the village. Three trap cages were placed at the Datta forest across river Gomor from where it had swam into the village.

Forest officials had to wait for almost three days before the tiger finally walked into the trap on Monday evening.

"Initially, we had decided to tranquilize the tiger. But later we found that it was not necessary. The animal was placed inside a squeeze cage and administered medicines and injections. It is absolutely fine now," added Singhal.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Tigress found dead in Ranthambore national park

Tigress found dead in Ranthambore national park

Jaipur, Sep 2 : An eight-year-old tigress has been found dead in the Ranthambore national park in Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan, a forest official said Tuesday.

The carcass of the tigress, that had two cubs aged between eight and 11 months, was found in a mutilated condition Monday.

"Preliminary investigations suggest that the tigress must have died two or three days ago in a fight with another wild cat over territory," a forest official said, adding that cause of death could only be ascertained after an autopsy.

Ranthambore National Park, about 175 km from here, covers an area of around 400 sq km. It was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1957 and got the status of a national park in 1981.

As per a 2007 census, the tiger population in the park has increased to 32 from 26 in 2005. This number does not include cubs, which are estimated to be around 14. This increase in population has resulted in increasing clashes between tigers over territories.

Tigers are territorial and fiercely defensive. A tigress may have a territory of 20 sq km while the territories of males are much larger, covering 40 to 80 sq km. However, territory varies from forest to forest, depending on the ecology of that area. Male territories may overlap those of many females, but males are intolerant of other tigers within their territory.


Tiger stalking Sunderbans villagers

Tiger stalking Sunderbans villagers

1 Sep 2008, 0414 hrs IST, Prithvijit Mitra & Monostosh Chakraborty,TNN

GOSABA (SUNDERBANS): For the last three days, residents of Annpur village in Gosaba have been stalked by a tiger every evening. The animal, a suspected man-eater, has already claimed a cow and four goats.

The tiger sneaks in after crossing river Gomo from the Datta forest every day. Several people had a narrow escape trying to drive it away on Friday evening, when it was last spotted.

The forest department has stepped up vigil along the banks to prevent the tiger from sneaking in. Lights have been put up and villagers are keeping a night-long watch.

But despite the watch, the tiger swam across the river and returned on Friday to the spot where it had killed a cow the previous night. Failing to find its kill, it went around at least a dozen houses, looking for cattle. It went back only after claiming four goats from two houses.

“It was a nightmare. We had been keeping a watch when we suddenly spotted the animal barely 40 yards from us. Fortunately, it changed its path, but went deeper into the village and started raiding the cattlesheds. We could only keep our doors shut and pray,” said Tapas Mondol, a resident.

Twelve-year-old Ruma Mondol was on her way to school on Friday morning when she bumped into the tiger in a neighbour’s garden. Ruma was about to pluck flowers when she saw the tiger feasting on a cow. As she screamed, the tiger leapt across the garden and jumped into the river.

“It was devouring my cow when Ruma saw the tiger. It had sneaked into my cowshed and dragged the cow out despite there being a mud wall. It is clear that the animal is quite desperate,” said Upananda Mondol. The next day, the tiger returned to kill four goats.

Three trap-cages with baits inside have been placed on the edge of the forest — from where the tiger has been crossing the river into the village. “It has been jumping over the six-foot nylon fence along the forest, which indicates it is an adult and very fit. The way it has been returning to the village is alarming. We have placed cages and are keeping a vigil,” said Niraj Singhal, director, Sunderban Tiger Reserve.

Villagers alleged that the forest department has been slow in reacting to the situation. They were not helping locals keep vigil inside the village, they alleged. “Lights have been installed along the river bank, but the rest of the village remains dark. Without any arms, we have to rely only on our instincts, which could be risky,” said Pankaj Barman, a member of the vigil party.

The forest department, on the other hand, claimed that the animal will soon be caught and released deep inside the forest. “For some reason, it has been straying. But we expect to capture it in a day or two,” added Singhal.

Russia's Putin tracks tiger in latest TV escapade

Russia's Putin tracks tiger in latest TV escapade

MOSCOW (AP) — He's driven a big truck, flown in a Russian fighter jet and fished shirtless on national television. Now comes Vladimir Putin's latest image-boosting escapade, a visit to a Russian wildlife preserve that gave him the chance to wear camouflage, stalk through the woods and shoot a tiger — all for a good cause.

Russia's state-run television showed footage Monday of the tough-talking prime minister's visit to the Far East, home of the rare Ussuri tiger. Russian media reports said Putin aided a program to track the tigers by shooting a 5-year-old female cat with a tranquilizer gun after it had freed itself from a restraint.

The televised footage showed Putin, deep in the woods, placing a collar with a tracking device around the knocked-out tiger's neck and patting its cheek like a pet. "She'll remember us," he said.

"The Ussuri tiger is a unique animal — it's the biggest cat on the planet," Putin said later, according to the daily Izvestia.

Fewer than 400 Ussuri tigers — also known as Siberian, Amur or Manchurian tigers — are believed to survive in the wild, most of them in Russia and some in China. They are the largest tiger species, weighing up to 600 pounds (272 kilograms).

Human settlements have encroached on the cats' habitat, and they also are in danger from poachers who want hides and bones for traditional Chinese medicine.

Putin, who has mostly been seen lately lashing out at the West over the crisis in Georgia, praised the United States for involvement in efforts to preserve the species.

In eight years as president, the popular Putin burnished his image with televised appearances that painted him as a tough, healthy and energetic young leader eager to take on new challenges.

He became prime minister in May, after protege Dmitry Medvedev took over as president.