Friday, October 31, 2008

Tiger falls into village well, rescued

Tiger falls into village well, rescued

October 31st, 2008 - 2:23 pm ICT by IANS

Tezpur (Assam), Oct 31 (IANS) A Royal Bengal tiger was rescued from a well in a village near here, officials said Friday.The tiger was trapped in the well for almost 24 hours before being rescued Thursday evening, they said.

Villagers found the tiger in the well Wednesday morning and informed the authorities.

A rescue team comprising staff of the NGOs Wildlife Trust of India and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) swung into action after forest officials alerted them, a WTI-IFAW statement said.

“We could reach the spot only by the evening (Wednesday) and tried to rescue the tiger, but as it was getting dark, we had to abandon our attempts,” Abhijit Bhawal of the rescue team said, adding that the operation was resumed next morning (Thursday).

The tiger had to be sedated before it was winched out of the well, Prasanta Boro, veterinarian in charge of WTI’s Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) in Kaziranga, said.

The tiger was checked for injuries and put into a cage before being transported to the release site in Nameri National Park, he said.

“This was an amazing rescue. We had to cross the Jia Bhoroli river on boats. The tiger was waking up, growling and getting violent, which did not help our nerves in the least,” Boro said.

“However, where the tiger came from remained a mystery. We do not know exactly how it fell into the well,” he said.

“There was flash flood just two days ago in Nameri National Park, 30 km from the rescue site, and 40 percent of the area was submerged. The tiger could have been displaced by the flood,” WTI official Rathin Barman said.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

World's Rarest Big Cat Gets A Check-up

World's Rarest Big Cat Gets A Check-up

ScienceDaily (Oct. 30, 2008) — The world's rarest big cat is alive and well. At least one of them, that is, according to researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) who captured and released a female Far Eastern leopard in Russia last week.

The capture was made in Primorsky Krai along the Russian-Chinese border by a team of scientists from WCS and the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Biology and Soils (IBS). The team is evaluating the health and potential effects of inbreeding for this tiny population, which experts believe contains no more than 10-15 females. Other collaborators include: Wildlife Vets International, National Cancer Institute, and the Zoological Society of London.

The Far Eastern leopard is perhaps the world's most endangered big cat, with an estimated 25-40 individuals inhabiting a narrow strip of land in the far southeastern corner of the Russian Federation.

The leopardess, nicknamed "Alyona" by the researchers who captured her, was in good physical condition, weighing a healthy 85 pounds (39 kilograms). A preliminary health analysis revealed that she is he is believed to be between 8-10 years old. The animal has since been released unharmed.

Specialists are continuing to analyze blood samples as well as an electrocardiogram, which will reveal genetic information to assess levels of inbreeding. Three leopards captured previously (2 males and 1 female) in 2006 and 2007 all exhibited significant heart murmurs, which may reflect genetic disorders.

"We are excited by the capture, and are hopeful that ongoing analysis of biomedical information will confirm that this individual is in good health," said Alexey Kostyria, Ph.D., senior scientist at IBS and manager for the WCS-IBS project. "This research is critical for conservation of the Far Eastern leopard, as it will help us to determine the risks posed by inbreeding and what we can do to mitigate them."

One of the options scientists are considering is trans-locating leopards from other areas to increase genetic diversity -- similar to what happened with Florida panthers when animals from Texas were brought in to supplement the remaining population. Today, Florida panthers have risen from less than ten individuals to a population of approximately 100.

The leopard capture and release was overseen by representatives of the Russian federal agency "Inspection Tiger," a special department of the Ministry of Natural Resources.

"This project has been ongoing for just over two years, and scientific work to capture Amur tigers and Far Eastern leopards in this part of Primorsky Krai has always been distinguished by the participation of world-class specialists and use of the best equipment and methodologies," said Sergei Zubtsov, the head of Inspection Tiger. "I want to note that the leopard captured for medical analysis and released represents another achievement for this highly-qualified team, and that one of the most important things is that she was not harmed at any point in the capture process. I hope that such fruitful collaboration will continue in the future."

Over the last 100 years, Far Eastern leopard numbers have been reduced by poaching combined with habitat loss. However, both camera-trapping and snow-tracking surveys indicate that the population has been stable for the last 30 years, but with a high rate of turnover of individuals. If inbreeding or disease can be kept in check, WCS and its partners believe there is great potential for increasing survival rates and habitat recovery in both Russia and Northeast China.

The Wildlife Conservation Society's work to protect Far Eastern leopards receives funding by the following U.S. government agencies: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Save the Tiger Fund, and U.S. Forest Service International Program. The Far Eastern leopard is listed under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), which protects it against illegal trade for fur and medicinal purposes.

Around the world, large carnivores are faced with a variety of threats including habitat loss, depletion of prey, conflicts with people, poaching, and disease. The U.S. Congress is currently considering legislation called the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act, which would directly benefit the Far Eastern leopard and over a dozen big cat and rare dog species by creating a fund for research and monitoring, law enforcement training, and other conservation efforts. This bill has received support from several leaders in the U.S. Congress – notably Senators Joe Lieberman (CT-I), Barbara Boxer (CA-D) and Sam Brownback (KS-R) and Representatives Tom Udall (NM-D), John Tanner (TN-D), Hal Rogers (KY-R) and Ed Royce (CA-R). Timely action by the U.S. Senate would ensure passage of this important legislation.

Buxa Tiger Reserve shift creates stir

Buxa Tiger Reserve shift creates stir

Statesman News Service

COOCH BEHAR, Oct. 30: A movement is taking shape in Alipurduar against the proposed shifting of the headquarters of the Buxa Tiger Reserve to Jalpaiguri from Alipurduar.

The minister of state, public works department, Mr Manohar Tirkey and Alipurduar MLA Mr Nirmal Das already submitted a memorandum expressing their displeasure over the proposal to the chief minister, the state forest minister and the principal secretary of forest department. Several organisations of the region including Sara Bangla Bana-karmochari Samity and North Bengal Forest Mazdoor Union (NBFMU) too have come out against the proposal.

Alipurduar MLA Mr Nirmal Das said that the headquarters of the Buxa Tiger Reserve had been functioning at Alipurduar since 1983.
“We will wait till the second week of November for the government to reconsider the plan. If nothing takes place by this time we will be compelled to go in for a mass movement against the proposal,” Mr Das said.

The Alipurduar MLA further said that he would raise the issue on the floor of the state Assembly too. “ The proposal is being forwarded to undermine the separate district demand for Alipurduar. We will not allow it to materialise,” the MLA said.

Sariska tiger couple to have new guest

Sariska tiger couple to have new guest

New Delhi, Oct 30: The tiger couple in Rajasthan's Sariska Park will have a new guest next month when a tigress will be flown in from neighbouring Ranthambore Tiger Reserve to to give them company.

"The tiger couple reintroduced in July have acclimatised well to the surroundings, making several kills. They are together and we can hear them calling each other.

"Their movement pattern shows they might have mated. Now if everything goes well we hope to introduce a second tigress in Sariska on 3 November," Rajesh Gopal, member secretary of National Tiger Reserve Conservation told PTI.

The tigress proposed to be translocated to Sariska spread over 881 sq km is being identified.

"Tentatively we have identified two adult radio-collared tigress, one of which will be ferried through chopper. But depending on the situation we might pick a non-radio collared tigress like last time," Gopal said.

Exuding confidence, he said the process this time will be more smooth and hassle free Two cats were translocated on June 28 and July 4 with the whole operation hogging much limelight.

Gopal was hopeful that the weather would be favourable in early November with winter setting in unlike last time when the operation was carried out amid heavy downpour.

WII Director P R Sinha, senior scientist K Shankar, veterinarian Parag Nigam, Gopal and the Rajasthan Forest Department will carry out the operation with the aid of the Indian Air Force.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

New Wild Cat Species in Ecuador?

The photograph of the wild cat [above] was taken by Aldo Sornoza of FundaciĆ³n Jocotoco (FJ), who was helping with the construction of the new visitors’ lodge on the Jorupe Reserve, Ecuador. It is thought to be a new species of cat, still to be described, which was first seen two years ago in Peru. The Jorupe Reserve, owned and managed by the World Land Trust’s partners FJ, is close to the border with Peru and this would be the first known sighting in Ecuador.

Oreailurus jacobita

Oreailurus jacobita

If the new mystery cat photograph does not show a new species, the only other cat it could possibly be is an Andean Cat (Oreailurus jacobita), one of the rarest of all the cat species, about which very little is known. Over the last 25 years there have been fewer than 10 documented sightings of Oreailurus jacobita.

The Andean Mountain Cat (Oreailurus jacobita, Leopardus jacobitus or L. jacobita) is also known as the Andean Cat. Its habitat and appearance make it the small cat analogue of the Snow Leopard. While it is only about the size of a domestic cat, it appears larger because of its long tail and silvery-gray, striped and spotted long fur. The body length is about 60 cm (24 in), the tail length is 42 cm (17 in), the shoulder height is 36 cm (14 in) and the body weight is 5.5 kg (12 lbs).

The Andean Cat is one of the least known and rarest of all felines; almost all that is known about it comes from a few observations in the wild and from skins. There are none in captivity. It is believed to live only in the high Andes mountains of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. They are not known to exist in Ecuador. It has been sighted at elevations of 5,100 meters, well above the tree line.

Lou Jost, of FundaciĆ³n EcoMinga, also an Ecuadorian partner of the WLT, is lucky enough to have seen the Andean Cat, not just once but twice. When presented with the mystery cat photo, Lou commented:

“The ground color is very similar [to that of the Andean Cat]. However I didn’t see any strong patterns on the legs, like this one has, though I would not have seen that from the angles I had (just the back and sides of the animal running through dense vegetation, both times). The elevations of my sightings were very high, around 2800-3000 m, and very wet, completely different from Jorupe. I could easily imagine that there is a new species of cat endemic to the Tumbesian zone of SW Ecuador and NW Peru.”

Sources: World Land Trust; Wozencraft, W. C. in Wilson, D. E., and Reeder, D. M. (eds): Mammal Species of the World, 2005, Johns Hopkins University Press, 538; Cat Specialist Group (2002), Oreailurus jacobita. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Himalayan neighbours to give the tiger more room

Himalayan neighbours to give the tiger more room

Deepak Gidwani

Monday, October 27, 2008

India, Nepal plan to connect forest reserve areas to give big cats a new lifeline and save them from extinction

LUCKNOW: “All along the edge of the Himalayas, from Saharanpur and the Jumna River in the north-west, to Gorakpur and the Gandak River to the south east, is a belt of forest varying in width from twenty to fifty miles, which is home to many species of animals,” wrote celebrated wildlife conservationist Col RW Burton in his diary in January 1924.

Little would he have known then that over eight decades later,this entire area would be developed into one linear strip for the protection and conservation of wildlife, especially the tiger.

The Wildlife Institute of India has drafted an ambitious project to connect the forest reserve areas in India with those in Nepal through a wildlife corridor. The unique “Terai Arc” project is to be completed in five years.

“Connectivity with the Royal Chitvan Park in Nepal would mean a new lifeline for our tigers,” says Qamar Qureshi of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII). Otherwise, in a few years, tigers may cease to exist in habitats like Sohagibarwa in Maharajganj and Suhelwa in Balrampur district of UP, which are under enormous anthropogenic (human related) pressures and have few tigers left, he says.

Tiger population in India has dwindled to an all-time low of 1,411 in 2007 as per the latest report of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and WII. Though conservationists say this figure is much lower than a realistic 2,000, the 2002 tiger census figure of 3,642 was also considered too optimistic.

The Indian portion of the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) is about 42,700 sq km with a forest area of about 15,000 sq km stretching from the Yamuna in the west to Bihar’s Valmiki Tiger Reserve in the east. It spreads across Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, UP and Bihar along the Shivaliks and the Gangetic plains, and has nine distinct tiger habitat blocks, the largest one being the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand. Thirteen corridors that potentially connect these nine blocks have been identified.

“Without corridors with Nepal, Indian tigers will not survive,” says Ravi Singh who heads WWF in India. Once the corridor is completed, wild animals would be able to amble freely through the jungles of UP, Bihar, Uttarakhand and Nepal without any hindrance or conflict with human beings, he explains.

Human population increase, ever-growing habitat encroachments, poaching, firewood extraction and collection of bhabar grass for rope-making, stealing of tiger and leopard kills, and boulder-mining are causing enormous disturbances, says a WII report. “Cross border co-operation between India and Nepal is a must to ensure the long-term conservation of tiger and its habitat ,” it adds.

Three of India’s 27 tiger reserves are located in this area - Corbett in Uttarakhand, Dudhwa in UP and Valmiki tiger reserve in Bihar. “Big cats need a large area to exist. They can move over a stretch of 150 km in 30 days. For better conservation, tigers need long stretches of forest area unhindered by humans,” says famous wildlife expert Mike Pande. He also asserts that common corridors between distinct tiger habitats would also mean a genetically strong species. “Movement over large areas would prevent inbreeding and genetic anomalies,” he said.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

One Last Stand

One Last Stand

Sequestering tigers in nature reserves may doom them to a slow, genetic death. To save them, conservationists want to give them freedom to roam.

By by Lily Huang NEWSWEEK
Published Oct 25, 2008
From the magazine issue dated Nov 3, 2008

Alan Rabinowitz has spent nearly three decades in a pitched battle to save the world's few remaining havens for predator cats. He's turned the Coxcombe Basin in Belize into the world's first jaguar preserve, and built the largest nature reserve in Taiwan, the first national park in the Himalayas, and the world's largest tiger reserve in Burma. Nevertheless, he knows he is losing.

The problem, Rabinowitz and other leading biologists now know, is that the classic conservation strategy of preserving habitat is in fact no defense against extinction. Twenty years ago, the devastation of natural forest was a visible danger. What went unseen was the damage sustained on a larger field of battle: the gene pool. A reserve may be a refuge for wildlife, but it is also a genetic sink. When a population of large predators is confined to pristine island of wilderness over time, they fall to inbreeding, leaving the species with weaker young and fewer defenses in an environment increasingly distorted by climate change. This is the deepening lesson of wildlife conservation from the post-industrial age to the genomic age: you can't save animals without saving their homes, and you can't save species without saving their genes.
Now Rabinowitz, a long-time director at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in New York, is taking a new approach to cat conservation. Not only is he working to bring back the world's vanishing tiger populations, he is establishing passageways for those populations to mix and preserve genetic diversity. Two years ago, Rabinowitz partnered with philanthropist Tom Kaplan to form Panthera, a nonprofit firm devoted to cat conservation. Their first objective is constructing "genetic corridors," which will traverse wilderness and cultivated land alike to connect existing habitats and allow individual cats to seek new territory for prey and new populations for breeding. Think of these as a kind of underground railroad for tigers: the conductors are the cats themselves, and the endangered cargo they bear is their genes.

The task is urgent, especially for tigers. The world tiger population, estimated at 100,000 a century ago, now totals fewer than 5,000; if Rabinowitz does not identify potential corridors now, in a few years development may make planning impossible. "Twenty years from now you won't have a chance to do anything," he says. "Eventually, this forest won't exist."

The model debuted in Latin America—jaguar country—for which Rabinowitz first had the idea. Significant swaths of yet undisturbed habitat and a largely consistent political climate make Latin America relatively hospitable territory for negotiating corridors. Despite the loss of more than half of the jaguar's habitat and a poaching binge that spanned more than a century, populations have resurged and the cats are still on the move. Costa Rica led the adoption of genetic corridors last year, followed by Honduras; Panama signed corridors into law last month. Rabinowitz estimates that maintaining the corridors will give jaguars access to more than 80 percent of their historic range.

Asia, by contrast, is more peopled, more pressed to grow out of its extreme poverty, and more rigidly divided up by dissonant governments wary of their neighbors. To join eight individually willful South Asian countries by a thread of tigers will be Rabinowitz's greatest act of diplomacy. He'll need to convince governments and ordinary people that a tiger migrating across a rice plantation is only the return of a natural ecological process—and no obstruction to development.

Territory outside of official wildlife reserves belongs to what Rabinowitz calls "the human landscape," and this radical approach to saving dwindling genes is "landscape-level conservation." What sounds like a logical updating of an evolving field is in fact a rewriting of conservation's first principle: people and wildlife cannot share the same space. Where there are people, wildlife is at risk. With a combination of dogged field work and diplomatic persistence, Rabinowitz has tried as hard as anyone to make the old model work, carving out parks and reserves in countries that had no prior interest in environmental protection. "I grew up in the traditional sense of thinking that was the endpoint," he says. "You go out, set up a park, people are outside, animals are inside, and you're successful. Outside, people can do anything they want; inside, people can't do anything. For the big animals, that's not going to work for the future." The British paleontologist Richard Leakey put it more grimly earlier this year: in forcefully keeping the two worlds apart, he said, we have issued "the death certificate of far more species than we've ever realized."

Before Rabinowitz's breakthrough idea of genetic corridors, work on another kind of wildlife corridor had already begun. Nearly 20 years ago, WCS got behind the first biological corridor, connecting rainforest habitats in Mexico and Central America. The idea was to have uninterrupted rainforest from Mexico to the Panama Canal, the large tracts of existing forest joined by forest arteries. It was a beautiful vision—and so ambitious that, though signed into international treaty in 1997, it is still in the process of being carried out to this day.

Rabinowitz's genetic corridor is ambitious in a different way. He formed the idea in 2001, when another set of researchers burst onto an underground genetic railroad already up and running—and didn't realize what they'd found. With new technology for DNA processing, geneticists at the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity in Maryland learned that populations of jaguars from Mexico to Argentina did not constitute different subspecies, as previously thought. "The first thing I did," recalls Rabinowitz, "I ran over and just looked at maps of Central and South America and said, 'What have we been missing?' " The answer was that, in spite of the risks posed by development and poaching, jaguars were still moving through much of their historic range—swimming, at one point, across the Panama Canal—and mixing their genes. Each individual jaguar was a unique combination of genes from the same vast pool.

Unlike biological corridors, genetic corridors are not stretches of untouched habitat. They are compatible with agricultural development, even private ownership of land—but there's a limit to how much development a traveling tiger will tolerate. What people will tolerate is another question, but Rabinowitz believes that resistance to letting tigers or other large wildlife onto developed land is more a matter of intellectual hostility than practical concern. Tigers, like all predators whose livelihoods depend on stealth, prefer to go about unnoticed. Even in tiger habitat, says eminent field biologist George Schaller, "you can go for weeks without seeing a tiger. They don't want contact if they can help it." Rabinowitz's own backyard in New York's Hudson Valley is a thoroughfare for coyotes—a fact he only learned when he set out a camera trap and got a picture of one. The animals' natural discretion is also one reason that mountain lions have made a comeback in California's Hollywood Hills.

A tiger's home range spans up to 800 square kilometers, but a male of "dispersal age"—about two years—will travel up to 1,000 kilometers in search of fresh territory for prey and mates. Only two reserves in the world are currently large enough to accommodate dispersals on this scale—the Hukawng Valley in Burma and Thailand's Western Forest Complex—but neither have the tigers to match their capacity. India, on the other hand, holds more than half of the world's tigers in numerous isolated pockets. Genetic corridors can help populate the large reserves and make small ones more viable. According to statistical models, if just one male tiger per generation—about ten years—makes a successful crossing from one habitat to another—from India to Burma, for instance, or Laos to Vietnam—and adds his genes to a different mix, the entire species gets a new lifeline. (Simply moving tigers from one habitat is quicker, but it almost always backfires: unless you catch a male right at dispersal age, says Rabinowitz, the animal will not accept its new home and try to find its way back. In its confusion, it is also more prone to conflict with humans and livestock.)

Tigers have different names in different parts of the world. India's are the Royal Bengal; in Thailand, conservationists are fighting for the Indochinese. The Siberian tiger looms large in that frigid northeastern tundra, while the Chinese are convinced that the South China tiger is the most beautiful iteration of all. They differ along a spectrum of size, color, and thickness of coat—but with the exception of the Sumatran tiger, which is truly in a genetic class of its own, there is only one tiger species. George Amato, head of genomics research at the American Museum of Natural History, says, "If you walked from southern India to Korea, at no place would you say, 'That [kind of tiger] stopped and this one started.' " The idea behind genetic corridors is not to create artificial gene flows between isolated groups, he says, but to reconstruct "the natural evolutionary path of these animals."

Thirteen countries own a piece of the tiger's natural range. One Panthera corridor would connect several small reserves in the Western Ghats, along the coast of India. Another would run the entire length of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Between Russia and China, the Siberian tiger has periodically shifted its haunts as populations were hunted or lost their prey. Now some tigers are moving to China again, and Rabinowitz hopes that the story of their return to native soil might overcome the Chinese government's general indifference to wildlife and help legitimize a corridor in the northeast.

By far the longest segment of the tiger genetic chain will be the Himalayan-Indomalaysian corridor: descending from the Nepalese mountains to the very toe of continental Asia, it picks through Bhutan, eastern India, Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia on its way to Malaysia. Rabinowitz knows he may have to settle for less, because countries in this region are particularly averse to any proposal that "smacks of open borders." His first supporter is the king of Bhutan, a well-liked monarch who Rabinowitz hopes will influence India and Burma.

Before he can present genetic corridors to lawmakers, though, Rabinowitz first has to know where they can go. What enabled him to so readily act on his epiphany about jaguars was a new technology springing up in all corners of conservation science: Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a technique for making intelligent maps. These maps allow Panthera's specialists to assess potential corridor terrain on multiple levels, from elevation to the density of vegetation to the proximity of human settlement and infrastructure. Combined with precise Global Positioning System satellite technology, GIS becomes a powerful tool for Panthera's detective work. Kathy Zeller and Sahil Nijhawan, the company's corridor sleuths, use a "least-cost" model to deduce pathways for jaguars: with an understanding of the animals' behavior, they measure the known obstacles to jaguar movement down to the specific types of vegetation that can help stow away a cat (corn and sugarcane fields make passable cover, vineyards are not so good). Then they dispatch teams for "groundtruthing"—checking their multi-tiered maps on the ground, interviewing local farmers and ranch hands and collecting evidence of the cats' activity. Ultimately, the proof of a successful corridor will be in the scat, showing the dispersal of an individual's DNA from one population to another. In Latin America, Rabinowitz has to find the corridors already in use, in order to protect them; in Asia, since tiger populations are by and large fragmented, he has to find plausible corridors to implement.

Jaguar corridors are easier to create than tiger corridors. The illegal, exceedingly profitable market for tiger parts continues to thrive, from unregulated Asian border towns to Bangkok to New York's Chinatown. Local villagers still hunt the tiger's prey, because unlike domesticated pork or chicken, wild pig and deer meat are free. Tigers aren't even trying to disperse, in part because they can't, and in part because they are so few, they don't need to. "Even if there's a corridor," says Rabinowitz, "you only move if you have to leave. The dispersing happens from really solid, stable populations. Unfortunately, almost none of the remaining tiger populations are close to carrying capacity." In Asia, that means Panthera has less ostensible tracks to follow in figuring out where the tigers' preferred corridors would be. What they have is scat, collected from different populations, from which they can piece together a historic DNA trail that shows where movement once took place. Genes are a record of how closely populations are related, and thus how recently groups were split. The very genes the operation is designed to save contain the key to uncovering the past corridors that Panthera needs to re-create.

The primary negotiations for tiger corridors will not hinge on whether people can live with wildlife but whether states can. Corridors aren't a hard line against development; they need protection under zoning laws to keep from being obstructed by a dam, or a highway, or a factory—but otherwise, they're usable lands. A country can have corridors if it has a land-use plan, keeping corridor zones closed to industry and major infrastructure but open to agriculture. The key to saving the big cats is not a willingness to sacrifice development but a capacity for smart management.

Tolerance is something you can teach, but for more immediate effect, you can buy it. About 150,000 people live in Burma's Hukawng Valley Tiger Reserve, which Rabinowitz created in 2004. In addition to farms there is a police station, a firehouse, a Buddhist temple, several Christian churches, and a prisoners' work camp. The residents know they live in a tiger reserve because, in exchange, they receive benefits: teachers and power generators for otherwise abandoned schools, health services and medical supplies, guards on patrol—all paid for by Panthera and WCS.

For once, conservation has a pragmatic edge. The hope, in all its poetic irony, is that the new data-rich, processor-driven science of conservation will master the environment, so we can restore the wild and let it be—even in our midst.

Man-eaters rule in a land of widow

Man-eaters rule in a land of widows

West Bengal's villagers are increasingly the prey of tigers driven out of Bangladesh by flooding

Gethin Chamberlain in Deulbari
The Observer,
Sunday October 26 2008
Article history

In the remote village of Deulbari, everyone knows someone who has been attacked by a tiger. Until now, humans and tigers have coexisted uneasily in this outpost in the Sundarbans area of West Bengal, where 274 tigers were counted in the last census in 2004. This year has been different.

Approached through vivid green paddy fields dotted with pink water lilies, Deulbari is a village of roughly constructed houses, some with corrugated iron roofs, others just straw, bleached by the sun. It sits on the Indian shores of the mangrove forests that straddle the border between India and Bangladesh. After a cyclone last winter led to rising water levels and forced tigers from the Bangladeshi side over the border into India, the number of documented tiger attacks has soared. According to villagers, there have been 15 already this year, six of them fatal. The ranks of the tiger widows are swelling, and the horrifying tales are multiplying.

Swapan Haldar, 35, was a crab fisherman, wading regularly through the water along the shores of the forests in search of grey-green crustaceans. Mindful of recent attacks, his wife Minati pleaded with him to think again when he announced one Saturday morning that he was going to the forest with two other men in search of crabs. 'He said, "Look after the children, I will be back in five or six days'," she said. 'I told him I am always worried about the dangers. I told him "Don't go". But he said he had to, because it was the only thing he could do.'

Each catch fetches between 80 and 120 rupees a kilo in the market (£1-£1.50). The fishermen club together to pay the 400 rupees it costs to hire a boat, sometimes returning the same day, more often staying out in the forest, sleeping on board. Although they can only expect to collect between three and five kilos of crabs between them in a day, it is usually still worth the effort. But it is the misfortune of the fishermen and honey collectors of Deulbari trying to scratch a living from the forest that the Royal Bengal tiger, having been uprooted from its usual terrain, has developed a taste for human flesh.

Haldar's companions returned with his body the following night. According to the reports Minati received, her husband had no inkling that the tiger was there until it pounced. It locked its jaws around his head and pulled him backwards into the forest. By the time the others found him, he was already dead. 'People are helpless, but somehow we have to live here,' she said.

There were 29 widows gathered in the long communal hall near the dock from where the boats set out, listening to her story and nodding. Anita Nashkar, 22, sat quietly, pulling her green and yellow sari around her head, lost in her own world of nightmares, her 18-month-old daughter Priyanka asleep in her arms. Her husband Putul, 24, went out with two other men two months ago to fish for crabs. 'The last time I spoke to him he said he would be back the next week,' she said. It was all she said. Two days into the trip, a tiger struck, dragging Putul's body away into the heart of the forest, where the others dared not follow.

Panchali Mundal, 24, came forward. She was mute with shock. It was barely two weeks since her husband, Sanjay, said goodbye and headed off with other men from the village in search of crabs. She stared at her feet as the men gathered round to colour in the details: Sanjay, 30, the father of her three children, had just bent down to reach into the water when the tiger pounced. It dragged his body into the jungle. She had no idea how she would take care of the children now.

The men clustered around. It seemed as if everyone had a story to tell. Naren Sardar, 56, was fortunate it was a male tiger that received his kick between its hind legs as it tried to drag him off when he was on a fishing trip. 'I kicked him in the bichi,' Sardar said. Jungle Paranaik, 42, the village hairdresser, managed to escape by swimming under the boat that had taken him in search of crabs two months ago. Fatik Haldar, 35, was eight when his father was killed by a tiger while collecting honey in the forest. He now sports a neat set of scars from where a tiger landed on his shoulders as he went in search of prawns in July. His injuries mean that his wife Basanti, 30, is now reduced to begging.

For 30 years, Gopal Chandra Tanti was the top tiger-catcher in the mangrove forests. It was in Deulbari, a village of 4,000 people on the banks of the Matla river, that Tanti downed his last tiger earlier this year. The animal, a pregnant female nearly three metres long (8ft 6in), had crossed the river and was lurking in bushes near the edge of the village. At about 10pm she was spotted, given away by the reflection from her eyes.

The villagers grabbed torches and joined the hunt, shouting loudly and waving their burning sticks until the tiger took refuge in the branches of a palm tree. There they tormented her further, jabbing at the animal with the flames. The animal escaped, but was hunted down the next day and laid low by a dart from Tanti's rifle.

The old tiger-catcher's nerves are no longer strong enough to cope with the new influx. In his office in the town of Canning, Tanti fumbles with a plastic flight, trying to screw it into the aluminium tube that forms the body of a tranquillising dart, demonstrating to a young colleague how it should be done. Having decided to retire, he is trying to train a new generation to take on the man-eaters.

'There is a lot of mental pressure trying to tackle this situation' is all he will say of his decision to step down. That pressure shows no sign of easing. The Indian authorities have no intention of relaxing the prohibition on hunting tigers, which enjoy endangered status. For the villagers of Deulbari, fishing expeditions will remain fraught with danger for the foreseeable future. Remarkably, given the carnage in recent months, the villagers appear resigned rather than angry.

'We have always lived with tigers. It is part and parcel of life here,' said Badak Sardar, Deulbari's former schoolteacher. 'This conflict will continue because the man-eaters are looking for humans. Once they have the taste of human flesh, they will always look for it.'

Ashutosh Dhali, who received gruesome injuries to his left leg during an attack, agreed. 'We love tigers,' he said. 'We can't hate them. They are unavoidable, they are part of the place. There are a lot of tigers around now, but without the tigers it would not be the same jungle.


Oct 20 2008
Valmik Thapa on the conservation of Indian tigers

Sep 25 2008
John Vidal on the Bangladeshi forest where tigers and humans are in conflict

Jul 1 2008
Tiger moved to Sariska

Jun 30 2008
Tiger reintroduced at Indian reserve after poachers kill off population

Bangladeshi money behind tiger poaching in Sunderban

Bangladeshi money behind tiger poaching in Sunderban

The West Bengal crime investigation department recently revealed a startling fact that Bangladeshi money lenders are financing the illegal poaching of royal Bengal tigers in Indian Sunderbans, driving the creature to near extinction.

DESPITE OF stringent wild life protection laws, illegal poaching of tigers in Indian forests is going along uninhibited, pushing the species on the verge of extinction. While investigating the death of a royal Bengal tiger in Sunderbans, the West Bengal crime investigation department (CID) has made a starling revelation that has unearthed the role of Bangladeshi money behind the illegal tiger hunting trade in the forests of the Indian Sunderbans.

Bangladeshi money lenders are financing poachers, equipping them with country boats or trawlers and firearms to hunt for tigers in the dense forests of Indian Sunderbans, under the guise of Indian fishermen. Taking advantage of the scarcely patrolled porous border that is difficult to be demarcated on the expansive waterfront, these poachers easily pass over to the Indian waters, with the Indian national flag hoisted on the mast of the boat.

Upon investigation, CID suspects that of the considerable number of tiger attacks reported in the dense forests, a significant number of human victims are not innocent fishermen, woodcutters or honey-collectors but people who have been prey of animals, they had gone to hunt. The lackadaisical attitude of the forest department in investigating the cause and nature of the tiger attacks have helped in keeping the activity of the illegal trade under cover. In fact, it has come to the notice of the Indian authorities in recent years that Bangladeshi money lenders are financing fishermen, operating in the Indian Sunderbans in significant proportions, raising doubt about the actual motive behind the finance.

When the carcass of a tiger, with bullet wounds in the head floating in a river, was noticed by some tourists early this month, the West Bengal government ordered the CID to inquire into this matter. After arresting two poachers, the state investigating agency unraveled the role of Bangladeshi operators in the illegal hunting trade.

Bangladeshi money lenders have been known to frequent the house of one of the poachers in Kolkata, clarifying that the kingpins of the trade belonged to the neighbouring country.

The royal Bengal tigers, the residents of the Sunderbans, are on the verge of extinction. According to latest census report released by the National Tiger Conservation Authority in February 2008, there are 1,411 big cats in the country, a drastic decline from the 2001-2002 figures of 3,642. However, these figures exclude the tigers of the Sunderbans that according to the authorities are difficult to be monitored and verified through radio collaring. However, according to data, with the West Bengal forest department, there are 249 tigers in the Sunderban tiger reserves and 279 in greater Sunderbans.

Unfortunately, researchers of the Indian Statistical Institute tell us a different story. Based on the pug mark study of the tigers in the region, they found that only 75 tigers are left in the Sunderbans.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

‘Black Tigers’ in Similipal Tiger Reserve

‘Black Tigers’ in Similipal Tiger Reserve

First Published : 21 Oct 2008 09:21:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 21 Oct 2008 11:12:36 AM IST

BHUBANESWAR: The State Forest Department and Dehra Dun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) may have a huge difference of opinion over exact number of tigers in the State, but the agencies are unanimous over presence of melanistic tigers in Similipal.

Even as the State and WII continue to be at loggerheads not only over number of big cats but enumeration methodology too, there is no such difference as far as melanistic (some call it black) tigers are concerned.

‘Wildlife Census in Orissa,’ a latest publication by the Forest and Environment Department, has confirmed the fact that tigers with colour aberration, mostly towards black, are found in Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR).

It comes to light through WII’s camera trap technology, a methodology which left the State Government ruffled when the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Dehra Dun-based institute released results of tiger census earlier this year. Interestingly, the publication puts the number of tigers at 132 in habitats across the State. The figure for Similipal is 69 (excluding cubs) as per the pugmark tracking method.

This almost is a climb-down from the higher figure of 94 that the Department had been dishing out for past several years, after it met with serious posers from camera trap technique used by WII-NTCA which led to a drop in the number. The controversial WII census had put tiger number at 45 in the entire State, and 20 in Similipal.

However, there is no such controversy over presence of the melanistic tigers though. The Forest Department publication, while terming the analysis of the camera trap as unclear, says that the method needs to be tested in different habitats.

But it presents pictures of the census showing the ‘black’ coloured tigers in STR. ‘‘It substantiates the postulation made on the basis of research carried out in STR on colour aberration in tiger in the research work Born Black: The Melanistic Tiger in India,’’ the report says.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tiger conservation efforts get a boost

Tiger conservation efforts get a boost

New Delhi (PTI): India's efforts to save wild tigers received a major boost with an international body recently setting in motion the process to phase out commercial breeding of the Asian big cats in countries like China and Thailand.

The notification by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Genvea, which is a significant step in curbing poaching of tigers and the illegal trade in their body parts, comes despite China's consistent opposition to the ban on tiger farming being carried out in a large scale for commercial purpose in that country.

In the notification, CITES, one of the world's most powerful bodies for protection of bio-diversity, has asked member nations to prepare a detailed report on the steps they plan to take to curb tiger farming which has hampered tiger conservation efforts. India as well other nations such as Nepal and Bhutan had demanded ban on the tiger farming arguing that it was fuelling the illegal trade in tiger parts and bones as "killing a wild tiger is much cheaper than raising it in the farms."

Calling the decision as a victory for tiger conservation efforts, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) chairperson Rajesh Gopal said, "it would go a long way to save the wild big cats." The notification directs registration of captive tigers, meaning that they should be marked or microchipped with their age and sex being mentioned just as it is done while preparing a stud book in a zoo.

Tiger killer in CID net

Tiger killer in CID net

Monday , October 20 , 2008

Calcutta, Oct. 19: CID sleuths today arrested a Sunderbans villager for allegedly killing the tiger found floating in a river with bullet wounds a fortnight ago.

Police identified Paritosh Mondal, in his early 50s, as a poacher. A tiger bone, which the police said was “old”, was found in his house on Kumirmari Island, around 270km from Calcutta.

Three others had been held earlier in connection with the tiger death. Mondal was said to be one of the two men who had fired. The second shooter is missing.

An improvised rifle, which was allegedly used to fire at the tiger, and a revolver were found from his house at Sarodpara village.

This is the first time poachers have been held in the Sunderbans. “We are searching for the others who are part of a deer and tiger poaching racket,” said special inspector-general, CID, Sanjay Mukherjee.

During interrogation, Mondal apparently provided a blow-by-blow account of how he and his accomplice, Panchanan Giri, had killed the tiger in the Jhila forest.

On October 6, the decomposed carcass was found in the Khonakhali river. It had two bullet holes in the head.

“Armed with two rifles, the duo climbed up a tree on October 3 and waited for hours. They spotted the tiger around 5.30pm. Both Mondal and Giri pulled the triggers and the bullets hit the tiger,” said Mukherjee.

The adult male, however, did not collapse on the spot. It somersaulted thrice and went into the river. “We did not dare to come down. The next morning, we searched for the tiger, but could not find it. We came to know about its death from newspapers three days later,” Mondal said.

He apparently told the police that a full-grown tiger could fetch up to Rs 25 lakh.

The police raided Giri’s house in the same village this morning, but he managed to give the slip. Mukherjee said a team of plainclothes personnel had been camping in the Canning and Gosaba area since October 15.

Global warming leads India tigers to village attacks

Global warming leads India tigers to village attacks

Mon Oct 20, 2008 12:59pm IST
By Sujoy Dhar

KOLKATA (Reuters) - The number of tiger attacks on people is growing in India's Sundarban islands as habitat loss and dwindling prey caused by climate change drives them to prowl into villages for food, experts said on Monday.

Wildlife experts say endangered tigers in the world's largest reserve are turning on humans because rising sea levels and coastal erosion are steadily shrinking the tigers' natural habitat.

The Sundarbans, a 26,000 sq km (10,000 sq mile) area of low-lying swamps on India's border with Bangladesh, is dotted with hundreds of small islands criss-crossed by water channels.

"In the past six months, seven fishermen were killed in an area called Netidhopani," Pranabes Sanyal of the World Conservation Union said.

"Owing to global warming, the fragile Sundarbans lost 28 percent of its habitat in the last 40 years. A part of it is the core tiger reserve area from where their prey migrated."

But as sea levels rise, two islands have already disappeared and others are vulnerable. Wildlife experts say the destruction of the mangroves means the tigers' most common prey, such as crocodiles, fish and big crabs, is dwindling.

Sundarban villagers pass through tiger territory on boats to fish in the sea, or to collect honey in forest areas.

"Villagers are not supposed to enter a number of islands earmarked as tiger territories, but they seldom follow the rules, get attacked and claim compensation," Pradip Shukla, a senior forest department official, told Reuters.

Villager Ashutosh Dhali became a local celebrity after television cameras captured him being attacked in February.

"We were trying to catch the tiger perched on a tree of our village with tranquiliser shots," said the 47-year-old villager.

"But it flung on me after falling on a net and bit my loins."

Once home to 500 tigers in the late 1960s, the Sundarbans may only shelter between 250 and 270 tigers now, wildlife officials say. The Indian Statistical Institute said the number is as low as 75.

Most tigers have been wiped out due to poaching and habitat loss. Authorities said a tiger was killed by poachers in the Sundarbans earlier this month, the latest such killing in India.

The area is the world's largest mangrove reserve and one of the most unique ecosystems in South Asia, recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ullas Karanth, of the Wildlife Conservation Society India, says that the Sundarbans are a poor quality tiger habitat because of low prey densities.

"The tendency to seek alternate prey in the form of livestock -- and sometimes humans -- might be higher in these tigers," Karanth said.

As sea levels rise, mangroves have been overexposed to salt water. Many plants have lost their red and green colours and are more like bare twigs, exposing tigers to poachers who hunt them for their skin and bones.

There were about 40,000 tigers in India a century ago. A government census report published this year says the tiger population has fallen to 1,411, down from 3,642 in 2002, largely due to dwindling habitat and poaching.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

NTCA sings pact with an NGO for tiger conservation

NTCA sings pact with an NGO for tiger conservation

16 Oct 2008, 1207 hrs IST, PTI

NEW DELHI: As poaching continues to be a major threat for the tigers, the National Tigers Conservation Authority (NTCA) has joined hands with Traffic India, an NGO to support effective on-ground enforcement action for protection of the threatened stripped cats.

This is for the first time that the government body has inked a pact with any NGO to work for the conservation as well as monitoring of tiger and prey populations in the country.

"This collaboration with the NGO should give us an edge in fighting wildlife crime particularly trade in tiger parts in the country," Rajesh Gopal, NTCA member secretary said.

He pointed out, "Wildlife crime in India has taken a heavy toll on our precious flora and fauna. Over the years, the crime has transmutate itself into a fully-fledged nexus of poachers and wildlife traders that operate not only in the country but also have well established trans-border connections."

Gopal said as per agreement, a comprehensive database on wildlife trade and crime, especially with reference to the tiger will be developed to support effective on-ground enforcement action.

"We will also conduct capacity building programmes for various enforcement agencies to meet emerging and existing challenges of wildlife enforcement," the tiger expert said, hoping to utilise manpower and intelligence resources of the NGO to curb poaching.

It was in the last meeting of the Authority that the Environment Ministry gave a green signal to the long-pending demand of the NTCA as well the NGOs in the field to work jointly for the protection of tigers which are the umbrella animal in the wildlife.

3 top forest officials removed after tiger death in Sunderbans

3 top forest officials removed after tiger death in Sunderbans


Days after the discovery of a tiger carcass in the Sunderbans, three top forest officials, including the Field Director Tiger Reserve, were tonight removed from their posts by the West Bengal government in a swift move.

Besides the Director Niraj Singhal, Sunderban Biosphere Pradeep Shukla and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Pradip Bist were unceremoniously stripped of their posts at a high-level meeting chaired by Forest minister Ananta Roy at 'Aranya Bhavan' here, a top forest official told PTI.

The meeting took exception to the 'tardy' pace of investigation in the tiger death which led to the handing over of the case to CID in the light of the apparent failure of the forest department to crack the case.

The rise in incidents of poaching and halt in patrolling by forest guards in some key parts of the mangrove forest and recent intrusions of tigers into human habitation also figured in today's key discussions which were preceded by preliminary talks for past two days, he said.

While Subrat Mukhopadhyay, one-time field Deputy Director of Tiger Reserve in past, would take the place of Singhal, the new appointees for other two vital posts were not known.

Meanwhile, Additional Director General, CID, Bhupinder Singh told a private TV channel tonight that the tiger had died of bullet wounds.

He said CID was pursuing all leads in the investigation of the death of the full-grown tiger, whose carcass was found floating on a river near Gosaba over a week back.

The tiger was suspected to have been killed by a group of deer poachers who entered the forest from Jharkhali.

Three persons Babu Mondal, Amulya Samaddar and Nishi Haldar had been arrested in connection with the death.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Man-eater tiger keeps Uttar Pradesh forest officials on tenterhooks

Man-eater tiger keeps Uttar Pradesh forest officials on tenterhooks

October 10th, 2008 - 9:07 pm ICT by IANS

Lucknow, Oct 10 (IANS) A man-eater tiger is giving sleepless nights to forest officials in Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit district as all attempts to trap it have proved futile.Following this, the locals in the area are living in constant fear of the animal’s attack.

“The tiger has evaded us on several occasions. On Thursday, the tiger came very close to the cage seeing a goat inside it but managed to give us the slip,” division forest officer Pramod Kumar told IANS over the telephone.

Two days ago, the tiger had strayed into Nadha village in Pilibhit, over 250 km from Lucknow, and killed a local. Since then the big cat is on the prowl, he added.

With the forest officials’ efforts going in vain, they have now turned to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The tiger had strayed from Pilibhit’s Mala forest range that is home to about 10 tigers, officials said.

Fundraising students inspired by tiger's plight

Fundraising students inspired by tiger's plight

Published Date: 10 October 2008
By Robert Collins

Learning about the plight of endangered tigers has inspired children at a Warwick school to raise more than £1,200 to help save the Sumatran rainforest.
One student managed to get the baker who made Prince Charles’ and Countess Camilla’s wedding cake to donate a cake as a raffle prize. Another raised £100 in her family pub and others held sponsored silences and swims, Easter egg raffles and cake sales.

Now the money raised by Myton College students will pay for more than 40 hectares of rainforest to be replanted.

The children were raising money for the RSPB’s Save the Sumatran rainforest campaign, in which the charity is working with its Sumatran equivalent Burung Indonesia to outbid logging companies and stop devastation of the habitat, which shelters 260 bird species, frogs, gibbons and tapirs.

Teacher and RSPB member Peneli Grier taught the children about the scheme.

She said: “The pupils were instantly excited and determined to help. The amount raised is very much down to the pupils who needed the motivation to carry out their own ideas.”

Year 8 student Becky Ward said: “We wanted to raise the money because we were encouraged by Mrs Grier and because we are passionate about animals and we understood the dangers and the risks these animals are facing. I managed to raise £280, which is a great sum of money for the RSPB.”

Pupil Lucy Salt added: “We raised the money because of our love of animals and because it is such a good cause. The encouragement helped us keep going with our fundraising and finish to come out with an outstanding result.”

RSPB representative Louise Pedersen presented students with fundraising certificated on October 2. She said: “I am really inspired by the creativity and excitement of the students and applaud them for engaging with a project like this. Thanks to the help of the students, we are now closer to making this internationally important rainforest restoration project succeed”.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Govt may not deploy special tiger force in Naxal-hit areas

Govt may not deploy special tiger force in Naxal-hit areas

New Delhi (PTI): The endangered tigers in the Naxalite-hit areas in the country may not get armed cover as the government fears that it may lead to skirmishes with the extremists.

The decision is being taken in view of threats from the Naxalites who, the government apprehends might not take well the "presence" of the Special Task Protection Force (STPF), according to the well placed sources in the Environment Ministry.

The dedicated armed force is being created to save the tigers from poachers and miscreants.

"In the Naxalite-infested reserves, it will not be easy for the armed forces to keep a tab on the tigers as they can come in conflict with the equally sophisticated equipped extremists," a top ministry official said.

This observation was discussed threadbare at a recent high-level meeting led by Environment Secretary Vijay Sinha and was attended by senior police officials from tiger range states as well almost all state wildlife officials, including chief wildlife wardens and chief conservator of forests.

The government would neither like to risk the lives of the personnel of the STPF nor aggravate the situation by drawing the ire of Naxalites who have presence in the deep forests, the official said.

The extremist-affected tiger reserves are Palamao Betla in Jharkhand, Kaziranga and Manas park in Assam, Nagarjunsagar tiger reserve in Andhra Pradesh besides Indravati in Bastar region in Jharkhand.

"Currently, such reserves are being taken care of by the local guards who have somewhat managed a cordial relation with the Naxalites," the official added.

Tigers face extinction threat in Panna Park

Tigers face extinction threat in Panna Park

Panna, MP, Oct 7: Not a single tigress or cub has been spotted in Panna National Tiger Park in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh since a long time causing great concern, official sources said today.

''Sprawled over an expanse of 543 sq km, the park may have some tigers. However, no tigress or cub can be spotted. A scheme has been chalked out to bring two tigress from Bandhavgarh or Kanha National Park,'' Park Manager L K Choudhary said.

He said Principal Chief Forest Conservator (Wildlife) P B Gangopadhyay has written to the Union Deputy Inspector General of Forests (Wildlife) Anmol Kumar about the situation and stressed on the need for bringing tigers from other national parks.

The letter stated that no clear indications in the decrease of tigers had been observed but scarcity of tigress and cubs was being felt.

Wildlife sources said the tiger census 2006 put the number of tigers at 20. However, there was no idea about the present population.

Former MP Lokendra Singh said the park had a population of 500 tigers about 50 years back. However, this number was not more than 2-3 tigers at present.

Increasing tiger, panther population noticed in TN

Increasing tiger, panther population noticed in TN

8 Oct 2008, 1307 hrs IST,PTI

ERODE: The wild life population in Sathyamangalam forests in this district has started increasing, thanks to the efforts taken by officials to provide sufficient water to animals and control poaching in the area.

Due to sufficient water available inside the forests, migration of animals like elephants, bison and other animals to other places from Satyamangalam areas during summer season have reduced to a minimum, district forest officer, Rama Subramaniam said.

It was revealed in a recent census taken by the officials that there were 10 tigers and 25 panthers in Sathyamangalam forest area alone.

Meanwhile, villagers of Chinnathambipalayam have imformed the Erode district forest personnel that they have noticed foot prints of panthers in the area. They also said some villagers have noticed two big panthers and appealed to the officials to take steps to trap them.

Monday, October 06, 2008

24 hours with the Sariska tigers

24 hours with the Sariska tigers

Saturday , October 04, 2008 at 02 : 31

It's a National Park that grabbed world headlines. With the mass wipe out of all its tigers Sariska became a blot in in the history of conservation in India. And two years later the King of the Jungle is back.. In June 2008 the Indian Air Force airlifted two tigers from Ranthambore National Park to be translocated to Sariska. And since then quietly yet determinedly a virtual army of foot soldiers and wildlife scientists are tracking two radio-collared tigers to make sure this time round nothing goes wrong.

So far no one has been allowed inside this heavily barricaded park. Operation Big Cat is in full swing. Three hundred men patrol the park- every visitor into the park is frisked and the area where the tigers have been released is cordoned off to make sure the tigers are adjusted to their new home. As the only media team allowed inside to track the tigers on foot - we are able to get witness firsthand the mammoth size effort on to protect these tigers and to meet the men engaged in a task virtually next to impossible.

The terrain is of Sariska is rugged - its also indicative of the terrain the tiger walks on. Both the tigers have been fitted with radio collars sending out signals to a satellite which then sends the data which is monitored daily by scientists daily at the Wildlife Institute of India, top officials of the Rajasthan Forest Department and the National Tiger Conservation Authority in New Delhi. In addition two teams are physically tracking the tigers as well, day and night. Some of them have now been on duty since the last 14 hours but they continue relentless with an almost feverish obsession.

At the some point on the tiger trail it takes on the nature of a comedy film- the officers climb trees so do we. They lead us through a tough terrain in the forest we slip and slid away but we continue relentless.. And then finally we do see it- the tail of the tiger. It's the female.

Tracking these big cats is like uncovering a secret. We follow the male as he walks along a jungle trail- he sniffs the scent of a nilgai moves up towards the hill. The mighty animal then climbs right down and moves along the sandy banks of a stream.. And all along the steady 'click' click' sounds is all we have. To be walking within 50 metres of this mighty animal that has inspired folklore caught the nations attention, obsessed the media about its status, is an honour.

Across the world many experiments have been undertaken to restock wild populations on the verge of extinction. The Golden tamarins a small primate species have been bred in captivity and released in the wild in the Amazon forests. But with newly released animals the chances of losing them are always high. On an average only one out of every three animals released in such experiments in the wild ever survives... the survival rates are very low.. Thats why Sariska needs more tigers and very soon.. it is possible in the coming days Sariska may lose a tiger.. there maybe a natural death.. but nothing can take away from the honest effort made by a rag tag group of foot soldiers to make sure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

Frontline staff protecting forests across the country are all above the age of 50- a majority physically unfit for the job. For the tigers of Sariska the state government and the Project Tiger had to make sure that young people were deployed. If the tigers of not just Sariska but across India have to be saved its this frontline fleet of green soldiers that needs a revamping.

Hopefully Sariska will become a conservation success story- You may never see the faces of these green soldiers. But in the forest of Sariska - a wily mongoose digs up its last shoots, a monitor lizard squats lazily in the sun, as a sambar deer dashes past our jeep- the entire forest is reverbrating only with one truth- the king of the jungle is back - And every one is on their toes.

Special report: Tracking the big cats of Sariska

Special report: Tracking the big cats of Sariska

View Video At:

Bahar Dutt / CNN-IBN

Published on Sat, Oct 04, 2008 at 02:07, Updated on Sat, Oct 04, 2008 at 08:09 in Nation section

Sariska (Rajasthan): The tension in Sariska National Park in Rajasthan is palpable. The tigers are back.

Sariska lost all its tigers in 2005 to massive poaching. However, in June this year, two tigers from Ranthambore were airlifted by the Indian Air Force and released into Sariska in an effort to restock the tiger back in this ecosystem.

Special tiger protection programme has been initiated by the Rajasthan government to monitor the tigers in their new habitat.

The two tigers have radio collars. However, tracking them in a 800 sq km park is not simple for forest department staff and wildlife scientists.

Head project tiger Rajesh Gopal says, “Initially, the home range was big, now the male has a large territory which is 40 sq kilometer and the female's about 20 sq km."

The tigers move up to 25 km a day in search of food.

Forest guard Hari Singh says, “I am tense when I am on leave because I keep wondering how my tigers must be doing. We have to keep these animals alive night and day, that's our only concern.”

Deputy Director, Sariska National Park Sharma says, “They are prized animals for us since they came after such a long time. The entire world is watching us. We are overprotective about the tigers.”

The men heading tiger protection programme may be overprotective about the tigers, but it is their dogged commitment to bring Sariska ecosystem alive again.

The entire park seems to be teeming with life. Sariska once a blot on the history of conservation in India may just end up being a conservation success story.

Related Headlines:
Officials shift one Ranthambore tiger to Sariska
Three Ranthambore tigers to be airlifted to Sariska
Sariska to get Ranthambore tigers

Man vs Tiger Struggle for survival

Man vs Tiger Struggle for survival

Vivek Deshpande Posted online: Oct 06, 2008 at 2359 hrs

The 50-km stretch between Nagbhid and Mul on the Nagpur-Chandrapur state highway is dotted with lush green fields of paddy. There are few patches of forests — less than a kilometre. Yet, the villages on both sides of the highway are bearing the brunt of the man-tiger conflict. A conflict that has claimed 38 lives and left about 25 injured in this nearly 1,000-sq km area over less than three years.

The latest encounter was on September 4, near Talodhi village, where a shepherd lost his life to a tigress. The animal was suspected to have killed five others in the past year, bringing back memories of the Talodhi incident last October-November, when a tiger was shot dead after it killed four persons in the paddy fields.

With the tigers becoming more aggressive, villages in the belt are getting increasingly restive. Even as the Forest Department struggles to cope with the tiger crisis, increasing leopard attacks have added to the problem, with two deaths being reported in Junona area within eight days last month.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has sanctioned Rs 36 lakh for the forest department’s contingency plan, but whether that will help the ground situation remains to be seen.

The problem

In Chandrapur district, home to around 90 tigers, many villages are located near forests contiguous with the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) — which alone accounts for 44 tigers in its 625-sq km area. The conflict is largely restricted to the Nagbhid-Mul belt which has a greater concentration of villages.

The alarm bells first rang in May 2006, when four attacks, one fatal, were reported within two days in Nagbhid and its surrounding area. Villagers say they have been encountering tigers for about three years now. Consider this: 11 deaths were reported in 2006, 14 in 2007, and 13 this year. About 2,120 cattle were reported to have been killed by tigers in these three years.

Experts believe successful conservation has resulted in a spurt in the population of tigers in TATR, resulting in a spillover to adjoining forests, which have little prey to offer. Moreover, the human population has also grown exponentially, with villagers moving deeper into the forests. The result: a conflict between tigers and humans as both fight for survival.

While 2006 saw most cases in Nagbhid range, the problem shifted to Talodhi range in 2007, and progressively downwards to Sindewahi and Mul ranges. One of the victims was a leprosy-afflicted inmate of Baba Amte’s farm project at Somnath in Mul. Now, the attacks seem to have come full circle, with six deaths being reported from Nagbhid range since March this year.

Conservationists say wildlife managers should have anticipated this post-conservation situation. Now, villages are up in arms against forest officials. In October-November last year, following the Talodhi deaths, villagers attacked Forest Department vehicles, and even held up officials in Sonapur village. Finally, the tiger was shot dead.

The villagers’ stand is: “cage them or kill them, it’s your job”. Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) B Majumdar says the “attacks could be in self-defence. Let’s not forget most of these cases have happened when people ventured into the forests, except in Talodhi where it attacked them in paddy fields... It is very difficult to cage a tiger.”

Meanwhile, local politicians have been adding fuel to the fire by slamming the forest department’s “inaction”. Questions have been raised in the Assembly on the issue.

The solution?

“Such skirmishes are not uncommon in wildlife areas. In the instant area, the biotic and poaching pressures are much more intense,” says NTCA member-secretary Rajesh Gopal. “We have approved the

Forest Department’s plan to tackle it,” he adds.

The plan includes:

• Survey of the area to assess the population and distribution of tigers and other animals, and to understand the reasons for man-animal conflict.

• Determine the habitat degradation, water bodies, natural wild animal dwellings and other physical features.

• Improve protection and monitoring system through training the field staff of the state forest department in wildlife management.

• Monitor the tigers and study their movements carefully.

• Undertake community awareness programmes to reduce human pressure like minor forest produce collection, poaching and cattle grazing. Create greater awareness about co-existence with wildlife.


•Belinda Wright, Wildlife Protection Society of India

The growing human-animal conflict is set to be the primary issue for wildlife conservation in India in the coming decade. The problem is already huge but has not received sufficient attention, nor has there been an effort to even document its extent. Apart from the Sunderbans, tigers do not go around hunting people. What is happening in TATR is very sad and very unusual.

The tragic human deaths are probably the work of just a few errant tigers. It may have started with a wounded tigress who turned to killing people to feed her cubs. Perhaps these cubs then grew up with the same behavioural traits. We will probably never know, but it’s certainly a problem that has to do be dealt with urgently and effectively.

The first job at hand is to accurately identify and remove the offending tiger/s by using scientific methods such as digital pugmark identification and camera traps. A team should be put together under the guidance of the Wildlife Institute of India to do this. WPSI has also collected data on each and every TATR tiger conflict case, and we are in the process of analysing the data. By pooling all the expertise and information available, it should be possible to put a stop to the tiger attacks around Tadoba.

•Debi Goenka, Bombay Natural History Society

Tatr’s success has led to tigers breeding well. Young cubs tend to move to new territories because of biotic pressures. Unfortunately, buffer areas are also not free from biotic activities, leading to the unfortunate situation. Success leading to tragedy is a complete failure of the forest department. Are we conserving tigers to kill them as in Talodhi? The non-wildlife wings are not co-operating in wildlife matters. There is urgent need to increase the inviolate area beyond present TATR confines and also throw a safety net around these virtually orphaned tigers in the non-protected areas.


Preetam Meshram, 29, Jankapur (Nagbhid) August 13, 2007

“I was grazing buffaloes when suddenly a tiger pounced on me. I fell on my back and the tiger was all over me. With one hand, I stuck my umbrella’s pointed bar hard into his neck and with the other kept repulsing one of the paws he was striking at me. I then rolled up my legs and gave the tiger one hard push, throwing him off my body. Apparently deterred, he stood at a distance, looking at me. I ran back to the village. The encounter lasted just over two minutes. I don’t dare to go there alone now.”

Sunderbai Wanjari, 62, Bhuyar (Nagbhid) May 29, 2007

“I was plucking tendu leaves with my daughter Maya, who was a little away. Suddenly, I heard a scream. I saw my daughter lying on the ground with blood oozing from her neck. She told me she was attacked by a tiger. I gave her some water, and left her for a minute. When I returned, she was not there. There were marks on the ground. I followed them, only to find her body a few metres away.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Tiger found dead in Periyar Reserves

Tiger found dead in Periyar Reserves

2 Oct 2008, 1949 hrs IST,PTI

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A grown-up tiger was found dead with its stomach ripped open at Anjurili area in the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Kerala on Thursday.

Wildlife Officials said the preliminary assessment after the post-mortem on the carcass was that the tiger died of severe injury received by attack from a powerful animal like elephant, ruling out the possibility of it being a case of poaching.

The carcass was spotted last evening by the Wildlife guards. The six-year-old tiger might have been killed four days ago, Wildlife Department sources said.

The injury in the abdomen pointed to the possibility of the tiger being kicked hard by another animal, possibly an elephant, the sources said.

Belonging to the highly endangered Royal Bengal Tiger category, the particular tiger had been identified as one of those recorded by Wildlife Department during the camera tracking survey conducted in the area some time back.

The last survey had put the number of tigers in PTR at 24 to 26, sources said.

The viscera had been sent for detailed tests at the Regional Chemical Examination Laboratory.

Centre accepts Sahyadri Tiger Project proposal in principle

Centre accepts Sahyadri Tiger Project proposal in principle

Kolhapur, Oct 2 (PTI) The Central Government has in principle accepted the proposal of initiating the Sahyadri Tiger Project covering four districts in the state, an official said.

"The National Tiger Conservation Committee has, in principle, given permission for the Sahyadri Tiger Project in the western ghats that includes 173 villages in the four districts of Satara, Ratnagiri, Kolhapur and Sangli," Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) M K Rao said.

The next process of this project is notification and permission from villages among other things, he said.

Of these villages, the committee has visited around 38 and four have agreed to the project. Four villages from Chandoli dam and 11 from Koyna dam are to be rehabilitated for the project, Rao said.

Since the initiation of the tiger conservation project in 1973 to date there are about 41 tiger projects and more than 1,440 tigers in the country, he said.

He said in the western ghats there are nine tigers, of which four are in Radhanagari, three in Chandoli and two in the Koyna area.


Tiger expert to look into impact of NHAI plan on wildlife

Tiger expert to look into impact of NHAI plan on wildlife

New Delhi, Oct 05: The Supreme Court's Central Empowered Committee (CEC) has appointed a tiger expert to look into the alleged adverse impact of proposed expansion of roads by National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) in Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.

Rajesh Gopal, Member Secretary of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), has been roped in to look into the matter.

"Yes, I have been co-opted as a member by the CEC to survey the said tiger reserve. I will soon give the report after surveying if vehicular-traffic due to the proposed expansion will have any impact or not on the wildlife in the region," Gopal told media.

The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) had moved the CEC seeking a ban on NHAI's plan to upgrade National Highway 7 to 4/6 lane on the periphery of Pench Mowgli Sanctuary of Pench Tiger Reserve in Seoni district.

The organisation alleged that the project would take toll on wildlife, thus reversing the efforts undertaken to save the big cats and ecosphere in the region.

Advocate Ritwick Dutta appearing for WTI in his petition submitted that forest of South Seoni and Nagpur Forest Divisions in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra respectively forms very important corridors for wildlife from Kanha to Pench sprawling over 16,000 squire km area with good tiger population.

"It is extremely ecologically sensitive as to maintain the genetic diversity of the highly endangered species like Tigers and Gaur," the petition says alleging that widening of the road connecting Nagpur to Jabalpur will create lot of disturbance and fragmentation in the area.

It may lead to the permanent change in the movement pattern and behaviour of the animals, he said and sought the authorities concerned to be restrained from further road construction in the area.

There have been at least 91 road hit cases from 1996-2005 in which Tiger, Chinkara, spotted deer, barking deer and black buck have died, Dutta said.

Further expansion of the road will result into increased speeding vehicles at the cost of wildlife, said Ashok Kumar, a wildlife expert from WTI.

"We have also sought court's direction to the authorities concerned to opt the proposed alternate road alignment or any other road alignment which poses minimum threat to the wildlife corridor linking Kanha National Park and Pench Tiger Reserve.

"In fact, not only animals but also humans will be in danger due to accidents involving speeding vehicles," he noted.

The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has already turned down the proposal of the National Highway Authority of India to expand the road for "smooth and quick movement of vehicles".

Tiger population dwindles to 1,400 in India

Tiger population dwindles to 1,400 in India

5 Oct 2008, 1929 hrs IST,PTI

UDHAGAMANDALAM (TAMIL NADU): Tiger population in 30 Tiger reserves in the country have dwindled to 1,411 at present from the 1,800 in 1972, according to statistics.

The country had 40,000 tigers in 1900, statistics released by CPR Environmental Education Centre (CPREEC), which is organising an exhibition titled "Tiger Tiger", on Sunday said.

"The habitats have been lost due to severe deforestation, contributing to the dwindling tiger numbers," it said.

Non-forestry activities, fragmentation of forest patches were the major causes for the dwindling tiger population, it said. The exhibition sought to raise awareness about the need to save the tiger.

"This would also provide a complete overview of the National animal -- its evolution, behaviour, social structure, cultural role, ecological significance, human impact upon it and what should be done to conserve it," it said.

The CPREEC is a Centre of Excellence of the Ministry of Environment and Forests established jointly by the Ministry and CP Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation.

Recounting in more State tiger habitats

Recounting in more State tiger habitats

K.S. Sudhi

The Hindu
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Monday, Oct 06, 2008

More camera traps to be set in the forests

Tiger monitoring protocol to be reviewed

KOCHI: In the light of the outcome of the tiger census conducted in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, the Forest Department now plans to hold an extensive recounting in the remaining tiger habitats in the State.

The census in Wayanad, Gudrikkal and Ranni tiger habitats will begin this year, said J.K. Tewari, Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife).

The census will be completed in Parambikulam this year. More camera traps will be set in these forests. The department plans to buy 20 more digital cameras and the funds from the Union government and the Periyar Foundation will be used for this, Mr. Tewari said.

The department is planning to write to the National Tiger Conservation Authority, pointing out the ‘errors’ that had crept into its tiger report in the light of the recount at the reserve, Mr. Tewari said.

The census conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India for the authority had concluded that there were 23 tigers in the Periyar landscape covering 2,314 of tiger-occupied forests. The number of tigers in the State was put at 46 in 6,168 of the tiger-occupied habitat.

However, the recount carried out by the reserve and the Periyar Foundation had concluded that the reserve had 24 tigers in an area of 640

Digital images

During the recount, digital images of 18 tigers were generated and each one was given a unique identification numbers. When one of the tigers of the reserve died last week, the digital images were used to confirm its identity.

Mr. Tewari said the authority might not correct its report. But the data generated by the recount would be used by the authority to correct its figures in the next census. Though the authority had erred in the census figures in the State, it would not affect Central support for tiger projects in any way.

He said the tiger monitoring protocol in the State would be reviewed and changed. A study on the prey base and prey-predator relationship of the reserve would be commissioned soon.

The study, to be carried out by an external agency, was of significance, as there should be a proper balance between the prey and predator bases for a sustainable tiger population.