Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tiger pugmarks found in Uttar Pradesh village

Tiger pugmarks found in Uttar Pradesh village

Lucknow, Nov 25 : Much to the surprise of officials and locals, pugmarks of tigers have been found in an Uttar Pradesh village which has no forest around, an official said Tuesday.

"Pugmarks of an adult tigress and cubs were found by our officials Tuesday in Nagra village in Shahjahanpur, some 250 km from Lucknow," divisional forest officer B.C. Tiwari told IANS by telephone.

He said the tigers are probably hiding in sugarcane fields. "We are yet to ascertain the exact number of tigers hiding in the fields, where an intensive combing operation has just been launched," he added.

According to forest officials, services of three elephants have been sought for the combing operation.

As Shahjahanpur has no forest area, officials believe the tigers have strayed from the Dudhwa Tiger reserve, located in the neighbouring Lakhimpur Kheri district.

Dudhwa, India's second largest tiger reserve after the world famous Corbett National Park, recorded a tiger population of 106 as per the official census undertaken last year.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

War on snares continues: Zero-tolerance

War on snares continues: Zero-tolerance


POACHERS have been hard at work and they've been at it in areas long considered safe havens. In a single operation early this month, Wildlife and National Parks Department enforcement officers cleared a staggering 500 snares from the Taman Negara national park.

This was the result of a thorough sweep of the 4,343ha park, said deputy-director general I Misliah Mohd Basir.

She said the department believed the snares were set by foreign poachers who had trespassed into the protected area in search of agarwood.

While the fragrant wood from the tree was the main target, these poachers would use the opportunity to trap, and later sell, wildlife caught in their snares.

Thousands of other snares have also been cleared in forested areas around Peninsular Malaysia, in 141 operations this year.

Only a handful can be brought to court -- if these poachers are caught in the act or in possession of snares.

In one case in Terengganu, a poacher caught with 52 snares was fined RM1,000 by the courts.

Three other cases involving poachers with a total of 50 snares are still being heard.

Last year, six cases were compounded or brought to court -- three in Perak, and one each in Terengganu, Pahang and Johor.

The poacher in Terengganu received a six-month jail sentence, while another in Perak was fined RM900 by the court.

Five people in Johor were compounded RM260 each for setting snares.

The remaining cases are still being heard in court and involve 65 snares in all.

Snares not only trap indiscriminately, they often leave some wildlife, like tigers, with terrible wounds that make them too slow to hunt prey.

This forces the injured animal to turn to cattle and humans instead, increasing incidence of conflict.

The department is stepping up efforts to clear snares, says Misliah and carries out operations at least twice or three times a month.

The Johor National Parks Corporation is also focusing on this area.

It is working with plantation owners and the state Forestry Department to detect and remove snares fringing the Endau-Rompin Johor National Park and forest reserves.

Surveys completed in October showed that most snares were outside the park boundaries.

Corporation director Abu Bakar Mohamed Salleh said discussions had been held with the 244-strong security unit of the Kulim Plantation located near the park and that they were willing to be trained to spot snares.

The corporation will also be getting a helping hand from the state Forestry Department senior staff who will take part in a training exercise to look at effective patrolling techniques and checkpoint systems used outside Malaysia.

A specially-designed patrolling and auditing system will soon be put in place and it will be GIS (Geographic Information Systems)-enabled to make it easier to do research.

"We don't have any jurisdiction outside the park but we know that poachers come in to the park from the fringes," said Abu Bakar

"With the help of the plantation, and forestry staff, we've cleared 92 wire snares so far but we will not rest. We have zero-tolerance for snares."

Johor bans hunting of wildlife

Johor bans hunting of wildlife


Johor has become the first state to ban commercial hunting. ELIZABETH JOHN studies the reasons behind this move

JOHOR has banned all commercial hunting in the state.

It is the first state to do this and is pushing the Federal Government to enforce it.

And the reason for this historic move? Johor hopes to increase the prey in the parks to support the tiger population and enable it to grow 50 per cent over the next decade.

Over 2,000 hunting licences were issued for various species of wildlife in Johor in 2006, according to Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan).
These included licences to hunt tiger prey like wild boar (750 licences), barking deer (25) and sambar deer (22).

But the corporation, a statutory body that gazettes and manages parks under the state government's care, began lobbying for the ban last year.

No hunting or harvesting licences have been issued by the state Perhilitan since April, said Johor National Parks Corporation director Abu Bakar Mohamed Salleh.

And the ban stays until the state decides otherwise, confirmed Perhilitan deputy director-general I Misliah Mohd Basir.

The surprise move is also part of a larger, serious effort to collect data, train staff, beef up enforcement and curb wildlife crime in its foremost park -- the Endau-Rompin Johor National Park.

In this, the corporation is getting the help of the wildlife and forestry departments, the Wildlife Conservation Society Malaysia and privately owned plantations.

In the long term, the corporation will produce a wildlife management plan for the whole of Johor, said Abu Bakar.

At present, it has begun working on two major projects in the park.

The first is the Tiger Forever project in which nine countries are participating worldwide. The project aims to increase animal population through surveys and enforcement work in the protected areas.

The second project is a survey, scheduled to begin next year, to estimate the elephant population in the area.

The survey will also help park managers identify high human-elephant conflict areas, said Abu Bakar.

This, he said, would become crucial as the state developed and brought the two into greater contact with each other.

Under this project, park staff will also undergo training in enforcement, how to track, collect data and identify high-threat zones.

More than a dozen staff and 32 local residents, including the Orang Asli, will be trained specially for the tiger project.

The projects are being jointly funded by the state, Wildlife Conservation Society Malaysia and New York-based Panthera Foundation.

More than RM600,000 was spent on the projects last year and RM700,000 this year.

Some of these funds will be spent on threat analysis which will single out hot spots and help the staff focus on their intervention programmes, said Dr Melvin Gumal, who heads Wildlife Conservation Society Malaysia, which provides much of the technical expertise for these projects.

"The state is putting in a lot of time and money and making a commitment to address wildlife conservation issues. It's setting a good example for others to follow."

There are also several other areas in the country where hunting and harvesting of wildlife is not allowed.

These include Langkawi, areas surrounding the Temenggor, Kenyir and Pergau dams, the Kuala Gula bird sanctuary (Perak) and several reserves like the Ulu Muda, Hulu Terengganu and Ulu Lepar forests.

These have been "no-go" areas for hunters since the late 1980s but Johor remains the only state to impose a state-wide hunting ban.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mining may muffle tiger’s roar

Mining may muffle tiger’s roar

Ashwin Aghor
Saturday, November 22, 2008 3:13:00 AM

The predator has become the prey again. The very existence of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), in Chandrapur district, which is a home to many tigers, is being threatened.

The state government is all set to allow coal mining in the vicinity of the tiger reserve. Avinash Warzurkar, chairman, Mining Corporation of Maharashtra, is lobbying for allotment of coal blocks to Adani Power Limited. The corporation is also toying with the idea of floating a joint venture with the company.

Warzurkar is known to have tried to persuade Babanrao Pachpute, state forest minister, who is also advocating the project, to delay declaration of buffer zone around the TATR.

He also confirmed his meeting with Pachpute. “The company will have to submit a proposal to state government which would be sent to the central government for final approval,” Pachpute said.

On the other hand, there are people backing up the tigers as well. Amit Girhe, Srushti Paryawaran Mandal, Nagpur, said, “Mining is being planned by the company in Agarzari block which is connecting TATR. Since the population of carnivora is on the rise, commissioning of the coal mine will escalate the current problem of man-animal conflict.”

The project has already invited strong opposition from environmentalists and NGOs. “We do not think that the ministry of coal has considered all the environmental aspects in the case of proposed Lohara Coal project while allocating land. We oppose the project as it is going to prove detrimental to the TATR and the environment in Chandrapur district,” said Nishikant Kale, president of Nature Conservation Society,
Amravati (NCSA).

Straying tiger injures two more in Nagaon

Straying tiger injures two more in Nagaon

Nagaon, Nov. 21: A tiger which had strayed out of the Orang National Park, injured two more persons at Raha in Nagaon district this morning, taking the number of victims wounded by the animal to nine.

The tiger, which had moved along the banks of the Kopili river over the past six days, has sparked panic among the people of the district. The tiger moved towards Phuloguri Digholdori area as the forest department officials and villagers attempted to resist its movement in the Raha area this evening.

A forest department source said that a tiger, roaming freely in the area, was detected on November 17 when villagers of Soragaon and Kotohguri found remains of three cows killed by the tiger.

“Later it swam across the Kopili and reached Kampur. Thereafter, seven persons were injured after the stray animal pounced on them in Dharmukh Sengajan area.

A forest department team, along with experts from the Kaziranga National Park, rushed to the spot to get hold of the tiger through tranquillisers. “The attempt failed as it crossed the river again,” said Nagaon divisional forest officer Aftab Uddin Ahmed.

After keeping the animal confined to a nearby jungle, there was still no respite as the tiger resurfaced again this morning and killed a calf at Raha Meteka.

Two villagers of Dighaldori — Bhuban Das, 30 and Durlav Das, 42 were critically injured when they went out in search of the calf.Thousands of people from the neighbouring areas rushed to the area after the news about the sighting of the stray tiger spread.

A forest department source said that the curiosity of the villagers and their attempt to trace the tiger have made it difficult for the department to try and track it down.

When the tiger entered a sugarcane field, the people tried to kill it instead of informing the department, the source said, adding that such moves were leading to tragic consequences.

Leopard strays into house; rescued

Leopard strays into house; rescued

DIGBOI (ASSAM): An eight-month-old leopard cub strayed into a house here creating panic, but was rescued and released into the nearby Upper Dihing Reserve Forest area, officials said on Thursday.

The young male had ‘strayed’ into the house on Wednesday and was locked inside by the terrified owner and his neighbours, who then informed the authorities, Ashok Kumar of the Wildlife Trust of India said.

“The leopard could have come from the Upper Dihing Reserve Forest which surrounds Digboi. Man-animal conflict is not very common in Digboi; they occur mostly in tea estates,” said Prabhakar Das, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Digboi.

The animal was tranquillised with the help of a pole syringe using a bamboo. “Although, we had a cartridge-propelled rifle we did not use it for fear of causing undue tissue damage. The animal was hiding under a bench. One group distracted it using a flashlight while I injected the tranquillisers from behind,” said another DFO Aniruddha Dey.

“The animal is young; we are not sure how it got separated from its mother. It is not uncommon for grown-up cubs to venture into human habitation looking for easy prey,” he said.

Only a few weeks ago, a tiger got trapped in a well near Tezpur. It was later rescued and released into the Potasali range in the Nameri national park. – PTI

Amur tiger tracks discovered

Amur tiger tracks discovered
Thu 20 November 2008 14:06 UK — Asia,Big Cats

Amur tiger tracks have been discovered in north-eastern China, giving conservationists hope that the species remains in the area.

Tracks were spotted in Changbaishan near the Chinese-Russian border; where it is believed just 20 of the species now remain, following habitat degradation, poaching and a small prey population.

There are currently just over 500 Amur tigers left in the wild and the species is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.

Fan Zhiyong, director of China's Species Programme, explained that this discovery indicates that the tigers are moving deeper into China.

He said: "Therefore, it is of critical importance that tiger conservation occurs in the whole Changbaishan area."

The Amur tiger is also known as the Siberia tiger and is considered to be the largest of the all the tiger sub-species.

News brought to you by International Animal Rescue, leaders in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation.

Help IAR rescue and rehabilitate endangered wildlife.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mystery shrouds tiger death in Dudhwa national park

Mystery shrouds tiger death in Dudhwa national park

20 Nov 2008, 0616 hrs IST, IANS

LUCKNOW: Mystery shrouds the death of a tiger whose carcass was discovered on Tuesday in the thick of Uttar Pradesh's Dudhwa tiger reserve, which is India's second largest after the world famous Corbett National Park.

State wildlife officials claim that the tiger had met its end by drowning in the Sotiya canal, a tributary of the Suheli river while wading through it. But the local villagers attribute the death to a fierce battle between the animal and a crocodile.

In a completely divergent view, some wildlife experts in the region have opined that the tiger died of poisoning.

This is the third tiger death in Dudhwa since February last.

The post-mortem report was anxiously awaited from the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), where the carcass was sent on Tuesday itself. Sources in IVRI confirmed a fracture on the tiger's skull, which is an indication of a conflict with another animal.

The claims and counter-claims notwithstanding, the body of the animal was found in a highly decomposed condition. There was no disputing that the tiger's death had occurred about 10-15 days ago.

The official theory of "drowning" is not accepted by anyone. Even district forest officer K.K. Singh admitted that the Dudhwa tigers were "good swimmers."

However, park director Uma Shankar Singh sought to recall the spurt of tiger deaths in Dudhwa in the mid-eighties when drowning was eventually confirmed as the cause of death. But, according to official records, even in that case, poisoning preceded drowning.

The then Dudhwa director, G.C. Misra, said: "Local villagers were found sprinkling some poisonous chemical on the kill left behind by the tiger."

"When the animal would return to the feed the next day, the poison would not only induce semi-consciousness but also acute thirst that would force it to rush to the Suheli river, where he would drown in the rapids," he said.

Dudhwa recorded a tiger population of 106 as per the official census undertaken last year. Wildlife experts, however, see it as an "over-estimation".

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beaten tiger cub dies after rare blood transfusion

Beaten tiger cub dies after rare blood transfusion
Endangered animal was rescued after attack

By The Associated Press
Tue. Nov 18 - 7:47 AM

NAGPUR, India — Officials say a 7-month-old wild tiger died Tuesday in a central Indian zoo, two days after veterinarians tried to save the cub with a rare blood transfusion.

The cub, which doctors named Juhi after a fragrant white flower native to India, had shown signs of improvement, but suddenly went into convulsions Tuesday.

Veterinarians gave her a blood transfusion believing it was the only way to save the cub after her hemoglobin levels had dropped to dangerously low levels.

Juhi and her sister, Jai, had been rescued from angry villagers who had tried to kill the cats, fearing they would attack children and cattle.

Jai responded well to treatment, but Juhi's condition continued to deteriorate.

India's wild tiger population has plummeted to some 1,500, down from about 3,600 six years ago and an estimated 100,000 a century ago.

Shrinking habitats have brought the wild cats into conflict with farmers and poachers who kill them for pelts and body parts, highly prized in traditional Chinese medicine.

"The cubs were in bad shape at the time they were rescued. They were starving," said Bimal Majumdar, the chief wildlife officer in the re­gion. "The villagers had also beaten them with sticks so they were injured as well."

While the other cub Jai, or Victory, responded well after being brought to the zoo, Juhi’s condition deteriorated.

On Sunday, veterinarians treating the cat discovered that her hemoglobin levels had suddenly dropped to a dangerously low level and decided the only way to save her was to carry out a blood transfusion.

They sent a request to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai, where doctors tranquilized two healthy adult tigers and drew 350 millilitres of blood from each of them. Four hours later the blood reached Nagpur, said Vinery Jangle, the park’s head veterinarian.

Jangle, who oversaw the transfusion, said she remained uncertain whether it would prove successful because only rudimentary tests were done to determine whether the donor blood matched Juhi’s type.

"The blood grouping procedure is critical, but in India there has been no work done on (tiger) blood groups. There are no studies on blood types and wild tigers," she said, adding that she was unaware of a transfusion being performed on a tiger elsewhere.

Transfusions for rare animals can be difficult because blood types and antibodies vary from species to species, according to the website of Brown University’s Division of Biology and Medicine.

While rare, transfusions have been done in the past on turtles, pandas and a baby elephant at western zoos, which sometimes bank an animals own blood in case it needs a transfusion, the website said.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tiger Authority dissatisfied with report on Kanha tiger death

Tiger Authority dissatisfied with report on Kanha tiger death

New Delhi, Nov 17 : The National Tiger Conservation Authority might send its own team for a reinvestigation into the death of a tiger in the Kanha Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh.

They have taken serious note of the fact that the incident was not reported to them by state and local officials.

The authorities, whom deaths of the endangered big cat in various cases of poaching, poisoning and accidents are causing serious worries, could know about the Kanha death only from media and other sources following which they enquired about it from the state authorities.

They are also not satisfied with the explantion of the Kanha officials that the death was caused by poisoning. According to the report received from them, the tiger died after drinking water from a waterhole that had been poisoned by villagers. The investigation by the Kanha authorities thus made it a case of animal-human conflict.

However, sources said the officials here were finding many loose ends in the story as the fish in the waterhole did not die, which puts several question mark on the water poisoning theory.

It was quite possible that the central authorities may go to Kanha to inquire into the killing.

After the Kanha incident, three more tigers died in Dudhwa forest reserve. An inquiry by central authorities has found drowning and vehicle hit as the causes.

A senior official who went to Dudwa told UNI that two bodies of tigers were found in a canal while one was found on the roadside.

A sudden rise in the level of water in the canal was found to be the most plausible reason for their drowning. Their bodies bore on injury marks.

The body found on the roadside also bore no injury mark which means that the animal was hit by a speeding vehicle and sustained some internal injury, the official said.

He said some measures were being taken by Dudhwa authorities like installing speed regulators to prevent such incident in future.

Tiger census in North Bengal this year

Tiger census in North Bengal this year

17 Nov 2008, 1450 hrs IST, PTI

SILIGURI: Tiger census in North Bengal forests and sanctuaries has been scheduled in phases from November 20, the Chief Conservator of Forests (Wild Life), North, S Patel said on Monday.
The intensive census, however, would exclude Buxa Tiger Reserve (BTR) as census was conducted there last year, Patel said.

In the first phase from November 20 to 25, the census would take place at Neora Valley national park in Kalimpong while it will be conducted at Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary in Dooars and other areas in December, he said.

Stating that the training of enumerators in this regard was conducted at Murti under Wildlife-II division, Patel said that it was decided to photograph the big cats in sensitive forest areas.

He said though some cameras were damaged by wild elephants during tiger census in Buxa Tiger Project last year, still the decision to use camera for the coming census was taken considering the fact that number of elephants in the hills, particularly in Kalimpong sub-division, was less.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Greens oppose highway thru tiger reserve

Greens oppose highway thru tiger reserve

Ch Ramagopala Sastry
First Published : 16 Nov 2008 09:46:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 16 Nov 2008 12:46:10 PM

ISTONGOLE: Despite drawing a flak from environmental scientists,animal lovers and voluntary organisations, the Government is pushing ahead with highway work in the reserve forests. Many organisations are approaching courts seeking protection of ecology.

Recently, when a voluntary organsation approached the Supreme Court protesting against the construction of a highway through a reserve forest, the latter appointed an expert to study the damage likely to be caused by the highway to endangered animals. Only weeks later, the national Highway Authority of India (NHAI) proposed a national highway through the Tiger Reserve in Nallamala forest.

The proposed highway on a stretch of 330 km will pass through Kalvakurthy, Srisailam, Dornala, Atmakuru and Nandyal from Hyderabad. The Central Government has declared 3,563 of the 6,500 Nallamala forest as tiger reserve. Of the proposed 330-km highway, a stretch of 200 km falls under the Nallamala forest which is a rare tiger habitat.

According to the latest survey, there are 80 there are 80 tigers in the Nallamala forest tigers in the Nallamala forest.

Movement of vehicles has been banned between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. from Dornala, close to Srisailam, the abode of one of the five Jyothirlingas.

A tiger needs 80 of thick forest cover for its survival. But due to human interference, the very existence of tigers has become a question mark. The construction of the road through Nallamala will pose a grave danger to the very existence of all tigers, a senior forest official told this paper.

R&B Engineer-in-Chief K Siva Reddy said the Central Government had given the green for the first phase of works.

The Supreme Court had, in the past, clarified that vehicle movement in the night is justified in the tiger reserve as it ensures that no disturbance is caused to wild animals which move about only in the night time for breeding and in search of food.

In spite of such clear guidelines, going ahead with the road construction would only pose a threat to tigers in their natural habitat, a forest official said.]

Last ditch battle to save tiger cub

Last ditch battle to save tiger cub

17 Nov 2008, 0422 hrs IST, Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN

NAGPUR: Vets treating the critically ill tiger cub at Maharajbagh Zoo are trying some cutting edge treatments in order to save its life. On Sunday, 500 ml of tiger blood was air-lifted from Borivali National Park, Mumbai, in a last ditch effort. Some 200 ml of this blood was administered to the female cub.

According to vets treating the two tiger cubs, which were brought to the zoo after being captured in Mendki village of Brahmapuri Forest Division in Chandrapur, this is perhaps for the first time that a tiger has been given a blood transfusion.

The situation arose after it was found that haemoglobin level in the cub had gone down to 4.2 gms/l. Normally, it should be between 8 and 12 gms. An alarmed Dr S S Bawaskar, zoo incharge, called up principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), B Majumdar, at 1 pm on Sunday.

Majumdar immediately contacted Borivali National Park where there are white tigers. He asked the director of the park, P N Munde, to arrange for 350 ml tiger blood. They responded promptly and Dr Vinaya Jangle, park veterinarian, was on the evening flight to the city with the blood. She reached Maharajbagh Zoo later in the evening. Majumdar told TOI, “It is really commendable that Dr Jangle completed all the formalities within two hours and was ready with the blood.”

When asked whether it was for the first time that such blood transfusion is taking place in tiger, Majumdar said, “Taking blood for various tests is routine, but I think for transfusion, it may be for the first time.” Dr Jangle said a white male and a female tiger were anaesthesised and 250 ml of blood was drawn from them each. “It took me 45 minutes to complete the procedure. I’ve not heard about a tiger being given a blood transfusion,” he added.

In Nagpur, the vets found the blood of male tiger Bajirao was a closer fit with the cub’s. They first gave 125 ml of it. When nothing negative happened, they gave another 75 ml. Dr Shirish Upadhye, veterinary surgeon and deputy director (research), Nagpur Veterinary College (NVC), says, “I’ve checked up and there is no record to suggest that any tiger from the wild has ever been given blood.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Satkosia, now a tiger reserve

Satkosia, now a tiger reserve

Express News ServiceFirst Published : 14 Nov 2008 06:53:00 AM ISTLast Updated : 14 Nov 2008 11:40:53 AM

ISTBHUBANESWAR: The Ministry of Environment and Forests today announced the takeover of Satkosia Wildlife Sanctuary under Project Tiger Programme. Along with seven other protected forest areas, Satkosia has been brought into the fold of Project Tiger as was decided earlier.

As per the Ministry’s decision, the new tiger reserve would be located over a notified area of 988.3 sq km. Of the eight which were formally taken over, Udanti and Sitanadi Wildlife Sanctuaries in Chhattisgarh boast of 1,580 sq km area, the highest, while Tamil Nadu’s Mudumalai is the smallest with an area of 321 sq km. The Ministry has sanctioned Rs 32 crore for the newly created eight tiger reserves.

While the conventional pugmark method of enumerating tigers had put the big cat number in Satkosia at 15, the new camera trap technique has pegged their number at barely six in the wildlife sanctuary.

After Similipal, this is the second tiger reserve in Orissa.,+now+a+tiger+reserve&artid=/ikxRiApth8=&SectionID=mvKkT3vj5ZA=&MainSectionID=fyV9T2jIa4A=&SectionName=nUFeEOBkuKw=&SEO=

Eight more forest areas to come under Project Tiger

Eight more forest areas to come under Project Tiger

New Delhi (PTI): The endangered tigers are all set to have new home in the country with the government approving the takeover of eight new forest areas under the flagship conservation programme Project Tiger.

"An allocation of Rs 32 crores has been estimated for tiger conservation in the new tiger reserves during the XIth five-year plan period," a statement from the environment ministry said.

Udanti and Sita Nadi wildlife sanctuary to be spread over 1580 sq km area will be the largest among the new reserves. Anamalai-Parambikulam wildlife sanctuaries covers an area of 1410 sq km area spread over Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Satkosia wildlife sanctuary, spread over 988.30 sq km in Orissa, Kaziranga national park (916.67 sq km) in Assam, Achanakmar wildlife sanctuary (963.27 sq km) in Chattisgarh, Dandeli Wildlife sanctuary and Anshi national park (831.25 sq km) in Karnataka, Sanjay National Park and Sanjay Dubri wildlife sanctuary (831.25 sq km) in Madhya Pradesh and in Mudummalai wildlife sanctuary (321 sq km) in Tamil Nadu are the other reserves.

Last year, the government had approval the setting up of four tiger reserves-- Sunabeda Tiger Reserve in Orissa, Shahyadri Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra, Pilibhit Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh and Ratapani Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Combing operation for man-eating tiger in UP

Combing operation for man-eating tiger in UP

14 Nov 2008, 1941 hrs IST, IANS

LUCKNOW: A man-eating tiger has strayed into a village in Uttar Pradesh's Pilibhit district, following which the state forest department has launched an intensive combing operation, officials said on Friday.
"We are making all-out efforts to trap the tiger, which is hiding in sugarcane fields in Bilsanda village in Pilibhit," divisional forest officer (DFO) Pramod Kumar said by phone.

He said elephants have also been deployed to drive the tiger away from the village in Pilibhit, over 250 km from here.

Even as a youth was reported killed by the tiger Nov 10, forest officials confirmed the death Thursday evening after recovering the body in the fields.

According to forest officials, the tiger has come from Pilibhit's Dewaiya forest range, where one tiger was reported as per the tiger census in 2007.

"But, now it seems there are more tigers in the reserve. Probably, some tigers have migrated here from the nearby forest reserves," said Kumar.

Pilibhit's Mala forest range is home to about ten tigers.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Now, tiger conservation to go hi-tech

Now, tiger conservation to go hi-tech

10 Nov 2008, 0255 hrs IST, TNN

LUCKNOW: The tigers, anywhere in the country, will now be monitored for every move that they make — in the dense of the forests or on the fringes. The conservationists will study the source populations of the wild cats with the help of ‘science’ and ‘technology’.

All the 28 tiger reserves will be set in a loop through GIS-based software and camera trap techniques. The hi-tech conservation will help in designing a proper mechanism for saving the tigers inside and outside reserve areas.

The national tiger conservation authority (NTCA), a statutory body under the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), has decided to outsource the job of designing a special software for intensively monitoring source populations of tigers in the areas that have substantial number of wild cats.

The source populations are the set of tigers present in the core areas of the forest. These populations will be thoroughly observed for their behaviours, threats/challenges and ecology. “This will help in knowing the tigers better and what is affecting them because this population reflects the health of forest area,” said a member in NTCA.

The projected number of approximately 1,400 tigers present in the country in the February 2008 census has almost coaxed conservationists to study the root cause of the dwindling tiger populations in almost all the reserves. The recommendations towards the same were made by the census conducting body Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in the report submitted with the Project Tiger.

The conservationists are turning to ‘source’ populations for basic facts on the big cats like their dispersing area, their birth and survival rate, the condition of their habitat and shrinking prey base.

“Tiger census earlier was more or less like a ritual, very much like a human census after specific time periods but now it will be a comprehensive monitoring and there will be a change in census procedure”, said Qamar Qureshi, scientist, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), who was part of the tiger census team at Dudhwa reserve.

Camera traps to ascertain tiger population

Camera traps to ascertain tiger population

10 Nov 2008, 0838 hrs IST, PTI

NEW DELHI: Rattled by reports that the Panna Tiger Reserve is heading the Sariska way where poachers have wiped out all the big cats, the Madhya Pradesh government is banking on camera traps to ascertain the actual status of the tiger population in the park.

"We have asked the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) for camera trapping of the stripped animals in the area to put to rest all controversies regarding the number of big cats," Madhya Pradesh Chief Wildlife Warden H S Pabla said.

Camera trapping is a preferred method over the pugmark method for estimating the number of tigers. The camera traps, equipped with an electronic switch and a camera, record tigers or other animals that walk in front of the gadget.

"Tigers have natural markings (stripes) and stripes of each individual are different.

"Photographs obtained from the cameras can be used to compare the identify of each individual tiger, thus making estimates reliable and easier, especially for animals like tiger," WII senior scientist K Sankar said.

He said the pictures obtained by camera trapping will also help solve the wildlife crime cases.

The move (to camera trap) has come following fears that the reserve, spread over 542.67 sq. km area, has not a single tiger to boast contrary to the officials claim that the park has suffice number of endangered predators.

"That the park has a very few tigers, is not true. The wrong picture is maligning the park's image among tourists. As per WII census conducted two years ago, there are around 15 to 32 big cats in the park," Pabla said.

Mining poses threat to Sahyadri Tiger Park

Mining poses threat to Sahyadri Tiger Park

10 Nov 2008, 1330 hrs IST, PTI

NEW DELHI: As the Maharashtra government awaits Environment Ministry's nod for notification on the newly created Sahyadri tiger park, there is a
word of caution from the wildlife experts.

Worried over the ongoing bauxite mining activities on the periphery of the tiger park, they stress on adequate steps to curb the mining activity least the wildlife is threatened by people.

"The mines which are in proximity to the park have to be either stopped or controlled. Otherwise all efforts and money will go down the drain," Ashok Kumar of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) says.

He pointed out that the noise due to blasts and heavy machinery besides regular biotic pressure on the Reserve for fire wood and fodder from the mine workers will disturb the habitat as has happened in Panna Tiger reserve where Supreme Court has sought closure of the mines.

The Maharashtra government has submitted a draft notification of the newly approved reserve to the environment ministry for its nod so as to notify the entire area.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has given in-principle approval to the park asking the state authorities to give a detail project report.

Maharashtra already boasts of three tiger reserves -- Melghat,Tadoba-Andhari and Pench Tiger Reserves, drawing lakhs of tourists to the parks every year.

Sahyadri Tiger Reserve will include 317.67 sq km of Chandoli National Park and 423.55 sq km of Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary. The Chandoli National Park was formed in 2004 while Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary was formed in 1985.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Cycle Ride to raise awareness about plight of Tigers

Cycle Ride to raise awareness about plight of Tigers

There is to be a cycle ride from Bandhavgarh N.P to Kanha N.P on November 29 -December 1st 2008. The ride will be to raise Local / Global awareness about the plight of the Tiger.

There will be the founder of Tiger Awareness, Phil Davis taking part from the UK, Mahadev Lal, retired Indian Railway worker, also hoping to have members of local charity “Vunraksha” joining in at various stages.
There will be 3 days cycling.

The cycle ride will start from Tala in Madhya Pradesh, going onto Shahpura, the following day onto Mandla and then on the final day onto Kanha N.P. There will be stops at some local schools on the journey to give talks and leaflets on how and why we must help the Tiger.

The Tiger numbers in India are at around 1500. This number is extremley low and all help is needed to help the big cat.

South Lakes Wild Animal Park fund Sumatran tiger preservation team

South Lakes Wild Animal Park fund Sumatran tiger preservation team

Last updated 13:30, Friday, 07 November 2008

ON his return from Sumatra zoo owner David Gill tells reporter JO DAVIES how your donations are helping to save tigers in the wild

View more pictures...
Watch a video clip....

SUMATRAN tigers live unseen in one of the wildest parts of the world.

Their tracks in the earth and incredible trap pictures such as these, brought exclusively to you by the Evening Mail, are evidence of their existence.

A dedicated team, funded entirely by South Lakes Wild Animal Park, in Dalton, is trying to stem the dwindling numbers of native tigers by persuading the Indonesian government that these globally significant forests need saving.

Yet even as they compile evidence to present to the government, the tropical rainforests of Sumatra are under threat from slash and burn clearance for profit.

But, says the park’s owner, David Gill, “if we weren’t doing it nobody else would”.

The park invests £180,000 a year in the Sumatran Tiger Trust, but as far as David’s concerned it’s a debt he owes one of the zoo’s most important residents.

Toba, the zoo’s first Sumatran tiger, inspired the conservation work and helped make the Dalton park the top tourist attraction it is today.

“When Toba came in 1996 everything went from being a little bud to flowering,” said David.

“She moved me to find more about Sumatran tigers and, once I did, everything snowballed.”

Using the park as a base, David founded the Sumatran Tiger Trust in the same year.

The park and the project have developed in tandem.

The team’s work has progressed from researching and protecting tigers from poachers to handling conflicts between humans and tigers.

The Indonesian team is now the official tiger rescue team in Sumatra.

From the original base in Way Kambas National Park in South Sumatra, the team has expanded to Dumai, in Riau Province and Bukit Tigapuluh “thirty hills” national park, in Eastern Sumatra.

It means they can release captured tigers in another area completely, widening the genetic pool.

Conflict between tigers and humans is escalating due to loss of habitat and inevitably both sides suffer.

Forty-one people have been killed and 21 injured since 1995.

Twenty-four tigers have been killed in retaliation – and revenge.

With fewer than 300 left in the wild it’s a race against time.

As deforestation blurs the boundaries between forest and civilisation the team works with villagers to try to avoid conflict situations.

Tiger attacks are not natural and never occurred before tigers were forced to live on the fringes of society.

David explained: “We capture tigers because they’re killing animals and threatening people so we put radio collars on them and release them. They’ve captured 12 up to now.

“Often the tiger causes trouble because it’s ill so it goes for the easiest food.”

The team has relocated seven tigers to new habitats and four have been taken to the sanctuary established by the trust and local government as a dedicated tiger conservation reserve and holding centre.

The thousands of hours spent under the forest canopy each year searching for endangered tigers is also an opportunity to carry out extensive site surveys.

Having spent time on the ground with the team last month, David said: “Whilst they’re out there looking for tigers they do all sorts of things like look for golden cats in the forest and look at the whole infrastructure of the forest.

“There’s frogs, flying squirrels, which are like massive kites flying through the air, the world’s largest single flower, the Rafflesia.

“I saw a leopard cat for the first time in my life. I’ve seen them many times on still pictures but never with my own eyes. And I’ve never seen a tiger there yet.

“There’s only five of the whole team who have seen a tiger but that’s the mystery because you see tracks all the time.

“They’re so elusive.

“We took the first shot of a Sumatran tiger in 1999. It’s 26 seconds of blurred footage.

“I’ve bought them 20 video still cameras and put them out last June/July. Since then we’ve been getting lots of video shots.

“Somebody claimed there was a tiger walking down the main road every night so we wanted to find out if it was true.

“As soon as it went dark the tiger came out. It was only probably an hour after dark. It wasn’t just the tiger but a tapir and other animals. At night it became a wildlife highway. It’s wonderful to be part of such an elusive animal’s life. But it’s frightening how rare they are.”

The motion sensor remote cameras are also proving a vital tool in stemming deforestation, which is happening at a ferocious rate.

Riau Province has the highest deforestation rate of any province in Indonesia. It has lost more than 4m hectares of forest in the past 25 years, representing almost two-thirds of the original forest.

“Most of the forest is sold and ready to be cleared,” explained David.

“In Indonesia the wood is the major income but they haven’t thought about what is going to happen in the future when it’s gone.

“But if any tiger is found in a forest area they’re not allowed to cut it down.

“Any information we get about tigers we send the team out with cameras, because once we’ve proven there are tigers there the government stops any development.”

David is also in negotiation with the loggers, seen by many conservationists as the enemy, to leave corridors of plantation amid the clearings.

If there are no corridors for the animals to move around the province the biggest concern in time will be interbreeding.

“They’re starting to realise if they don’t change their attitude to conservation they can’t sell their products overseas,” he said.

“They want to pay us to market the buffer zones for them to change people’s perceptions because they’ve had such a bad reputation for many years.

“In return they give us allowances to buy more cameras or vehicles.

“You’ve got to be very careful because you’re dancing with the devil in many ways.

“A lot of the purists won’t talk to these people at all.

“They are going to clear 80 to 90 per cent of the forest but if they leave 10 per cent that’s something.

“They have a tremendous amount of power and money and in this world, that is god.”

It may seem a futile battle but every time he returns to Sumatra, which is at least once a year, David is heartened by the team’s unwavering commitment.

He said: “The project out there goes from strength to strength and it’s the same team working for me since 1996 when I started it.

“I’ve watched them grow up, get married and I’ve seen their kids be born.

“In a way I’m looked at as being Uncle David.

“I’m so proud of the team. They’re wonderful people and I thank everybody here for working so hard and for being so patient.

“I do believe we’re having an impact.

“Even though we can’t stop the tide, we’re working to stop it in some areas and we’re certainly having a massive influence with the government.

“The admission costs for our charity are absorbed by my company so every single penny anybody gives us is used for practical work in the field.

“I work in six countries around the world but this is the big one. It takes a tremendous amount of money which we have to fund from here. It takes a tremendous amount of skill and passion from them there to do it and it’s having a tremendous result.

“Without us doing it how many tigers would be left?

“And it’s not just tigers we protect. We protect the people who live there.

“It’s future looks as solid and exciting as it can.”

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tiger poisoned by villagers at Kanha reserve

Tiger poisoned by villagers at Kanha reserve

5 Nov 2008, 2013 hrs IST, PTI

NEW DELHI: An adult male tiger died after he was allegedly poisoned by villagers whose cattle were killed by the animal at the Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.

"The body of the tiger was found in Sautiya village located in the buffer area of the reserve on November 2. It seems some villagers poisoned it as revealed by initial reports," a senior forest official from Kanha tiger reserve said on the condition of anonymity.

The villagers might have suspected that the tiger was killing their cattle and took the step, he said.

He said as the reserve was witnessing a growth in the number of tigers, a spill over from core to the buffer areas where 150 villages are located is bound to happen.

"We give monetary compensation to villagers in case their livestock is killed by the predator in the buffer areas," he added.

In the last one year, there have been over 300 cases of cattle and other livestock being killed by tigers or leopards in the region.

Nepal to start nationwide tiger census

Nepal to start nationwide tiger census

November 4, 2008 1:50 pm by pna

KATHMANDU, Nov. 4 — In an effort to record the dwindling tiger population in major natural wildlife reserves and forest areas of Nepal, wildlife experts are going to start a nationwide tiger census beginning from Nov. 15, The Kathmandu Post reported on Tuesday.

According to Narendra Babu Pradhan, planning officer at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), the tiger census, which will last for three months, will use digital camera trapping system for the first time to track the tigers with photographs.

"We will start our census from Chitwan National Park and then move on to Bardiya National Park and Sukhlaphanta Wildlife Reserve, " he said. The census will also track tigers living in forest areas outside protected areas, Pradhan was quoted by the daily as saying.

According to the report, the three areas have been separated into five, four and two blocks, respectively, to facilitate the census. In addition to digital camera method, camera trapping technique and patch occupancy method will also be used. As many as 300 cameras will be needed for the census.

DNPWC, Department of Forests, Save the Tiger Fund, World Wildlife Fund, and National Trust for Nature Conservation are jointly carrying out the tiger census.

The last tiger census in Nepal was taken in 2003, and it had recorded 350 tigers in the country with 120 tigers in Chitwan National Park alone. The number of the endangered tigers is estimated to be 4,000 in the world.

Ranthambore tigress plays cat-and-mouse game, relocation to Sariska put off

Ranthambore tigress plays cat-and-mouse game, relocation to Sariska put off

Posted online: Nov 05, 2008 at 0014 hrs

Jaipur, November 4 : The translocation of another tigress from Ranthambore National Park to the Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan has been postponed to Wednesday with forest officials failing to sight and track the big cat since Sunday.
The four-year-old tigress was supposed to be tranquilised before being shifted to Sariska in an IAF helicopter. Sources in the forest department said if the tiger was not tracked even on Wednesday, the translocation would have to be deferred by a few more days.

“The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) experts and forest department officials have been trying to locate the tiger for two days now but the animal has not come out into the open,” said Sariska field director P S Somashekar.

He added that localising a tigress was a cumbersome task as the animal was constantly on the move and tranquilisation was a precise science. “The Air Force and Sariska is fully prepared for the translocation, but it seems we will have to wait,” he said.

A senior forest official in Ranthambore said they managed to spot the tigress on several occasions but only for brief spells. “We need to be around 20 metres away from the tigress to be able to tranquilise it. Also, tranquilisation is a tricky job and any miss could endanger the tigress,” he said.

He also added that the drug worked for close to two hours, within which the tiger had to be shifted to the specially designed cage latched to a helicopter and flown to Sariska.

The Ranthambore National Park authorities, who had earlier tracked and translocated a tiger couple four months ago, said though the winter season was the best time for translocation, it was also the most difficult. “In winter, the tigress stalks more prey and is in a better physical condition,” Somashekhar said.

After the monsoons, the grass in the national park had grown upto four feet making it difficult to sight the tigress for a sustained period, he added.

“The first tiger couple has settled well in Sariska,” said Somashekhar.

Another tiger captured near populated area in Sunderbans

Another tiger captured near populated area in Sunderbans

Express News Service Posted: Nov 05, 2008 at 0626 hrs

Kolkata, November 04 The state Forest department officials captured a tiger from a village outside the big cat’s core habitat in Sundarbans on Monday night.
The reason behind the straying of the tiger into the village is yet to be known.

According to the forest officials, the animal will be released into Kendo Islands, a deep core area of the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve.

“We captured the tiger by using a trap cage and bait from Rajat Jubli village in the Gosaba area. We will release it very soon,” said West Bengal Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Atanu Raha.

The Forest department officials said the tiger was spotted while it was trying to jump over the nylon net encircling the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve area on Sunday night.

“There are a number of reasons why this particular tiger strayed into the village. It might have developed a taste for the cattle or has become too old to hunt. It may have also strayed in search of a tigress because of the on going mating season,” said Raha.

“When the tiger was captured, a tigress was also spotted in the vicinity, but was shooed away by villagers,” he added. The Sundarbans, which comprises about 10,000 sq km of marshlands and mangrove forests along the Bay of Bengal coast, is one of the last natural habitats of the big cats.

This is the fourth instance of tiger straying into Gosaba. In October, locals had to chase away a tiger, which had swum across the Bidyadhari river to enter the area. The tiger was spotted while it was dragging a cow from a cowshed of Purba Sonargoaon village. In September, another tiger, which had strayed into Jameshpur village of Gosaba, was captured by the Forest department.

Traumatised tiger cubs show signs of recovery

Traumatised tiger cubs show signs of recovery

4 Nov, 2008, 0310 hrs IST, TNN

NAGPUR: Maharajbagh zoo authorities began treating the two female tiger cubs brought here after being rescued from a belligerent mob of villagers on Sunday from Mendki village of North Brahmapuri forest range in Chandrapur district. The two cubs, though still severely traumatised, have shown some positive signs of recovery.

The first is that they have started consuming food. They ate four kgs of meat on Monday. Veterinary experts examining them say the trauma of being separated from mother, being hounded by the villagers, and then of being in captivity is still showing on them.

Their treatment could not be started on Sunday night as it took almost two hours to shift the cubs into squeeze cages at the zoo. They had reached the zoo only by 9 pm on Sunday. On Monday morning, both the cubs, codenamed ‘S’ and ‘T’, were examined by zoo veterinarian Dr S S Bawaskar and treatment was started under the guidance of Dr Vinod Dhoot of Government Veterinary Hospital.

The doctors are concentrating on ‘S’ cub that seems to be in pain probably after being beaten up by the rowdy villagers who had surrounded the animals in hundreds. It is suffering from corneal opacity in the left eye due to injury. The ‘T’ cub is weak but otherwise seems normal. The cubs’ consuming meat is deemed as a good sign by the doctors. Dr Dhoot told TOI that the cubs were weak and under tremendous stress.

Earlier, Dr Bawaskar along with Dr Geetanjali Dhume, a veterinarian with the wildlife wing of the Forest Department, and wildlife expert Kundan Hate administered 200 ml saline to the ‘S’ cub. "We also injected the cub with painkillers and vitamins. The animal is suspected to have internal injuries and there is swelling on body parts," Dr Bawaskar informed.

Blood, urine and fickle samples of the ‘S’ cub have been sent to the veterinary hospital to ascertain whether it is suffering from liver or kidney infection. Proper treatment would start once results are received. Dr Dhoot said, he would be able to comment in detail only on Tuesday when the reports of tests come in.

According to Hate, starvation is the main reason for weakness but harassment by villagers for over 13 hours is the main cause of cubs’ trauma. There are several ticks on their body which indicates that they have been separated from their mother for a long time. Under normal circumstances, the tigress licks these cubs to get rid of the ticks. Medicine has been given to kill these ticks.

Earlier, in the morning, Nandkishore, chief conservator of forests (CCF), wildlife, Nagpur Circle, and Mohan Jha, field director and conservator of forests, Pench national park and tiger reserve, visited the zoo and inquired about the cubs’ health. Nandkishore assured all help from the department for best possible treatment to the cubs.

Meanwhile, the report on tiger cubs arriving in the zoo after a long gap drew hundreds of visitors to have a glimpse of the animals. This was despite the fact that the zoo is officially closed for public on Mondays. The animals are presently kept out of the display area.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Man and tiger in deadly conflict amid floods and shrinking territory

Man and tiger in deadly conflict amid floods and shrinking territory

November 3, 2008
Jeremy Page in Munshiganj

The dawn mist was still clinging to the mangroves when the maneater struck. Mohammed Rasul Hussain, 45, had left his hut in southwestern Bangladesh at sunrise three weeks ago and, with his younger brother, Sheraz, paddled across the river and into the vast Sundarbans forest.

They moored their boat and set off on foot to search for crab, wild honey and firewood in the world's largest mangrove swamp, which straddles Bangladesh's border with India.

Armed with only a machete, Mohammed did not stand a chance when the tiger leapt from the undergrowth, knocked him to the ground and sank its teeth into his neck. Sheraz could only scream in horror — and run.

They buried Mohammed that evening, minus his left leg.

“He knew the dangers of the forest, but he couldn't do anything else to survive,” said Fatima, 30, his widow and the mother of their three children. “It would be better if there were no tigers here.” Like Mohammed, villagers here have always understood the risks of entering the Sundarbans, one of the last refuges of the endangered Bengal tiger.

Spread across 3,700 square miles (9,583sq km) in the Ganges delta, the Sundarbans is home to 440 tigers, according to a joint Indian and Bangladeshi survey done in 2004.

Maneaters have long been a problem here. Almost every village has its “tiger widows” and a shrine to Bon Bibi — the forest goddess who wards off the big cat.

Since a hurricane last November, the conflict between tiger and human has escalated to a new pitch — highlighting the environmental threats to this unique habitat.

Tigers have killed twenty people in the Bangladeshi Sundarbans so far this year, compared with six in 2007 and seven in 2006, according to forestry officials.

Even more worryingly, tigers have started straying into villages on the forest's fringes.

“The situation is quite negative,” says Rajesh Chakma, the head forest ranger in Munshiganj, the worst affected district with 18 fatal attacks this year. “We could see many more attacks before the year's end, as it's mating season now and tigers become more aggressive.”

In the village of Horinagar no one goes out after dark anymore, even to use the lavatory.

On June 20 a tiger swam across the river from the Sundarbans and killed three people before villagers surrounded it, threw a noose around its neck and beat it to death with sticks. They summoned the forestry officials, as is required by law, but those who arrived could not provide help as they had no tranquillisers.

“The tigers never used to come into the villages, never in my lifetime,” says Shri Poti Mundal, 40, whose father and sister-in-law were killed by the tiger. “If they had captured it and released it, it might have come back.”

Other villages in the area have started lighting fires at night or using loudspeakers from the local mosque to scare off any approaching tigers.

Experts on tiger behaviour are unsure exactly what caused the rise in the attacks as they have not had time to do the necessary research. Most of them suspect that one central factor was Hurricane Sidr, which killed 4,000 people and destroyed 20 per cent of the Sundarbans in November 2007. “Tigers have been displaced to this area - and they are territorial,” Mr Chakma said.

Many also blame a “perfect storm” of environmental problems — rising sea levels, the silting up of rivers, annual floods and salination of fresh water supplies.

“The Sundarbans is dying,” said Ainun Nishat, the head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Bangladesh office and an expert on the Sundarbans. “The forest is getting degraded, so that means less prey,” he said. “And you must remember that this is not the tigers' natural habitat.”

The Sundarbans — a Unesco World Heritage Site —- is simply the only space left for the tigers in a country slightly bigger than England with a population of 150 million people.

Remarkably, tigers which normally inhabit inland jungle have adapted by learning to swim, catch fish and drink salty water. As fast as the animals have adapted, however, the forest has shrunk further and the human population around it has multiplied to 2.5 million.

Thousands of people now enter the forest every day — many of them former rice farmers whose land was flooded with seawater — pushing ever deeper into the tigers' domain.

It is a struggle for survival that man and beast are both doomed to lose. The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted last year that rising sea levels could submerge 17 per cent of Bangladesh by 2050, creating 20 million “environmental refugees”.

A 45cm (17.7in) rise in sea levels would destroy 75 per cent of the Sundarbans, according to Unesco, and subsidence means that net water levels are already rising 3.1mm a year in parts of the forest.

Villagers are mostly unaware of such official forecasts but they know their fate is intertwined with that of the tigers.

“The Sundarbans is our national treasure — and our livelihood,” said Athar Rahman Malik, 40, who survived a tiger attack last year and still bears the scars on his head and arms. “If the Sundarbans is alive, then we are alive.”


— The Sundarbans is a Unesco World Heritage Site spread across 3,700 square miles in the Ganges river delta, straddling the border between India and Bangladesh. It is home to an estimated 440 tigers

— Bengal tigers kill by overpowering their victim and either severing the spinal cord or applying a suffocating bite to the throat. The tiger will usually drag its kill to a safe place to eat, away from other predators

— Most tigers avoid all contact with humans - those that become maneaters are often sick or injured and unable to hunt normally, or live in an area where their traditional prey has disappeared

— In 1900 there were an estimated 40,000 tigers in British India, but over the next century their numbers were devastated — first by hunting, and then by poaching and human encroachment on their habitat

— The World Wildlife Fund estimates that there are just 2,000 Bengal tigers left in the wild in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma and China. Of those, an estimated 200-250 are in Bangladesh.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Margin call

Margin call

Neha Sinha Posted online: Nov 01, 2008 at 0156 hrs

There are Mangrove tigers and Bengal tigers, but can there possibly be a “sugarcane” tiger? Evidently, there can be — and there is.
In Uttar Pradesh’s Dudhwa tiger reserve, tigers which spill out of the reserve and take up seemingly permanent residence in adjoining sugarcane fields, have been christened, by locals and some scientists, “sugarcane tigers”. The unfortunate bit is that the circumstances aren’t a happy quirk of nature.

Today, there is an urgent need for part of the focus of conservation policies to shift from tiger reserves, national parks and sanctuaries, to the areas surrounding them. The landscape around some of India’s best, oldest, and most pristine forests, is changing. And there are two immediate threats: farmers selling land to private players who open up blingy, eyepopping resorts in no time; and poachers, who know the optimum place to strike for ivory, tiger and leopard skin is not the actual tiger reserve or the national park, but the forest (or civil) land around it.

Tigers and elephants, derivatives from which form the pinnacle of Indian illegal wildlife trade, are animals best identified by how much they move. Tigers will routinely patrol an area they themselves demarcate and choose, while elephants will move in herds to areas usually over the same corridors, in search of food and water. And this is the weak link in the chain of protection that poachers are exploiting. This month, elephant ivory was seized from Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnore and Uttarakhand’s Laldhang, both of which are forests, and both of which adjoin celebrity counterparts — Corbett and Rajaji National Parks. And this August, a notorious tiger poacher admitted to killing tigers which originated from Corbett but were trapped, and killed, in the adjoining Ramnagar Forest Division, which has a rich animal population but not the vigilance limelight that Corbett enjoys. Shockingly, the same man was caught in the same area for poaching in 2003. Tigers in Corbett today are dying, and being killed, in areas outside the reserve in much greater numbers than inside the reserve.

Madhya Pradesh is now considering fencing in some of its tigers within the tiger reserves, while Uttarakhand is setting elephant sensors in areas which are prone to man- animal conflict.

But it’s not just the forests. Agricultural land surrounding forests or tiger reserves today is in the eye of a storm — and of greed. Farming, especially outside a tiger reserve, is no easy thing. Apart from the invasion of weeds like Parthenium and Lantana, which make cropping difficult, there is also the constant threat of elephants or large antelopes decimating the crops. Scientists and biologists point out that despite the presence of adequate food in the forests, these animals will be attracted to agricultural fields which provide a high(er) nutrient base. Attacks by hungry elephants lead to not just crop destruction, but also to more serious loss of life. The circle doesn’t end there: farmers will then lay traps and poison to kill the rampaging animals, as well as carnivores which eat their cattle.

The result: all over the country, privately owned agricultural land around prime tiger or elephant land is being sold at high prices to resort owners. In Corbett, arguably the world’s most famous tiger reserve, the process has already set in. The ranges of Dhela, Marchula and Dhikuli are now home to enormous, new resorts which attempt to take the city to the forest and not vice versa: music, alcohol and exotic plants, garnished with bright lights that blink into the night are on the itinerary. Kanha and Bandhavgarh tiger reserves are seeing the same metamorphosis.

But what’s worse? Is a sugarcane field, which can provide shelter to a tigress and her three cubs, but carries the poaching/ poisoning threat better or worse than a resort, which may not even succeed in sensitising a tourist to the needs — and norms — of a forest? The answer lies in management.

Tour Operators for Tigers (TOFT), a UK-based tour operator company that seeks to initiate responsible action on tourism, suggests that strict norms be set down for construction of resorts and the behaviour of tourists. And the answers may not be so hard to find. The state government, working with biologists, can set up norms for the construction of a resort around a rich forest like a tiger reserve, setting aside a very small area for the actual construction of a building. In Satpura tiger reserve, such initiatives have been made by private, not government players.

The government also has to look at the possibility of reclaiming land for forests from farmers who find cropping in adjoining areas a losing battle. Afforestation in such areas also has the exciting possibility of carbon sequestration and the achievement of carbon credits.

Having 40 tiger reserves in the country may not be the answer. If our famed, magnificent animals are moving, our policies need to move with them.