Big cats on the prowl
KOLKATA, 4 JUNE: After a tiger had taken shelter in a village hut in the wake of cyclone Aila, wildlife experts are worried about the whereabouts of these big cats, many of which, may have been displaced from its natural habitat. Yet, these big cats could have been easily traced had they been radio collared though Central funds amounting Rs 50 lakh sanctioned, a year earlier, remains unutilised till date.
The state forest officials alleged that during Aila many wild animals had strayed out of the forest and they are yet to ascertain the exact numbers of strayed animals. The officials further said the infrastructure of the forest department were damaged due to the cyclone and they are having a tough time to monitor the movements of animals.
If the radio collaring of tigers would have been completed in last year, it would be easier for them to track the movements of the tigers. A senior official of the state forest department said the National Tiger Conservation Authority has granted Rs 50 lakh for a research on tiger behaviour in the Sunderbans in July 2008. Likewise the funds was passed on to the Wildlife Institute (WLI) in Dehradun, and they were asked to form a team of scientists to carry out the research work in the state.
The project include radio collaring of at least six tigers and installing camera traps with the Sunderban areas to track their movement. The officials here pleaded their helplessness as they are unaware when will the project starts.
A senior official of WLI said that few years back one tiger was radio collared but after six months the tiger could not be tracked down. The tigers of Sunderbans stay in saline water for longer hours as a result, the chance of the device getting inoperative is very high. As the collar is put around the neck, its chance of getting defunct is quite high as tiger's have a habit of scratching the neck with it's paws.
Mr NC Buhuguna, director of Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve, said the official of the WLI have asked for some modifications in the instrument, which can suit the environment of the mangroves forest. He also admitted that they have not been informed about the progress of the project by the WLI officials in recent times. Project in-charge Dr Jhalay of WLI Dehradun said that they would start the project after the monsoon.