Big cats find healthy habitat at Kaziranga
Naresh Mitra, TNN 20 August 2009, 10:31pm IST
GUWAHATI: At a time when tigers are fast vanishing from various sanctuaries of the country, the big cats seem to have got a healthy habitat in Assam's Kaziranga.
The national park on the southern banks of the Brahmaputra has 24.5 tigers per 100 sq km the "healthiest" density the big cat enjoys in the country, state environment and forest minister Rockybul Hussain said on Thursday. Tiger density in other protected areas is 17-18 per 100 sq km.
Though the actual tiger estimate in the 863 sq km-Kaziranga is yet to be published, Hussain said preliminary findings of the tiger density in the sanctuary showed "a healthy sign of big cat population in the park".
"Having 24.5 tigers per 100 sq km in Kaziranga is a very positive sign. It's the highest density in the country. This is just a conservative estimate... We expect a higher figure at the end of the census," he added.
According to the last census done in 2006, Kaziranga is home to 86 tigers. At present, Aaranyak, a bio-diversity conservation group in the North-East, is engaged in counting tigers in Kaziranga, the only Unesco World Heritage Site in the state. According to sources, the organization is using the camera-trap technology, instead of the traditional pug mark method, for a foolproof tiger count.
Kaziranga, which has two-thirds of the world's population of one-horned rhino, recently opened a new range covering the river front of the Brahmaputra in the northern boundary of the sanctuary. Incidents of tigers and other animals straying out of the park and falling prey to poachers' traps in nearby sand islands were quite frequent.
Kaziranga was recently in the news following death of nine tigers between November, 2008 and January 2009. Between November 2008 and this August, altogether 11 tigers died in Kaziranga.
On Wednesday, the Union ministry of environment and forest, state government and respective tiger reserves in the state signed a tripartite agreement in New Delhi to set up tiger foundations. According to the agreement, tiger foundations will be formed in three tiger reserves in Assam Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park and Nameri National Park.