Listen to Ty the Serval Om Nom Nom while eating his dinner!
Monday, December 27, 2010
Guwahati: A five-year-old female Royal Bengal tiger has been found dead inside the Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, 150 kms from Guwahati. Preliminary reports suggest it to be a case of poisoning. The park has lost two tigers this year.
S K Daila, divisional forest officer in charge of the park, said the carcass of the tiger was found by a forest guard patrol on Saturday in a dense patch of tora vegetation near the Pachnoi river under Camp No 2. The tiger’s body, however, bore no sign of physical injury.
“The post-mortem report has cited suspected poisoning, however, a forensic examination has been recommended for confirmation. Samples of vital organs of the tiger’s body have been collected and are being sent to the state’s Forensic Science Laboratory in Guwahati tomorrow,” Daila said.
The park authorities carried out an intensive search operation in the area where the carcass was found but could not gather any clues, Daila said. The carcass was disposed off in the presence of representatives of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, National Tiger Conservation Authority and others after the post-mortem examination was over.
The Orang National Park has a history of tigers being poisoned, with the authorities pointing to the park’s small size leading to a limited prey base. The park is under considerable anthropogenical pressure with the tigers straying to fringe areas to kill cattle.
The big cat has hogged the limelight throughout the year, but will it help its cause, wonders Ananda Banerjee
Brand tiger was omnipresent this year, making headlines and adorning magazine covers for all the wrong reasons — death by poisoning and poaching. Its plight was discussed in a global summit, in sports as the lovable ‘Shera’ — the Commonwealth Games mascot — and in tiger telethon (a day-long 12-hour television ‘drama’). All in all, the entire tiger jamboree has fared well in the name of public awareness; there were kids for tigers, ‘page 3’ fundraisers for the big cat, book launches, conferences, seminars, petitions, campaigns and even an anthem for tigers. “Just 1,411 tigers left,” barked a corporate-NGO campaign which caught the fancy of city slickers early this year, some of who created traffic jams deep inside the forest to click the one ‘Geographic’ moment for posterity.
According to the Chinese calendar, 2010 is the year of the tiger. It is a well-known fact that after exterminating its own source population, the Chinese have successfully pushed the Bengal tiger — the only subspecies found across the Indian subcontinent — closer to extinction. The massive demand for traditional Chinese medicine where each body part of the tiger is used (see box) is the single greatest threat of extinction and a crisis that engulfs our national animal.
From the cuddly big pussy cat to the ferocious man-eater, the magnificent animal is reduced to a commodity today, the most sought-after item for poaching syndicates supplying 60 per cent of China’s humongous population. The newly affluent Chinese, who have struck gold on the booming economy, see tiger products as a symbol of status and wealth. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) believes that at least one tiger is killed daily for its use in traditional Chinese medicine and the black market value of a tiger today is estimated around $50,000, which is a good `2 crore plus.
On the other hand, despite teething problems, everyone seems to love the crisis. The media has its breaking news, the corporate houses have put on their conservation caps for social mileage and brand enhancement, the activist and ‘experts’ their 15-minutes of fame, the celebrity more than happy to endorse the cause for the same limelight, auctions and fundraiser events to pull in millions of rupees. Suddenly, there is a great market for the ‘tiger’ — in books, art exhibitions, films, percolating down to T-shirts, key-chains, coffee mugs, ash trays, USB drives, and last but not the least the booming tiger tourism. It’s show time with both Hollywood and Bollywood coming to party where not only Leonardo DiCaprio pledges to donate $1 million for tiger conservation, but also our own Big B auctions his watch to raise money for tiger conservation. That watch fetched a cool `7.11 lakh!
The glitz and glamour have pushed ‘conservation’ on the back seat. The spotlight never falls on the few good men, the dedicated officers and forest guards on the frontline as they are not fashionable and suave enough for the lens. Being too righteous often draws the ire of seniors or political masters and routine transfers are the order of the day. To most urbanites, wildlife conservation is confused with animal welfare. The great social divide persists between the urban and the rural. The English language is alien to our forest staff and this makes a mockery of the state in which they man our tiger reserves — unequipped, unpaid and untrained. Natural history conservation is still very much an elitist subject, predominated by the Queen’s language with hardly any significant vernacular presence.
There is great debate and arguments as some think this tiger economy is a necessary conservation tool for awareness and to keep the authorities on constant alert. But for how long will this hoopla last? And how well are the funds utilised or who will support the recurring costs? Yes, we need awareness, but for that we need to go vernacular on a mass scale; after all, there are 22 official state languages, excluding English. This alone can provide maximum outreach, not a corporate-media spectacle.
The problem areas are well established since January 2005 when an exposé shocked the nation, declaring there was not a single big cat at the Sariska Tiger Reserve. Soon, the Panna Tiger Reserve followed the suit. In the last two years, Chandrapur, the tiger capital of India, has lost 28 tigers. Over the past decade, tiger numbers have fallen as much by 40 per cent and one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that tiger conservation has failed.
In the past six years since the Sariska tragedy, nothing has gone right. The Centre versus the State ego war hasn’t helped the conservation cause a bit. The Project ‘toothless’ Tiger in its newest avatar — National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) — also remains helpless as the management of the tiger reserves still rest with the States that are unwilling to cooperate. But any mishap on the tiger front, and the finger automatically points to NTCA, whereas the actual culprit, the State, goes scot-free. The NTCA directorate, under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, is mandated with the task of just providing technical guidance and funding support. During the last financial year of 2009-10, the total amount released to tiger States was `20152.99766 lakh, as per budgetary demands. If you read the tripartite memorandum of understanding between NTCA, the State Governments and the field director of the Tiger Reserve, (http://projecttiger.nic.in/whtsnew/TRIPARTITE_%20MEMORANDUM%20.pdf), it is crystal clear who is responsible for what.
Poaching remains the gravest threat, followed by habitat loss. One of the biggest problems that still plague our tiger reserves is the lack of infrastructure, especially well-paid, trained forest guards. In a few States, the vacancies are huge — in some cases almost 50 per cent. Those who are serving are old, untrained and demoralised. Worse, the new recruits are mostly hired on daily wage contract and are in perpetual insecurity without any medical or pension benefits. The problem persists for more than 15 years now. One just wonders why?
Conservation biology and management are complex issues with an array of stakeholders interlinked in a web which is not easy to comprehend. It’s a great jigsaw puzzle where each element has to fit perfectly to maintain balance and harmony. In a country as diverse as ours where social demographics change every 300 km, the task is more challenging, but all that a tiger asks for is its habitat — a sacrosanct space with sufficient prey base and protection. We still neither have strict laws, nor first-track courts for a quick trial and verdict.
With no political will, the conservation juggernaut has no direction whatsoever. The grand experiment to re-populate Sariska came back as a slap on the State Government’s face when in two years’ time the first trans-located animal was found poisoned this year. It is hard to imagine how a State functions; first, the tiger was flowed into the reserve without adequate preparations. The excuse was given that once the tiger settled in, everything would fall into place and the pressure to denotify the tiger reserve from the mining lobby would be averted! After five tigers were released one-by-one, the same State Government makes a U-turn and gives out mining permissions around the perimeter of the said reserve. This is yet another classic tale of wonder, awe and disgust.
Will the tiger survive is the million-dollar question. Well, it has to, for the hype and hoopla tigers create at five-star events, for prime-time TRPs and also for the planet earth. There is too much at stake on the big cat.
The 4 surviving subspecies
Bengal Tiger: Panthera tigris tigris
Siberian (Amurian) Tiger: Panthera tigris altaica
Sumatran Tiger: Panthera tigris sumatrae
Indo-Chinese Tiger: Panthera tigris corbetti
The 4 extinct subspecies
Javan Tiger: Panthera tigris sondaica, extinct since early 1980s
Bali Tiger: Panthera tigris balica, extinct since the 1940s
Caspian Tiger: Panthera tigris virgata,extinct since the early 1970s
South China Tiger: Panthera tigris amoyensis (possibly extinct in the wild, as reported in 2002)
Note: Omitted In Surviving Subspecies: Malayan Tiger: Panthera tigris jacksoni
Moushumi Basu New Delhi
Close on the heels of a controversy over relocation of villages from Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan and the death of a translocated tiger there recently, the Centre has allotted Rs 18.60 crore to the tiger reserve.
Against a demand of Rs 38.13 crore from the State Government, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has approved Rs 37.20 crore to the reserve for shifting of villages. According to figures obtained from MoEF sources, no fund allocation was made in 2009-10 and till the end of the current fiscal for the relocation of villages in Sariska.
Former chief conservator of forests (Sariska) KK Garg, who was transferred out during the last week of November after the tiger’s death, said, “Nearly Rs 8 crore were left unspent from the earlier funds, and the amount was fully spent by June-July 2010.” After that, the relocation process was affected due to paucity of funds, he pointed out. The next lot of funds arrived after Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh visited the reserve following the death of the tiger.
Following the complete extinction of tigers in Sariska, a major recommendation of Tiger Task Force in 2005 was the relocation of villages from within the reserve. There are 28 villages within the tiger reserve and the task force had listed certain villages that were to be relocated on priority.
The MoEF sources pointed out that the State had not been successful in following the task force’s recommendations, particularly the one about making the core/critical areas of the tiger habitat inviolate by expediting village relocation.
There has been only token relocation in Sariska. “Only one village, Badhani, the smallest of them all, has been relocated completely since the process began in the 1980s,” the sources said. The remaining six-seven villages, though claimed by the State forest department as partial, are actually only nominal and are inhabited by only a handful of families.
Former field director of Ranthambhore and tiger expert Fateh Singh Rathore contended that village relocation should have been completed before the tiger translocation process started. “The reserve is obviously not safe for big cats and one cannot blame the local villagers solely for the recent incident of tiger poisoning,” he said.
Tigers often stray to the villages and the State Government has failed to keep track of the damage caused to the villagers and compensation to be paid.
Meanwhile, five tigers were translocated from Ranthambhore National Park in the State to Sariska between 2008 and 2010. One of the two males — ST-1 — went missing on November 11 this year. The other male — ST-4 — was already missing since October 30, though it has since been found. On November 14, reserve officials discovered the decomposed body of ST-1 near Kalakhet village on the reserve’s fringes.
DALTONGANJ: It's official. Palamu Tiger Reserve (PTR) has been categorized "poor" by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) responsible for categorizing tiger reserves under Project Tiger. Set up in 1974, PTA is battling hard for its existence and survival.
According to a member of the Management Effective Evaluation (EM) of NOTCH, D S Srivastava, the conclusion was reached after two evaluations of the tiger reserve. Consequently, a report was sent to NTCA in Delhi for placement before the Prime Minister. NTCA was set up in 2005 on the recommendations of Tiger Task Force, constituted by the Prime Minister.
Srivastava elaborated, "A preliminary evaluation was done by a team of experts, including Sameer Sinha of Wildlife Trust of India, Rashin Burman of Assam, Rajinder Mishra of Chhatisgarh and R K Singh of Delhi. Another evaluation was done this November by Prerna Bhendra and R L Singh among other wildlife experts."
A total of 120 parameters decide on the grade. "PTR scored the lowest in all from funding, its usage, habitat management, grassland management, anti-fire measures and anti-poaching measures," he said.
But he added that there are reasons why Palamu has fared so poorly. He felt that for starters, the government should fill up all vacant posts of ground staff. "There are only 39 forest guards in PTR as against the sanctioned strength of 179," he revealed.
The other task before the government is to prioritize wildlife management. "It is not on the agenda of the government it appears. No government fund has come to PTA since nine months," he rued.
The challenge, he said, is to revive and restore its glory. In 1974, there were 22 tigers and 32 elephants. Today the number of tigers has dwindled whereas the number of elephants has shot up to 225. "The other task is to strike a balance between human and wildlife population as the man-animal conflict has taken a toll on PTA," he said.
Srivastava favoured people's participation in the management of wildlife. There should be smaller monitoring units entrusted with the maintenance of PTR.
When asked if it is possible for PTR to regain its old position, he said, "First, people living in and outside PTR must feel that every tiger, every elephant is theirs and that protecting them is their responsibility. Only then will the situation improve in PTR."
Monday, December 20, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Thanks to the generosity of the family of William and Lois Modglin of Glendale, California, this grant provides that any donations to Big Cat Rescue that indicate they are to be submitted for a match from this grant will be matched dollar for dollar by a donation from this grant immediately upon receipt of you donation up to the $200,000 maximum. This 100% match means your donation has twice the impact!
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Monday, December 06, 2010
Of course we think all of our cats are cute, but we have selected 15 different cats to let viewers decide which they think is the CUTEST! Watch the video decide which cat you think should win, then simply visit our facebook page and comment on their photo, the cat with the most comments and "likes" will be crowned "Big Cat Rescue's Cutest Cat" and the person with the funniest comment will WIN an original Paw Painting by Contestant #8 Narla the cougar worth $100 - The purr-fect Christmas gift!
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Alwar, December 04, 2010
First Published: 21:15 IST(4/12/2010)
Last Updated: 21:15 IST(4/12/2010)
A man, who had allegedly poisoned a tiger to death last month has been arrested in Alwar and was remanded to custody for interrogation. The accused, Parsadi was arrested on Friday and was produced before the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate - Rajgarh in Alwar on Saturday evening, who remanded him to (forest) custody till December 8.
He was arrested under sections of Wildlife (protection) Act-1972 for poisoning Sariska ST-1.
"Facial hair of the tiger was also recovered from the possession of the accused, who is a resident of Kalakhet village in Sariska," a forest and wildlife department official said.
JAIPUR: The recent death of a tiger at the Sariska reserve and a complete reshuffle of officials later, it is a failed system that the state forest department is slowly but steadily getting entrapped into. For not only are threats of poaching are lurking large at Ranthambore but in Sariska members of the notorious Bawaria tribe are again apparently making inroads.
"The administrative and monitoring system in both the state tiger reserves are breaking down. One really needs to overhaul the entire machinery so that catastrophe of 2005 does not repeat itself once again," sources said.
There may be logic in this proposal. For, besides having declared a high alert at Ranthambore, the state forest department is yet to take any practical step to ensure that poachers are kept at bay.
"In 2005 after the shameful episode in Sariska, the forest department had requisitioned and deployed one company of RAC and 110 extra home guards for Ranthambore to ensure that nothing untoward happens. The results showed when around October that year, some poachers were nabbed. This time too, why did the state government not ask for extra personal," sources said.
That is not all. In the past one year there have been eight tigers that have either gone missing or have strayed just from Ranthambore. However, action in any of the cases is yet to be taken. Except one, none of the straying tigers have returned. The tale of woe began last year with two tigers being poisoned that saw two more straying towards the Kunho-Palpur area and the Chambal-Sheopur district. The incident was followed by T-7 going to Mathura only to come back to Bharatpur. In October last year, a tigress was poisoned while another made its way to the Kalisind area. The eighth Ranthambore big cat to have gone this way was when it too was poisoned.
"After the death of ST-1 in Sariska, what emerged was that none of the staff in the range offices were working properly. They had formed a pool system and if any post was to be manned by four persons what was happening is that three went home and left just one to man the post. Each one thus took turns to stay away from the forest. And to ensure this, the staff had used their resources to be posted within 20 km of their village," the source said.
Not just that, in an evaluation it emerged that 70% of Sariska's forest staff was from Alwar who choose to quietly leave for home every day at 5 pm.
"It is a government system that entails as far as possible the staff be given duty in their own district. But the pitfall was that most of them chose to stay off the forest," he added. It was in this context that after the death of ST-1 that the Talwar ranger was suspended.
"In fact, the ranger had refused to come to his range even when a senior officials has suddenly chosen to visit it," the source said.
Also pointing to the lapse at Sariska is the fact the male tiger ST-4, that had been missing and remained untraceable for more than 15 days, was located just within three days after the entire forest machinery landed in Sariska after the death of ST-1.
"This itself shows that the staff had taken things too casually. But after senior officials landed in the forest they got into the act and recovered ST-4. Moreover, when chief minister himself choose to go to Sariska after the death of ST-1 why are senior department officials not rushing to Ranthambore now when there is a threat," the source asked.
However, when contacted H M Bhatia, chief wildlife warden, Rajasthan, denied the allegations.
"There were RAC posted in Ranthambore and Sariska but they were taken away during the elections. Now again we have requisitioned the state government to give us two companies of RAC, one each for the two reserves. When they are sanctioned they will be posted there," he said.
"For Sariska, the forest terrain and the rain resulted in the initial hiccup in tracking the tiger. There is no question of the system breaking down for, if that was the case, then we would not have been able to track the tigers ever again. The field staff was doing their best in tracking the tigers but the circumstances were such that they could not track it earlier," he claimed.
JAIPUR: It's official: the first tiger ST-1 relocated to Sariska from the Ranthambore reserve was poisoned to death. Forensic test reports have confirmed the presence of poison in body parts of the big cat. "The forensic tests have confirmed presence of an insecticide," said H M Bhatia, chief wildlife warden, Rajasthan.
The body of ST-1 was found near a cattle track in the Kalakhet area of the forest, just yards away from a village on November 14.
Sources said the poison used to kill the big cat was organophosphate, an insecticide used in agriculture, homes, gardens and by veterinary doctors. "It is the most widely used insecticide. Organophosphate poisons insects and mammals by phosphorylation of enzymes at nerve endings resulting in sensory and behavioural disturbance, depressed motor functioning and respiratory disorders leading to death," the source said.
Though evidence at the place where ST-1's body was found had clearly suggested poisoning by humans, forest department officials remained doubtful. For, post-mortem reports had ruled out territorial war as the reason for the death and there was no injury mark on the body. The forest officials had then blamed snake bite.
"This clearly indicates the system at Sariska has collapsed. One can imagine a tiger being poisoned once it strays out of the forest premises. But this is a murder at home. The tiger was not tracked properly, and the staff didn't react even when its radio collar signals went dead," said a wildlife expert.