Saturday, February 7, 2015

India #Tiger News

Once upon a time tigers roared in Bhitarkanika

Ashok Pradhan & Ashis Senapati,TNN | Feb 7, 2015

KENDRAPADA/BHUBANESWAR: Many years ago, tigers' roars would often rip apart the unnerving silence of Bhitarkanika. If one was lucky, one could catch a fleeting glimpse of a big cat's black and gold flashing against the forest's verdant green.

The autobiography of Jonn Beames, who was the commissioner of Odisha in 1873, clearly suggests the presence of tigers in the country's second largest mangrove forest in Kendrapada district.

"From the top of the lighthouse about sunset one would look down into the dense jungle that spread for miles and frequently see tigers crawling across the open passage...," writes Beames in "Memoirs of a Bengal Civilian."

If one doubts the Britisher's account, a tiger trap, found from the palace of Kanika royal family and kept on display at the interpenetration center in Dangamal within Bhitarkanika National Park, can be regarded as a clinching evidence of the big cat's preence at the Ramsar site.

"The tiger trap proves that the mangrove forest was an abode of tigers and leopards during the Raj era. However, more research needs to be done to establish the exact period when tigers lived here," says Kedar Kumar Swain, divisional forest officer of the park.

Biswajit Mohanty, a wildlife campaigner, says tigers are believed to have stayed in the area till early part of 20th century. "The fear of tigers would keep villagers away from the interiors of the forest till as late as the 1960s, long after a big cat was last sighted. People would never venture out in the dark and tell stories about tigers told to them by their forefathers," he adds.

While the Sunderbans, the world's largest mangrove forest is still home to a large number of big cats, Bhitarkanika seems to have lost its big cat population owing to its smaller expanse and increased port activities, Mohanty says.

Lala Ajit Kumar Singh, a wildlife researcher, says in recent memory, there was no information about tigers in Bhitarkanika. Leopards, which were frequently spotted in the area, have also disappeared. But there is strong possibility that tigers once stayed here.">

Former principal chief conservator of forests (Wildlife) Saroj Patnaik says leopards were sighted till the 1970s. "But I have not come across reports of tigers being sighted," he adds.

The existence of a century-old hunting tower in the core areas of Bhitarkanika testifies the fact that the Rajas of Rajkanika were passionate about hunting and presence of a strong prey base. Rajendra Narayan Bhanjadeo, the king of Rajkanika from 1924 to 1948, was a famous hunter. The history of Rajkanika is replete with accounts of his hunting expeditions.



State Mulls Own Big Cat Survey to Shame NTCA

Published: 07th February2015
BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Government, which has locked horns with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) over tiger estimates in the State, is seriously contemplating to take up enumeration of the big cats on its own.

Sources in the Forest and Environment department said the Wildlife Wing is examining possibilities of conducting a census to ascertain the number of tigers in the State so that it can have its pound of flesh in the confrontation with the national tiger body.

Though no formal move has yet been initiated in this connection, the Wildlife Wing is consulting experts about its plans. “If things go as per planned, we could use camera traps in tiger habitats as well as outside to find out what the ground situation is. There is no way why the NTCA result should be taken on face value when it is delivered to us incomplete,” said sources.

The recent tiger enumeration by the NTCA and Wildlife Institute of India had put the total number of tigers in Odisha at 28, less than the figure arrived in 2010. Since no break-up of tiger head count was provided for Similipal and Satkosia tiger reserves (TRs), the State has been in the dark and clueless about the status of the big cats in these two habitats.

“Our own assessment could give us a fair bit of idea about the number of tigers in these TRs basing on which we could draw up conservation strategies for the future. It does not matter if the numbers go up or come down as compared to the NTCA figures,” said the sources.

The Wildlife Wing is mulling its options on procurement of cameras and the cost it may entail. Besides, it also has to work out a census modality which can challenge the four-phase methodology that NTCA uses.

The NTCA had adopted a dual-sampling method under which pug-marks and scats were analysed and later camera-trap images were also examined to arrive at the approximate number of tigers. This method, though, has come in for criticism from experts such as Dr Ullas Karanth who claim that double sampling does not provide an accurate result. Its camera trap method uses only source population, he had said after NTCA came out with the result last month.

The State Government also seconds the view saying the NTCA report has not taken into consideration number of tigers outside the TRs.


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