Tiger Dispatch: India

The remains of two tiger cubs were found in the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve last Wednesday; three years after poachers killed a big cat in the same reserve. The locals who saw the carcasses suspected poaching, but the forest officials claimed that an adult tiger had killed the cubs.

“Two cubs, a male and a female, were found dead in compartment 120 of Mala range of the tiger reserve forest. The carcasses were sent for postmortem examination,” said divisional forest officer (DFO) of Pilibhit Tiger Reserve Kailash Prakash. “We have also registered a complaint regarding the matter and ordered an inquiry,” he added.

According to forest officials, an adult tiger of the forest section killed the cubs in a struggle for territory. “The cubs are of another tiger and strayed into the territory of the male tiger which killed them,” said the DFO. The officer added that no traps or shell casings or anything else which pointed towards poaching were found at the spot.

The cubs were brought to Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Bareilly for postmortem examination. “Prima facie it appears that the cubs died of external injuries.. The details about the cause of death will be revealed once the postmortem examination is completed,” said Dr AK Sharma, in charge of Wildlife department of IVRI.

The death of the cubs has again raised the fear of possible poachers’ gangs in the area. But the forest department is sticking to the theory of an adult tiger killing the cubs.

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The sighting of a tiger in an arecanut plantation near Umblebailu village on the fringe of Bhadra wildlife sanctuary has prompted forest staff to place a cage to trap the animal.

Last week, workers at an arecanut plantation owned by one Duggappa Gowda near Umblebailu found a herd of deer running in panic.

The workers sighted a tiger behind the bushes near the plantation. A few locals grazing their cattle also heard the roar of the tiger near the plantation.

The locals immediately alerted the Forest Department. The staff installed a cage in the plantation with a hen as bait. The department installed a few surveillance cameras to monitor the movement of the animal. The situation is being closely monitored and combing operation was conducted in the vicinity.

In December 2016, two tigers were found dead in the forest on the outskirts of Umblebailu village.

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A tiger was found dead in Bori range of the Satpura Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh’s Hoshangabad district. “It appears that the tiger, aged over five, succumbed to injuries apparently sustained in a fight with a gaur (Indian bison),” Bori forest range officer Hari Prasad Pal said last Sunday.

“During patrolling on Friday evening, we found the tiger lying dead near the bones and horns of a bison it killed earlier in the core area of the reserve,” he said.

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Meanwhile, in the Rajaji Tiger Reserve (RTR) authorities constituted a seven member Tiger Cell that will exclusively monitor, plan and ensure safety of trans-located big cats. A Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) is also in the making.

The step comes three years after the plan to translocate tigers to the western part of the reserve, home to only two tigresses, was mooted.

The western part, spread over 570 sqkm, hasn’t reported breeding since 2003. A 1.2 km long and 3 km wide corridor splits the reserve into two halves preventing the movement of tigers between the eastern and the western sides.

“We have constituted the cell and soon we will constitute the force as well. We are all geared up to translocate the tigers by October-November,” Sanatan Sonkar director, Rajaji, told Hindustan Times.

Sonkar has just returned from a two-day tour of Sariska Tiger Reserve, the first such area where tiger translocation was carried out successfully. The purpose of the visit was to analyse the details and precautions needed for the process.

One of the keys to the successful translocation is monitoring of the big cats that would be introduced in the reserve. The Rajaji officials had trained 30 forest staff in 2016 and another 30 would be trained soon.

National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has given in principle approval to the reserve for translocation. But, the management is yet to submit a detailed plan to secure final approval.

“The visit gave us an insight into the details that were missing from our initial draft. We need to engage a full-time researcher, use radio collars that could be tracked through GPS as well as satellite and ensure proper medical attention (to the big cats) post translocation,” Sonkar added.

While Sonkar claims that the vulnerability of translocated tigers in Sariska was highest due to the lack of prey base, the condition in Rajaji is better.

He, however, added that there are patches in the “western part that are porous and highly risky” and that’s why they want to constitute the STPF at the earliest to man the area.

Rajaji’s 150-sqkm eastern part has a flourishing population of 13 tigers that are still growing. The western part has a potential to hold a bigger tiger population considering that it has only two tigresses.

Per the plan, two male and two female big cats would be translocated from Corbett landscape to the western part to ensure breeding.

The All India Tiger Estimation has recorded 340 tigers in Uttarakhand, the second highest after Karnataka.

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