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Red Threat on Tiger Census

Ahead of the ambitious tiger census in 2022, there are disturbing reports of disruption in the counting of the big cats in Palamu tiger reserve located in Jharkhand where  Naxalites have yet again threatened the tiger estimation work. Last year there were reports that the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) officials were allegedly taken hostage by the left wing ultras in Palamu when they were carrying out the work of setting up cameras in the jungle to capture the images of the tigers for the census. However, they were released later.  Palamu is not the only tiger reserve  in India facing the red threat. Indravati national park in Chattisgarh, now considered as a Naxal hotspot, and Similipal in Odisha are some other national parks where the Naxals  have affected the wildlife conservation projects. 2022 is an important year for tiger conservation as the tiger range countries – mainly the countries where the big cat is found  in South East Asia  and the Russian Far East - had  decided in

Mystery Shrouds Panna Tiger Deaths

Two back to back tiger deaths in Panna national park in the past one month- in fact four  tiger deaths in the past seven months-  raise questions on the  safety of the big cats in the national park, known for  its famous tiger reintroduction programme. The most serious aspect of these tiger deaths is “unknown element” of the cause of the deaths.

The Unknown Threat

In all the four cases, the tiger bodies were found after a gap of 4 to 5 days when the bodies were decomposed and all its parts were missing- probably eaten by wild animals or consumed by maggots.

The causes of the death remained unknown in all the four cases. Is it because of some disease ? Or there is some foul play ?  

This has raised question marks on both the protocol and protection of tigers, experts feel. Only one of the four, tigress-P213 was collared. The other three remained “unidentified as the body was beyond recognition.”  

An immediate review of the park security is required, experts feel.

Mystery shrouds the death of P213, tracked and monitored 24X7 through the radio collar around her neck. Its body was recovered three days after the death on June 28. Decomposed carcass was found lying in the forest patch of the core area of the tiger reserve where the feline was born about a decade ago. Known as the queen of the Panna, P213 was progeny of T2, the tigress rehabilitated from Kanha National park as a part of the reintroduction of the big cats in this national park, known for wonderful wildlife. On June 28, when the strong stench of the tigress carcass drew the attention of the park authorities, the body had already decomposed.

Big Question Mark Over Tiger Monitoring

If they followed the carcass through the stench, it means there is a big question mark on tiger monitoring.  Experts want to know whether the protocols of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) are followed. And whether the M-STrIPES -Monitoring System for Tigers' Intensive Protection and Ecological Status - is functional in the park.  The android-based software launched in 2010 is used across all national Tiger reserves of the country. There are many more questions like whether security audit of the park is done and  what is the status of the staff strength in the park. Whether the park management is maintaining the tiger repository and it is in a dynamic state of just  a formality. 

The M-STrIPES facilitates the patrolling. It has an objective to strengthen patrolling and surveillance of the endangered tigers . Forest guards in tiger reserves are equipped with personal digital assistants and GPS  devices to capture data relating to tiger sightings, deaths, wild life crime and ecological observations while patrolling.

The software system maps the patrol routes of forest guards, and the resulting data are then analyzed in a geographic information system. This also enables the evaluation of human pressure and ongoing monitoring of habitat change.

Is Panna National Park Over Crowded With Tigers?

 

2008 onwards, Panna was in the news for all the wrong reasons as all the tigers had “vanished”. Whether it was the result of massive poaching is still unknown.  Thanks to a successful tiger reintroduction and expansion of the buffer zone, the park again echoed with the roar of the big cat. Though the number has increased to about 60- about 40 inside the core area-  a big threat in the form of  Ken- Betwa link project continues to stare  the 1549  square km national park- 547 sq. km of core area and 1002 sq. km buffer area..  If NTCA guidelines are not followed , the best of the tiger habitat and vultures among others would be lost forever.

In fact there are about 90 tigers in the Panna landscape -the forest divisions surrounding Panna Tiger Reserve- North Panna, South Panna-, Damoh, Sagar and Chhatarpur. Tigers dispersing from the park have travelled as far as Bandhavgarh national park, about 200 kms away from Panna and Ranipur sanctuary in Chitrakoot- 150 kms. KS Bhadoria ,the park director said that the carrying capacity of its core area is 30 and there are 39 in it. Tiger fights take place because the number is increasing leading to deaths.     

One of the conditions laid down by the NTCA for Ken- Betwa link project was to ensure the corridors to function in the Panna landscape for tiger dispersal. They include movement of the tiger in Ranipur sanctuary of Chitrakoot , Virangana Durgavati   and Nauradehi   sanctuaries in Damoh. A functional tiger corridor would mean unrestricted movement of the big cats. It would also help maintain the gene pool.

Also Read:Problem Of Plenty: Gir Lions Turn Scavengers As Deadly Virus Stares

Also Read: Another tiger dies : Panna 'queen' death raises question over wildlife protection in MP


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