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Are Lion Tailed Macaque More Fortunate than Panna Tigers: A Tale of Two Projects

Almost a  year after the Karnataka high court stayed the project that had further threatened the already endangered lion tailed macaque (LTM) ((Macaca silenus), endemic to the Sharavathi river valley nestled in the Western Ghats; the sword of Damocles continues to hang over the primates. The Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) had launched a geothermal survey  with heavy machines to ascertain if the 2000 MW underground pump storage hydro-electric project was feasible. Besides LTM, the Sharavathi river valley is also home to a diverse array of species and sustains very rich biodiversity. Though the  court stay continues, the south Indian state has not yet withdrawn the project. For the time being, the power project may not have been in the priority list of the government after the change in the political guard, it continues to stare at LTM menacingly. Sharavathi Valley, a Jewel in the Western Ghats The project was proposed within the core area of 902 sq km in the Sharavathi Valle

Photo Ops Over, Tigers Leave the Fans

 

Wildlife tourists visiting Panna tiger reserve are a heartbroken lot.  The two most watched tigers of a buffer zone in the park bid goodbye to the reserve . One of them is collared and is moving towards east while the location of his brother, still un-collared, is not known. For the past few months ,  the two tigers  gave a number of photo opportunities to the wildlife photographers in the Akola zone of the buffer. Tourism activities are continuing in the buffer zones of the tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh.

Buzz in the Buffer 


This is a fascinating story of two male tigers, P234-31 and P234-32 , popularly known as   Hira and Panna  among the tourists . For the past two months, especially since the park was closed for the three months of monsoon, they became superstars of the tourists. Born in November 2019 to Tigress P234 in her third litter, the two males are now over 20 months old. They were born in the Akola buffer area of Panna tiger reserve; an area which would become  a cattle camp during the rainy season  until a few years ago . Spread in about 7000 hectares , this buffer zone now has at least 2 breeding tigresses and a third   is present at the edge of this buffer in the core area. The Akola buffer is already occupied by three strong male tigers, namely T7, P111 and P234-21. And it cannot hold any more male tigers. Hira and Panna had two options-either displace the fearsome trio or move out and look for a new territory. They opted for the latter.

Also read: Love Life of 'Papa' Tiger: A Threat to Cubs?

Director of  Panna tiger reserve Uttam Kumar Sharm said it was expected that they would be moving out of PTR, to the  sprawling Panna Landscape, as there is no possible territory for them in the reserve. “ Considering this, in December 2020, it was decided to radio collar them under the research project and one of them, Tiger P234-31 was successfully collared on January 6 this year,” he said.

Project to Collar 14 Tigers in the Park


It was sometime in October 2020 when  the National tiger conservation authority (NTCA) and the state government had  given  permission to radio collar 14 tigers in ‘Panna Landscape’- a term used to cover an area of around 15000 sq Km, stretched in Vindhyan ranges from district Lalitpur, in Uttar Pradesh to Sagar in  MP and extends through the districts Chhatarpur, Damoh, Panna and Satna in MP till Chitrakoot, UP. The handsome  P234-31 probably heads towards Chitrakoot  where tigers  from Panna dispersed in the past as well .

Also readFuture Tense: Turbulent Time Ahead for Panna Tigers

This  project is expected to generate data regarding movement and spread of tigers in  the sprawling Panna landscape - a major part of which is all set to submerge in Ken Betwa river link project- and reveal corridors used by tigers to spread in Panna Landscape, it’s outer limits and final destinations. “We will also get information regarding the age of the tiger at which movement starts and seasons of movement”, the park director said.

When Mom Serves the Food

Collaring of P234-31 revealed some very interesting emotional stories not only of his movement but also of his brother as both remained together- always. It was in mid-January 2021 when for the first time it was noticed that they were separated from  their mother. She was  not far but on the  other side of the state highway bifurcating the buffer .As they had  still not started hunting independently  they were without food  for some days when their mother P234– living with a male tiger-  returned , hunted for them and left the kill   so that they could be fed.  While staying with a tiger ,she would make it a routine to appear on the edge of the state highway in the late evening at around 7:30 PM and remain there for the next two hours to spend time with  Hira and Panna . As news of their daily appearance spread, people from nearby areas including from Panna city, thronged to see two tigers.

Also read:  Tiger's Epic Walk Raises Serious Environmental Issues

Mother P234 returned back to them in the first week of February 2021 and they were together again. But by now mother started leaving them alone for long durations. They had also started hunting independently. Both of them were now regularly seen in the Akola buffer area. Tourists looking for tigers came running to Akola buffer, increasing the tourist footfall considerably. They would regularly come out on tourism roads in the morning or evening, giving wonderful photo opportunities. Though both of them have left Akola,  some newborns have started  making their presence felt with their moms. Tigress P234-22 gave birth to 2 cubs and Tigress P234-23 gave birth to 3 cubs in the month of January 2021 in the Akola buffer. The older mother P234 also gave birth to 2 cubs just at the edge of Akola on the western side in the month of May-June 2021 increasing the number of tiger cubs to seven in six months in this area.

Pics: Courtsey PTR director  Uttam Kumar Sharma 

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