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Stone Pelting on Tiger Cubs :Kanha Pench Corridor Becomes Conflict Zone

 Two tiger cubs- less than 6 month old- escaped the fury of a 5000 strong mob in a village located in Kanha-Pench corridor . Villagers tried to kill them by pelting stones when the cubs had reached a water body to quench their thirst. This issue  has highlighted again the plight of the fragmented tiger corridors. It also reminds the urgency to restore their sanctity. People Shouted Kill the Cubs Kill the Cubs  Wildlife is most vulnerable during summer, due to scarcity of resources. Water is the key limited resource inside jungles . Special monitoring ofwater holes should be carried out all along the corridors, to effectively deter such incidents, poaching of herbivores and poisoning of tigers and othercarnivores. In the scorching summer, the two cubs also reached a nearby waterbody . In the adjacent forest , the villagers were plucking tendu leaves- a minor forest produce  to  roll beedi , a thin cigarette or mini-cigar filled with tobacco flake and commonly wrapped in a tendu leaf. Th

Elusive Cats of Panna, As Threatened As The Park

Panna national park, famous world over for its successful tiger relocation programme, has added another feather in its cap. During a  night safari, an Indian desert cat was spotted in the park which itself is threatened by the controvertial Ken Betwa river linking project. The cat was photographed by a tourist in Akola buffer, once famous for two tiger brothers- Heera–Panna. One of them died of poaching recently.  

Desert Cat and Rare Sighting

Also known as Asiatic wildcat , the Indian desert cat inhabits the Thar Desert (pic courtsey NiF Hive)  and is associated with the scrub desert. Soon after its sighting in Panna, the  the tiger reserve tweeted " In 1999, it was still reported as common in Bikaner, Barmer, Jaisalmer, Pali and Nagaur districts of Rajasthan .Only four sightings were reported from the Thar Desert between 1999 and 2006". Though its sighting was recorded in Nauradehi wildlife sanctuary of Panna landscape , in Madhya Pradesh and Mirzapur forests, it has not been seen in these jungles for long. The long hair covering the soles of its paws insulates its pads against the extremely hot and cold temperatures in deserts. Despite its rare sighting, they do not qualify as threatened, near threatened, or (before 2001) conservation dependent categories of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)   which has put it under its “least concern category”. 

Also readDeath of a Superstar Highlights  Signifiance of Tiger Corridors 

Like many other elusive cats, this one also remains in hiding in the daytime and hunts out under the cover of darkness. It roams in a small area of about five to six kilometers as it looks for prey – mainly smaller animals and birds.  In the absence of research work, not much is known about the desert cat, wildlife experts said. However, it is believed, like many other desert animals, it can survive without much water.  After the latest sighting, the Panna tiger reserve officials are browsing  its old records to see if the Indian desert cat was ever spotted there in the past, the park director Uttam Kumar Sharma told the local media.

Fishing Cat,  Vulnerable Like the Panna Reserve

But in August this year, a rare fishing cat was spotted in Panna when  it was caught on camera near Ken river on August 13 this year .Since 2016, the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus ) is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The fishing cat lives foremost in the vicinity of wetlands, along rivers, streams, in swamps, and mangroves, experts said. About twice the size of a typical house cat, the fishing cat is a feline with a powerful build and stocky legs. It is also an adept swimmer and enters water frequently to prey on fish. It can even dive to catch fish. 

Also read: Midst  Extinction Fear, Search Begins for Caracal in MP

The state animal of West Bengal, the fishing cat populations are threatened by destruction of wetlands  and their  numbers are declining drastically.  The fishing cat has deep yellowish-grey fur with black lines ( like those of tigers) and spots( that of leopards) . Two stripes are on the cheeks, and two above the eyes running to the neck with broken lines on the forehead, it also has two rows of spots around the throat.

KBLP :Green Signal Without Green Clearances  

Sighting of the rare cats is again a testimony of the  ecological diversity of Panna landscape .But the rejoicing of the nature lovers may be short-lived. The controvertial Ken -Betwa project always referred to for its environmental toll " is all set to threaten the very existence of these  beautiful fauna", wildlife experts  believe  . The governments –both the states of UP ,MP  and the centre -are determined to implement the project, pendency of many green clearances notwithstanding. 

Also read: Future Tense: Turbulent Time Ahead for Panna Tigers

Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) , said that the project’s approval is an “illegal decision” because the forest, environmental and wildlife clearances for the project are still not in place. The project’s environment clearance is currently in a state of challenge at the National Green Tribunal. The final forest clearance is awaited. Also, many of the conditions set down by the Forest Advisory Committee, under the Union environment ministry, for ‘stage I forest clearance’ haven’t been addressed, Thakkar said.


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