<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier this month, on December 5, locals at Hojai in Assam’s Nagaon district witnessed a distressing incident. A speeding Kanyakumari-Dibrugarh Vivek Express rammed into three elephants, killing them. It included two pregnant elephants, who delivered stillborn calves. Only 12 days later, two adult elephants and a calf were killed when a train hit them 125kms away from Guwahati, again in Nagaon district. These two accidents along with another one on December 6 took the life of eight elephants in December alone.The accidents in Assam and the rise in proposed linear projects such as highways, railway line doubling, power transmission lines and canals once again bring to attention how perhaps certain developmental projects pose the biggest threats to our forests and wildlife. A deeper look into projects that have been both, proposed and cleared, reveals that they will pass through some of our most dense forests that are home to rich biodiversity, varied wildlife and are precious sources of freshwater in fast warming climate. In 2016, some crucial linear projects that will fragment our forests, were cleared or have made their way towards being cleared.Wildlife corridors under threatFor instance, in March, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), chaired by the Prime Minister, cleared conversion of the 227-km long Gondia-Jabalpur line from narrow gauge to broad gauge. Of this 227km, 77km will pass through the Kanha-Pench tiger corridor, considered one of the most crucial in the country for it allows tigers from two different source populations and gene pools to move to newer territories.In Eastern India, the Indian Railways has approved expansion of the 156km long Sambalpur-Angul railway line, that already fragments Satkosia-Ushakoti-Badrama elephant and tiger landscape.Conservationists and wildlife activists have argued that while large linear projects should be avoided in forests and wildlife habitats, there is also an acute lack of standardized environmental safeguards.Lack of willIn the case of National Highway – 7 widening, that will pass through the Kanha-Pench wildlife corridor and the Pench tiger reserve, the National Highway Authority of India was dragged to court to have them construct environmental safeguards such as underpasses and overpasses for safe wildlife passage.The NH-7 case illustrated that government agencies were unwilling to initiate expenditure on environmental safeguards to prevent wildlife casualties, until courts ordered them to. Following this case, the union ministry for environment, forest and climate change commissioned the Wildlife Institute of India to prepare guidelines on incorporating environmental safeguards in linear infrastructure. The ministry also commissioned this report with a view to ensure speedy clearances for linear projects.The guidelines were made public in October and suggested minimum engineering solutions such as elevated ramps and sections should for wildlife to cross highways and fencing in case of railways. The guidelines though, do not have to be followed mandatory, as they have not been notified.Environmentalists have also questioned these guidelines. “I don’t think these guidelines will be followed because the project developers always try to go for safeguards that will be least expensive. We need to put in place a conservation fund for linear projects and project proponents ought to involve environmental experts at the start of the project and not at the clearance stage. These projects are fragmenting and damaging valuable forest resource,” said Anish Andheria,, President, Wildlife Conservation Trust, a non-profit organisation working in 110 protected areas across 19 states.Other conservationists said that the current dispensation has junked an earlier decision of the environment ministry to stop new roads in protected areas. “The NBWL, in its previous term, had recognised linear infrastructure as one of the major threats to forests and wildlife. This prompted formulation of guidelines that said that no new roads will be constructed in protected areas. Why were those guidelines junked? asks Prerna Bindra, conservationist and former member of NBWL standing committee.Upcoming projects passing through forests and protected areasProposed linear projects waiting for wildlife and forest clearance:Dedicated freight corridor passing through Gautam Buddha Sanctuary, home to leopards, bears and chitalCasterlock-Kulem railway line doubling and Tinaighat – Castlerock railway line doubling in Dandeli wildlife sanctuaryHubli-Ankola railway line will pass through Western Ghats forests, Bedthi conservation reserve at Yellapur and buffer region of Anshi Dandeli Tiger ReserveBarkhera-Budni third railway line construction in Ratapani wildlife sanctuary. Project will take up 104.75 hectares of the sanctuary
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>From crop depredation by herbivores in Vidarbha to the rampaging herds of wild elephants in Konkan to the rising leopard presence in parts of Pune and Ahmednagar, the conflict between urbanisation and natural habitats of animals is coming to a head.“These conflicts are inevitable,” a senior forest department official with extensive experience in wildlife management said. Rising population, development projects and construction of dams and roads come with their own toll on the ecology, he said. The difficulty in balancing these competing interests leads humans to wildlife habitations and vice-versa.“Wild boars, which live around agricultural fields, are responsible for most cases of injuries to humans, followed by leopards and sloth bear. Wild boars and leopards account for the highest conflicts with humans due to their proximity with them,” noted another official, adding that in case of attacks by a tiger, the chances of death are almost certain.“Wild boars, nilgai, chital and sambar cause crop depredations and leopards are responsible for most incidents of cattle lifting,” he said. In the Chandrapur area, which has the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, apart from the Bramhapuri forest division, with a rich tiger base, around 1,500 cases of cattle lifting (4-5 daily), were reported annually. This despite the area being under the control of the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM).In Bramhapuri, of the 179 injuries caused to people in 2015, 147 were caused by wild boars while it was 70 in 2014. The department had to summon sharp-shooters to cull wild boars in the district after complaints from villagers and farmers.Forest officials noted that the degradation of habitats led to herbivores entering agricultural fields in neighbouring areas, causing crop depredations. This forced farmers to fence their fields affecting animal movement and some even electrocuted the fences, causing animal deaths.From 2008-09 to October 2016, 2,18,394 cases of crop damage by wild animals have been recorded in Maharashtra. The state government has given compensation worth Rs 5,330.85 lakh.Officials claimed that in parts of Konkan, influential landowners have destroyed virgin forest lands for monoculture of rubber plantations, thus severing a crucial link between the Sahyadri landscape and the tiger-dominated areas down south. Presence of mines in parts of Kolhapur has weakened the corridor further.“There is immense grazing pressure on the jungles. This leads to palatable species of grass being trampled upon by domestic animals, which causes an increase in non-palatable and invasive species and a change in the character of forests. This makes it tough for wild herbivores to settle there,” noted wildlife researcher-activist Ramzan Virani.14-year-old Akshay Rose was grievously injured in a leopard attack at Tansa wildlife sanctuary in Maharashtra —File photoThis competition between wild herbivores and domestic animals leads farmers to shift out of jungles in search of food and water, he said. Carnivores like tigers and leopards also move out in tandem for prey. They often feast on domestic animals, which are easier to hunt and yield more meat. Areas near resource-rich habitats were also being diverted for purposes like setting up coal mines and factories, creating an additional burden on the landscape.“Because of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, encroachments in forest areas are rising. Many forests are being cleared for farming, especially in territorial forest divisions near protected areas (like wildlife sanctuaries and national parks),” Virani said. These jungles acted as buffer in areas that were not part of tiger projects (which work on a core- buffer strategy), he said.The number of tigers in non-protected areas is huge. It forms a fourth of Maharashtra’s tiger population of 203, according to the Phase IV exercise conducted by the forest department last year.Virani, who teaches in the department of zoology at the SM College in Pandharkawada, Yavatmal, suggested that to break the deadlock, habitat development work, including moisture conservation, water retention, meadow development and eradication of invasive weeds, should be undertaken fast. This will attract herbivores to these habitats, and, in turn, stabilise a healthy carnivore population in smaller areas due to food and water availability.Virani, however, added that the state government’s schemes, aimed at participatory conservation and development of sustainable livelihoods, saw the involvement of locals.Activists noted that the ban on the culling of bulls had led to these animals being discarded by their owners, once they were past their prime. They often strayed into forests for food. Girish Vashisth, divisional forest officer and spokesperson of the state wildlife wing, said that the department gives 75 per cent subsidy to people in buffer zones for buying LPG cylinders, thus reducing their dependence on forests for firewood. Toilets were also being built in areas around forests.“Livelihood options with training and job placements are being offered to the youth in areas around the Pench tiger project, Tadoba and the Umred Karhandla wildlife sanctuary,” said Vashisth. Eco-tourism facilities in jungles also created additional revenue sources for people, he said. He admitted that they had come across cases where people had encroached upon forest lands to get their rights under the Forest Rights Act.In villages around sanctuaries, cattle are allowed to graze on a rotational basis in “compartments” (the basic administrative unit in the forest department) and in case of problem animals, orders for their killing were given only as the last resort.THE COMPENSATIONDeath (Human): Kin of the victim gets Rs 8 lakh if death is caused by tigers, leopards, dhole, wild boars, crocodiles, elephants, wolves and bisons.Serious injuries: Victims are compensated with Rs 1 lakh.Death (domestic animals): Death of bulls, cows, buffaloes is compensated with 75% of the market price or Rs 25,000, whichever is lower.Destruction: Farmers are also compensated if their fields are destroyed by wild animals. The amount depends on the type of crop (food crops, horticulture, sugarcane, bananas etc).
A tiger, in Kanha Tiger Reserve, popularly known as ‘Kingfisher’ was found dead, taking the death toll to 23 in Madhya Pradesh. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A tiger, popularly known as ‘Kingfisher’, was found dead in core area of Kanha Tiger Reserve, taking the death toll of big cats in Madhya Pradesh in the last 10 months to 23, KTR officials said on Saturday.Twenty-two deaths of tigers, three due to poisoning in the core area of Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) on March 28, one each due to electrocution in the wild of Chhindwara and KTR were reported on January 22 and October 22 respectively, have been reported by National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) website site. Yesterday’s death at the KTR is yet to be reported by the NTCA. This is second of death of tiger at the KTR in the last one week. One death was reported there on October 22. “The tiger, aged around 6, was found dead in the Mukki range in core area of the park on Friday. The postmortem report of the striped animal revealed that it died due to infighting over territory with another big cat,” KTR field director Sanjay Shukla told PTI.”We have recently arrested poachers who killed the tiger which was found dead on October 22,” he added. A maximum number of nine tigers have died in the KTR followed by eight in Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) in last 10 months in the state. Shukla contended that majority of tigers in the KTR have died due to natural deaths. The first tiger death was reported from PTR’s buffer zone on January 2 this year.
The Centre has red flagged a proposed tiger safari project in Uttarakhand’s Corbett National Park and asked the state government to first comply with wildlife norms.It cited the central government’s recent decision to stop tiger safari project in Madhya Pradesh’s Pench National Park citing alleged violation of rules. The Uttarakhand forest department had in August last year sought permission of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, to start a tiger safari inside the famous national park.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The NTCA has asked the Uttarakhand government to take prior permission from Central Zoo Authority (CZA).
ALSO READ Stop tiger safari in ‘Mowgli land’: Centre to Madhya Pradesh govtIt may also be looked into that if the proposal is in conformity with and as per tiger conservation plan prepared for Corbett reserve, said a letter by the NTCA to the state, a copy of which was received in reply to an RTI query filed by wildlife activist Ajay Dubey.On the issue of the safari in the Pench National Park, the NTCA had said that it exposes tigers to poaching. The Madhya Pradesh forest department had failed to take prior approval from the CZA before construction of tiger safari there, it said.
ALSO READ Relocate people in tiger reserve within time frame: Panel to CentreThe tiger population in the country was estimated at 1,706 in 2010. It rose to 2,226 in 2014. Uttarakhand ranks second –after Karnataka–in tiger population in the country. It has an estimated 340 tigers, as per the latest government data.
For the first time in history of India’s wildlife conservation, the near threatened Eurasian Otters have been discovered and captured on camera in Satpura Tiger Reserve and in the Kanha-Pench wildlife corridor, confirming presence of these elusive creatures in the country. The photo evidence was obtained between November, last year and February when Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) and the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department (MPFD) undertook a joint camera trapping study across 58 sq.kms in Satpura Hill Range and Kanha-Pench corridor.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Otters are elusive creatures that are one of apex species in the wetlands and river ecosystems, feeding largely on fishes. In India, three species – the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata), Asian small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea) and the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) – are found. The Eurasian Otter is spread across Europe, Africa and Asia and the IUCN has listed it as near threatened on its red list. According to experts, the species has either gone extinct from several regions or it has been reduced to small isolated populations. Except for Europe, there is lack of data on population status and distribution of this species from the rest of the world.”After we obtained the evidence through camera trapping, we followed up with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and confirmed that the photographs were indeed first proof of the presence of Eurasian Otters from India. The otters were found in highland streams in the Satpura reserve,” said Milind Pariwakam, wildlife biologist, central Indian landscape programme, WCT. Camera trapping involves installation of cameras equipped with motion sensor or infrared sensor to capture animal photographs inside deep forests. Wildlife researchers commonly use the technology to establish presence of animals and collect evidence.According to Madhya Pradesh forest department, the presence of Eurasian Otters is also a heartening confirmation of the thriving rivers and streams found in Satpura ranges and in the Kanha-Pench corridor. “This is an exciting discovery that was made as part of the study on tigers in these forests. It is an indication of a healthy ecosystem and biodiversity,” said Ramesh Pratap Singh, former field director, Satpura Tiger Reserve and additional principal chief conservator of forest, wildlife protection.Apart from the Eurasian Otter, the smooth-coated otter is the most abundant and widely distributed in India while the Asian small-clawed is patchily distributed and is found in Himalayan foothills in northern India, parts of Eastern Ghats and in southern Western Ghats.To illustrate the magnitude of the discovery, WCT said in a statement, “These new photo-records extends their geographical range to central India. The discovery of the Eurasian Otter in the Satpura Tiger Reserve proves the value of large inviolate protected areas in conserving bio-diversity. The presence of the rare species in the Kanha Pench corridor also proves the value of connected landscapes for highly endangered species such as gaur, wild dogs, leopards and now the Eurasian Otter.”Satpura Tiger Reserve, established in 1999 and located in Hoshangabad district, Madhya Pradesh, is spread across 2133 sq.kms and includes Pachmarhi wildlife sanctuary, Satpura national park and Bori wildlife sanctuary. The reserve is home to nearly 30 tigers, leopards, jackal, otters, sambar, chital, gaur, Indian Giant squirrel, Indian flying squirrel and 31 species of reptiles. The vegetation is of moist deciduous forest type, teak, mixed forest and sal.
Madhya Pradesh forest department is considering a proposal to fell over 550 trees to make way for a tiger safari in its Pench national park, known as home to ‘Mowgli’, a fictional character and protagonist in English writer Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’.The forest department has started working on a project to create tiger safari in the park straddling Seoni and Chhindwara districts of the state. It has been proposed to erect a boundary wall which would require pruning of shrubs and felling of 556 trees, according to an order issued by Pench national park’s authorities.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>However, the plan has got stuck for want of permission of Delhi-based National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). The decision to cut 556 has, however, been criticised by wildlife activists who termed it as a violation of rules.”We are against the creation of tiger safari inside Pench national park. There has been continuous cases of tiger deaths in Madhya Pradesh. The state government instead of taking steps towards protection of tigers is trying to reduce the green cover and increasing people’s activities. The NTCA must reject this plan,” said Ajay Dubey, on whose petition Supreme Court had in 2010 banned tourism inside tiger reserves. Pench national park or tiger reserve is known world over as home to ‘Mowgli’– a man-cub said to have been spotted there. The park, sprawling over 758 square kms, is located on the southern boundary of Madhya Pradesh, bordering Maharashtra.It has 299 sq kms core area of Indira Priyadarshini Pench national park and the Mowgli Pench Sanctuary. The remaining 464 sq km is the buffer area.There are six tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh–Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Panna, Bori-Satpura, Sanjay-Dubri and Pench– which have about 257 big cats. While the tiger population in the country was estimated at 1,706 in 2010, t had risen to 2,226 in 2014. Madhya Pradesh ranks third–after Karnataka and Uttarakhand–in tiger population in the country.
Madhya Pradesh has lost nearly 16 tigers, including seven in Pench reserve, due to poaching and others reasons in the last one year.While an NGO blamed the state government for it, forest officials contended that most of the deaths were natural.”MP, which was once tagged as tiger state, has slipped to number three slot in the country in big cats count primarily due to the state government’s failure to protect the majestic beasts,” Ajay Dubey, who runs NGO Prayatna for protecting the feline, told PTI today.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Even after eight years, the Special Tiger Protection Force has not been formed in MP,” he said.”The conviction rate in tiger poaching is below 10 per cent in MP. The intelligence gathering regarding poaching is zero. No preventive arrest in regard to tiger poaching has been made in recent memory,” he contended.However, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Shahbaz Ahmad said, “The state government and forest department are doing their best to protect tigers. The killing of tigers is just negligible.”Maximum deaths of the big cats reported in the state were natural, he said.Ahmad said a few cases of electrocution and poisoning of tigers had come to light which were being dealt with severely.In some cases, people had laid traps to kill herbivores where the striped animals walked-in, he said.Efforts were also on to overcome man-animal conflict around the tiger reserves, he said.On the formation of Special Tiger Protection Force, Ahmad said it is under consideration of the state government.As per National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) official website, MP lost 16 tigers in the last 12 months.Seven deaths were reported from Pench Tiger Reserve, where a tigress along with its two cubs were poisoned in Satosha area last month, a senior official said, adding three persons were arrested in this connection.In September last year also, the Pench Tiger Reserve authorities arrested four poachers and recovered body parts of a big cat they had killed.”These poachers are being prosecuted,” Pench Reserve’s Director Shubranjan Sen told PTI.Besides, tiger deaths were also reported from Kanha Tiger Reserve, Bandhavgarh Reserve, Panna Tiger Reserve, Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary, Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve, a forest in Chhindwara district, Umaria-Shahdol district highway and Dewas, as per the NTCA website.The details of most of the deaths was awaited by NTCA, the website said.
With a scientific study establishing the number of tigers in the Tipeshwar wildlife sanctuary, wildlife researchers are demanding that it has to be upgraded to a tiger project to ensure habitat protection and to prevent man-animal conflict.”The study has established nine tigers, including five sub-adults and four adults, including two males and two females,” said Ramzan Virani, wildlife researcher and faculty in the department of zoology at the SM College in Pandharkawada,Yavatmal, who conducted the exercise.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The sanctuary is spread over a 148.63 sqkm area in Yavatmal district and is also a source for tigers to migrate to other sanctuaries like the nearby Painganga and even Kawal in neighbouring Telangana.Elected representatives like Raju Todsam, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Arni in Yavatmal, have already written to forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar seeking the sanctuary to be notified as a tiger reserve. This will also develop tourism facilities and boost employment for locals.Virani added that apart from these two litters – which includes one male and four female cubs – they had seen pug marks in the area a few days ago and the forest staff had informed them about the presence of a tigress with around three to four cubs.”However, we have no photographic evidence,” said Virani, adding that they would begin an evaluation in the coming days to establish more number of tigers. In addition, there are around three tigers in a distance of around 10km from the sanctuary.The data culled from the study, which was conducted during a two-and-half month period and was based on direct observation records by tracking pug marks and movements, has been forwarded to the MS Reddy, chief conservator of forest and field director of the Pench Tiger reserve.Virani said at least three of the female sub-adults would come in heat in this year’s monsoons or winters and there was a chance that they would move out of the sanctuary while defining their territories and their possession over males.”So, it is necessary for Tipeshwar to be declared as a tiger project. It will help in habitat development,” he stressed, adding that while a tigress marked out around 10 sqkm of territory, this could be restricted to around 8 to 6km in a rich habitat with a good prey base and walkways. Males, who prominently mark their territory, need around 25 to 30 sqkm area.Declaring Tipeshwar as a tiger project can also enable its expansion to include neighbouring forests, especially considering the movement of tigers there.The benefits of declaring Tipeshwar a tiger project would also include better protection, demarcation of a core and buffer area as against a less stringent eco-sensitive zone around a wildlife sanctuary, ensuring strong protection norms, and restricting activities like mining. It will also lead to the deployment of the special tiger protection force (STPF) to keep poachers away. Villages will also benefit due to schemes which will reduce the livelihood pressure on forests and man-animal conflict, Virani noted.”The pressures on the forest can be reduced due to employment and entrepreneurship development (schemes) and also because of distribution of LPG cylinders (which reduce the need for villagers to source firewood and biomass from forests for cooking needs),” he pointed out.Maharashtra has six tiger reserves. In 2014, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), government of India, ministry of environment and forests, approved the state’s notification of the Bor tiger reserve spread over Wardha and Nagpur, making it the latest tiger reserve. The tiger census, results for which were released in 2014, have said India has 2,226 tigers, up from 1,706 in 2010. Maharashtra has around 190 such big cats, more than the figure of 169 in 2010.
While the recent deaths of tigers in Maharashtra sparked off concerns, the state government is planning to deploy a special tiger protection force (STPF) for big cats outside the reserve areas. The presence of a specialised force will strengthen the conservation measures in non-tiger project areas and prevent poaching of these animals.”At present, STPF has been deployed only in reserve areas with sizeable tiger population. Now, we will deploy them in areas outside the core and buffer areas,” said Maharashtra finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, who is also the state’s forest minister.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The move is expected to control poaching in non-tiger reserve areas, which account for a sizeable tiger population. A senior state forest department official said the force was specially trained and armed, like the police and paramilitary forces. It will move around in groups, as opposed to the forest guards who walk their beats in the jungles, he added.At present, STPF has been stationed in the Pench, Melghat, Navegaon Nagzira and Tadoba tiger reserves. Maharashtra has a total of six tiger reserves, including Sahyadri and Bor. The forest department officials, however, pointed out that since the Centre provided funds only for STPF personnel deployed in tiger reserve areas, the state government would have to pay for the salaries of personnel deployed in areas outside the core and buffer zones.Meanwhile, Mungantiwar said it was likely that the tiger found dead at Deolapar near Nagpur recently had strayed into Maharashtra from the neighbouring Madhya Pradesh and stressed on the need for public awareness to ensure tiger conservation.According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) database, in 2015, the country’s tiger mortality figures were marginally up from 66 in 2014 and stood at 69, of which Maharashtra accounted for 12 deaths due to various reasons. This is a rise from just seven tiger deaths in the state in 2014. Actor Amitabh Bachchan has consented to be Maharashtra’s tiger ambassador to help boost the conservation efforts.Maharashtra has six national parks, 47 wildlife sanctuaries and four conservation reserves with a tiger population of around 190 in 2014, up from 169 in 2010. According to the tiger census, results for which were released in 2014, India has 2,226 tigers, up from 1,706 in 2010.According to the India State of Forest Report -2015 (ISFR), published by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), India’s recorded forest area (RFA) covers 23.26 per cent of the 32,87,263 sq km geographical area.The report said Maharashtra has RFAs of 20.01 per cent of the total geographical area. The National Forest Policy 1988 has set a target of 33 per cent.DeathsIn December, four tiger cubs were found dead, reportedly due to hunger in Chandrapur district. In January, a dead male tiger was found in the Deolapar range near Nagpur.