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Tigers fall prey to faulty food chain

 

 Times of India, New Delhi, 15 Mar, 2015


RANCHI: Poor biological management in Palamu Tiger Reserve (PTR) has led to a drastic fall in the number of tigers over the past 10 years. From 42 in 2003, the number of tigers has come down to three plus in 2014. Experts believe that human intervention and poor ecological management on the part of forest officials are to blame for the alarming situation.

 

Betla tiger reserve spread across 1130 square kilometres comprising 414 square kms in its core area had been home to more than 50 tigers in 1974. But since the creation of Jharkhand, the number kept reducing. Saryu Rai, environmental activist and now parliamentary affairs minister in Jharkhand government, believes prey base for the tigers have reduced in PTR region over the years. "For one tiger to prey upon there must be 35-40 spotted deer (chital) or 25-30 sambar deer on an average and in turn these herbivores need substantial amount of grass to feed upon," he said clarifying that the grass in forest area has been replaced by foreign grass and weeds leading to reduction in number of the herbivores.

 

Forest officials however have a different story to tell. They are of the view that the tiger census methodology adopted before 2010 was unscientific and hence the old figures must not be considered for comparison with the recent figures. DFO, buffer PTR AK Mishra said that under revised guidelines of wildlife Institute of India the census is now being carried out on the basis of 15 point parameter which includes DNA sampling of scat and camera traps making the figure more accurate. "We are using software to feed data based on all 15 point parameters which also includes scratch marks, urine spots and pug marks to come out with a more realistic figure," he said. Asked if grass being replaced by weed and drop in number of herbivores was also a reason, Mishra admitted that the department does not get funds for removal of weed. "If one wants all 191 villages to remain within the PTR region they have to bear the burden of weed," he said.

 

Professor in Zoology and pro vice chancellor Vinoba Bhave University M K Sinha is however not ready to buy the argument of forest department. "After all what is biological management all about. It is the responsibility of the forest department to maintain the food chain suitable to tigers and for that purpose they get funds to maintain grass cover in the forest," he said. Sinha also refuted the argument that all previous tiger census data (pre-2010) were fake and should be shelved.

 

Palamu MLA Radha Krishna Kishore also blames it on increasing human interference in form of police pickets being erected not just in the buffer zone but also in core area. "More than 12 police pickets have come up and we expect the tigers to be present there," he said with a smile. Kishore also pointed out that forest conservation was in shambles as out of 191 posts of foresters only 11 were in place.

 

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/flora-fauna/Tigers-fall-prey-to-faulty-foodchain/articleshow/46570283.cms