6 May 2008, 0122 hrs IST,P J Joychen,TNN
JAIPUR: Water scarcity in Rajasthan has thrown up a pleasant surprise.
Thanks to the drying up of several watering holes at the Ranthambore national park, some tigresses led 14 thirsty cubs to a hole, giving forest officials the first glimpse of the new additions to Rajasthan’s alarmingly dwindling tiger population.
“We have spotted at least 14 cubs in the recent past,” Rajasthan’s chief wildlife warden R N Mehrotra said, explaining that the cubs had been spotted in batches. The cubs were following their mothers to ponds and reservoirs, which are closely watched by wardens to keep count of endangered big cats.
Rajpal Singh, a member of the state’s empowered committee on forest and wildlife, said the cubs were spotted by rangers. “Most of the cubs were about three months old,” he said.
Tigresses are generally very protective of cubs and shield them from public glare, Singh said. “But with the scorching heat, these tigresses had to take the cubs to the watering holes, enabling wildlife staff to spot the cubs,” he added.
He said two cubs, about six month old, were also spotted in the Berda area of the park. “Now the number of cubs below one year of age has increased to over a dozen and we are contemplating shifting some of them to the Sariska sanctuary as there is no tiger left there,” he said.
The discovery of the cubs will have a huge impact on the tiger population at Ranthambore, which has the lowest count among parks in the recently released tiger census report.
Tighter security paying off
According to the census published earlier this year, Madhya Pradesh had the highest population at 300, with Rajasthan at the last spot with mere 32 big cats. Uttarakhand (178), Karnataka (290) and Assam (70) were the other states with tigers.
Wildlife experts say that the spotlight on falling tiger numbers ? nationally now at 1,411 ? has led to tighter security in most parks which have become easy hunting grounds for poachers.
“We are tracking the movement of young cubs, especially the males. Right now, they are still in the process of marking their roaming territories,” said Daulat Singh Shaktawat, the range forest officer at Ranthambore. The boom is all the more welcome as poaching had almost halved the tiger population at this park three years ago.
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