Delhi upholds Sariska model to save Manas tigers

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Delhi upholds Sariska model to save Manas tigers

Issue Date: Tuesday , June 23 , 2009

Guwahati, June 22: The Centre has proposed replication of a Sariska model at the Manas National Park to halt the rapid depletion in the population of the big cat at the Unesco site.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority — the country’s apex body in the field — has asked the Assam forest department to start in-situ erection of enclosures for tigers and its prey population at the Manas Tiger Reserve for an ambitious breeding programme.

The conservation authority had last year relocated two tigers from Ranthambhore to start a breeding programme at Sariska to replenish its extinct tiger population.

In a recent letter to the Assam chief wildlife warden, the NTCA member secretary, Rajesh Gopal said, “The intensive, active management is aimed at allowing the tiger population to build up at the reserve and protect it from poachers and other decimating factors”.

The Manas tiger reserve had been assessed to be performing below its ecological potential as per the all-India tiger estimation (2005-08).

“The status of the tigers and their habitat has not improved (at Manas) owing to several decimating factors which include poaching, habitat and prey depletion,” Gopal said.

The number of tigers at Manas had gone down to 65 in the 2002 census from 125 in 1997. However, the 2005-2008 estimation only cited a total figure for the entire state, pegged at 70.

The NTCA had suggested two adult tigresses and a male tiger that should be translocated from the same habitat or from a tiger-bearing forest within the same landscape, into a larger enclosure (more than 50 hectares for each tigress) built in-situ within the tiger reserve. The enclosures for the tigresses would form part of a larger enclosure (more than 200 hectares) housing the male, with the facility for the tigresses to interact separately with the tiger for courtship.

The Assam forest department has held consultations with NGOs on the proposal.

The NTCA had asked the forest department to send a detailed proposal in this regard, including the translocation protocol, in consultation with the Wildlife Institute of India.

“We are studying the proposal and trying to establish its feasibility,” the Assam chief conservator of forest (wildlife) D.M. Singh told The Telegraph.

“The mother and the cubs would be released back in the wild with radio collars once the cubs attain two years of age,” the NTCA letter added.

It further said the practice of building up the tiger population by offering protection to the most vulnerable stage of their life cycle should be stopped once the tiger density in the reserve reaches the minimum for the habitat type.

A field official in Manas said the proposal was difficult to implement in reality.

“Catching tigers in Manas itself is a difficult proposition. Secondly, a huge area will be taken by the enclosures which would block an area also meant for other animals,” he pointed out.

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