Move to supplement tiger prey base in Sunderbans

Move to supplement tiger prey base in Sunderbans

Ananya Dutta
KOLKATA, December 22, 2009

To combat the situation of an increasing number of incidents of tigers straying into the inhabited areas of the Sunderbans islands and attacking the locals, the authorities have decided to introduce deer in the forested areas to supplement the prey base for the big cats.

The decision was taken based on an old recommendation made by the State Wildlife Advisory Board which said that a prey-base depletion may be responsible for the increasing incidents of tigers straying away from forests, said Pradeep Vyas, director of the Sunderban Biosphere Reserve.

Since 2004, Reserve officials have been maintaining a population of spotted deer indigenous to the Sunderbans, at two parks — Dobaki and Jharkhali. They will release about 70 of them in the core forest area this winter.

“Currently veterinary doctors are examining them to check for any diseases before they are released,” Mr. Vyas added. “In 2009, 12 incidents were recorded in which tigers attacked villagers or their livestock. 4 people were killed in tiger attacks,” said Subrata Mukherjee, field director of Sunderban Tiger Reserve.

Wildlife experts have repeatedly suggested that habitat destruction and a depleting prey-base are responsible for these occurrences.

“The deer have been reared by employees of the forest department and do not possess the acumen to survive in the wild. They will end up as easy target for poachers,” said Biswajit Roy Chowdhury, secretary of the Nature Environment and Wildlife Society.

“It is an abrupt measure. Even if these deer are preyed upon by tigers, officials can’t guarantee regular supply after these 70 deer have perished,” Mr. Roy Chowdhury added.


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