Two tigresses to be flown into Panna forest (With Image)

January 21st, 2009 - 10:25 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) A tiger count is in progress in Madhya Pradesh’s Panna Tiger Reserve even as officials are finalising plans to fly in two tigresses from another sanctuary next month, officials said.”The two tigresses will be selected for relocation either from Bandhavgarh or Kanha tiger reserve,” said L.K. Choudhary, field director, Panna Tiger Reserve. He added that the step has been taken to partially correct the skewed sex ratio of tigers in Panna.

Lately there have been concerns of low tiger population in Panna and officials admit that they have not seen any tigresses or cubs in the reserve for the past couple of months.

But tigers, they said, still roam the forests as is evident from the pugmarks observed by forest guards during patrols.

Habitat destruction and disturbances were considered main causes for the low tiger population in Panna.

“The present survey by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) would ascertain these facts in Panna, mainly the causes for low tiger density, as well as their numbers through camera traps and other methods,” said Rajesh Gopal, head of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) that manages the tiger reserves in the country.

“This is however not a government of India’s (central government) survey but a study commissioned by the state to WII. The findings would help us to plan better protection in the reserve,” he added.

Choudhary said that between April 2006 and March 2008, a gang of criminals had been using the forest as their hideout. Last year the leader of the gang was killed, while several other gang members were arrested by the police.

Officials believe the disturbances might have forced the big cats to migrate to adjoining forests.

The Panna field director alleged that a local farmer had hired the criminal gang to prevent forest staff from taking charge of an area that he used for mustard cultivation.

“He hired the Thokia gang after the forest department objected to his (the farmer’s) encroachment on the tiger habitat. But after the police gunned down the gang leader and several of the gang members were arrested, the situation has gradually improved, as forest staff can now do their work without fear,” Choudhary told IANS on phone.

The 670-sq km Panna reserve, nestled in the picturesque Vindhya Hills of the Bundelkhand region, was declared a tiger sanctuary in 1994 and is one of the five tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh. The others are Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Pench and Satpura-Bori-Pachmari.

Although the latest tiger numbers would be known only after the completion of the survey by the WII next month, a 2000 estimate had put the number at 32. The reserve is home to many other endangered animals such as the black buck, the chinkara deer, hyena, the Indian wild dog and different varieties of birds.

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