Spotted: Three most rare species in Palamu tiger reserve

  • Sanjoy Dey, Hindustan Times, Ranchi
  • Updated: Jul 29, 2016 15:00 IST
The four-horned antelope, or chousingha, is a small antelope found in India and Nepal. This antelope has four horns, which distinguish it from most other bovids, which have two horns. One pair of horns is located between the ears, and the other on the forehead. (HT Photo)

Here is a good news for wildlife lovers. Three most rare species — mouse deer, smooth coated otter and four-horned antelope — have been discovered in Jharkhand’s lone tiger reserve in Palamu.

These species are fast disappearing across the globe but the Palamu Tiger Reserve (PTR) is emerging as a suitable habitat for their survival, officials said.

All three species are enlisted in the red-list of International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) and Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

“The animals were trapped in cameras during the intensive monitoring of wild animals in the PTR conducted during May and June,” the tiger reserve’s director Sanjay Srivastava said.

“I am not sure about four-horned antelope but presence of Mouse deer and Otter was noticed for the first time in the history of PTR.”

Mouse deer has a body length of only 23 inches (57.5 cm), with a tail length of 1 inches (2.5 cm); it weighs around 3 kg. The animal is fast disappearing. (HT Photo)

Over 100 trap cameras, 200 trackers and experts were put into service for an intensive monitoring of wildlife, particularly tiger. Unfortunately, cameras could not capture image of tiger but they gave a reason to cheer to forest officials by capturing three rare species.

“The mouse deer — a little known species — is vanishing fast. In India, the mouse deer, also called as Indian Chevrotain, is a very timid and nocturnal animal. They are very difficult to spot in the wild. Same is the status of four-horned antelope and Otter. They are listed as either vulnerable or insufficiently known in the ICUN list,” Srivastava said.

The range and population of Smooth Coated Otter are found to be shrinking in the Indian subcontinent due to loss of wetland habitat and contamination of waterways by pesticides. (HT Photo)

The Palamu Tiger Reserve — one of the oldest habitats brought under the Project Tiger in 1973 to protect the national animal — is spread over 1,129.93 square km area and houses 39 species of mammals, including tigers, and 174 species of birds.

The reserve has been in news for more than a decade for declining number of tigers, habitat degradation, human interference, Maoist activities and acute shortage of manpower.

According to a census in 1974, there were 50 tigers in the reserve but the number declined to 38 in 2005 and 10 in 2010. At present, it has only three big cats.

The camera trap in the reserve last captured a tiger in February 2016.

PTR director Srivastava, however, claimed that presence of these rare species were an indicator of good wildlife habitat in the reserve. “Animals hardly migrate from the reserve only because of the dense forest and adequate forest food availability.”

He said the reserve has more than 150 elephants. Each elephant eat around 250 kg of food per day, which means about 38 tonne of food for 150 elephants per day. Elephant migration from PTR is hardly reported, which means the food is available in the forest.

Wildlife experts are enthusiastic with the news of availability of rare species in PTR.

“Jharkhand has 11 wildlife sanctuaries but they were hardly monitored properly. If camera trapping exercise is conducted in every sanctuary, many more rare species will be discovered,” said DS Srivastava, a member of state wildlife board.

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