Forest officials have sighted a royal Bengal tiger at an unusually high altitude of above 12,000 feet in the Himalayas, prompting ecologists to sense another disturbing instance of climate change.
A senior bureaucrat said the tiger—the animal typically lives at a height of 3,000-4,000 feet—was spotted in the upper ranges of Uttarakhand, adding to the faunal diversity of the rugged state bordering China’s Tibet on the north.
The big cat was seen in a picture shot from a camera fixed in Askot Wildlife Sanctuary in March this year, Divisional Forest Officer (Pithoragarh) IP Singh informed.
“Usually, it is other varieties of big cats, like snow leopards, you find at altitudes above 12,000 feet,” he told Hindustan Times. “The image was captured on March 13.”
The sanctuary, 55 km from Pithoragh in the state’s Kumaon administrative division, lies at an altitude between 2,000 ft and 6,900 ft. Famous for its musk deer population and conservation, its 600-sq-km habitat is home to leopard, jungle cat, civet, barking deer and brown bear besides the antelope-like and serow and goral among other mammals.
A 2014 data put the country’s number of royal Bengal tiger--India’s national animal—at 2,226, registering a 30% jump in four years.
Scientists say tiger sighting at 12,000-ft height indicates an effect of global warming.
DP Dobhal of Dehradun-based Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology said the tiger-spotting meant the animal found it warm at an elevation of 12,000 feet. “It’s not healthy news,” he told HT. “Now more animals may scale up. That will pose threat to other animals of the upper Himalayas.”
The numbers of tigers in Uttarakhand has grown, as per an all-India estimation last year. The state, formed in 2000, reported 340 tigers—the country’s second, after Karnataka (406).
Another wildlife expert pointed out that tiger-sighting in higher pose a challenge for the forest department in monitoring big cats. “Already, we are struggling to conserve tigers in their know territories,” he added.
Wildlife activist Abhishek Kumar said the Uttarakhand forest department has “repeatedly failed” to conserve tigers. “Seizure of tiger skins from the Corbett National Park this year is a classic example,” he noted.