Around 70 adult tigers live outside protected forest areas in Vidarbha, a study by the Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) revealed. This has prompted the Maharashtra government to think about a plan to conserve the wildlife in these areas in the next two years.
The camera trap study — an enumeration technique that uses heat and motion sensors to detect the movement of wild animals and takes photographs, which was conducted under the WCT-USAID Tiger Matters Programme, between November 2014 and June 2015, also found around 180 adult leopards living in these areas. The project covered an area of 3,975sqkm outside the Tadoba Andhari, Pench, Bor tiger reserves and Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary. “The fieldwork carried out revealed there are healthy, well-protected forests outside tiger reserves. This also speaks volumes about the accommodative communities living in and around these territorial forests,” said Anish Andheria, president, WCT.
Andheria said this was also the first time areas outside protected forests have been intensively sampled for a tiger census. The study revealed the number of tigers in some reserve forest blocks is higher than that of several tiger reserves in India. For instance, the tiger density in the Kanhalgaon-Central Chanda block is 2.34 a 100 sqkm, which is more than that of the Anshi-Dandeli, Sanja-Dubri and Melghat, among many others. In the Junona-Central Chanda block, the tiger density stood at 1.77 a 100 sqkm — higher than the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve.
“Maharashtra is the first state in India to undertake such an extensive camera trap exercise in territorial forests. The WCT was delighted to be a part of this exercise and looks forward to working with forest officials and other NGOs to protect these critical areas,” said Andheria.
Maharashtra forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar told HT the state government is preparing a detailed project report for all six tiger reserves for tourism and tiger conservation. “A committee has been instructed to develop the report in a span of two years regarding all factors related to the conservation and protection in both forested areas and buffer zones.”
With regard to the tiger numbers from Vidarbha, Mungantiwar said, “It is good that the number of tigers as well as leopards has increased outside the core areas. Vidarbha has the potential to become the capital of tigers, and hence the state has taken the initiative of awareness towards conservation of the national animal.”
The latest tiger census as released by the Maharashtra forest department on Tuesday revealed 190 tigers across the state. “Our study revealed more than one-third of the total population of tigers was spotted outside protected areas,” said Andheria.
The study was conducted in partnership with the Maharashtra forest department and the camera traps were designed and donated by Panthera Inc., an organisation focusing on wildlife conservation around the world.
EVERY TIGER COUNTS
* The study was conducted as per the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) guidelines with the study area divided into 3 sqkm grids
* A camera trap pair was installed in each 3 sqkm area for 25 days and was left running for 24 hours
* The data was collected over 27,970 camera trap days, making it the most rigorous camera trapping exercise ever carried out outside protected areas in India
* The WCT team also conducted several capacity-building workshops for the frontline forest staff so that they could conduct future assessments independently
OTHER SPECIES SPOTTED ON CAMERA TRAPS
Apart from tigers, a host of different species were spotted during the camera trapping exercise such as wolves, jackals, Indian foxes, hyenas, black-naped hares, jungle cats, rusty spotted cats, small Indian civets, palm civets, pangolins, porcupines, sloth bears, Indian gazelles and the Rhesus macaque
Small Indian Civet
(Photo credit - © Wildlife Conservation Trust/USAID/Maharashtra Forest Department | Camera traps: Panthera Inc.)