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Big cat count rises to six in Palamau Tiger Reserve

Wildlife institute of India, Dehradun confirms presence of six tigers in the reserve. Tiger count was three in 2014

ranchi Updated: Sep 13, 2017 15:44 IST
Sanjoy Dey
A tiger at Palamau Tiger Reserve
A tiger at Palamau Tiger Reserve (HT File Photo)

Here is a good news for the wildlife lovers. Tiger count in Palamau Tiger Reserve (PTR) has shot up to six, forest officials said on Tuesday.

“The Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun through DNA sample analyses has confirmed that tiger count in PTR is minimum six. We received the confirmation report on Monday,” said LR Singh, principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF-wildlife).

One of the oldest tiger reserves of the country—notified a year after Project Tiger was announced in 1973 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Palamau had 22 tigers in 1972, according to the book ‘Main Baagh Hoon’, written by the former PCCF (wildlife) Pradeep Kumar.

The reserve recorded its highest tiger population in 1995 with 71 tigers but since then the big cat numbers have been dwindling and come down to 10 in 2010. The count further declined to three in 2014 unlike rest of the country where tiger population witnessed 30% increase between 2010 and 2014.

The census report had caused concern for the state forest department. Wildlife experts had blamed degradation of forest, development activities, poaching, police-Maoist conflict and mushrooming human habitation for dwindling number of big cats in the PTR.

In a bid to recheck the tiger presence, the forest department sent at least 50 scats between 2014 and 2016 to the WII Dehradun for DNA sample analysis.

“Out of 50, six scats were found of six unique tigers. However, several scats had decomposed during the period and some were found of leopards,” Singh said, adding, “We are expecting the numbers will rise further in the 2017 all India tiger census report.”

Spread over 1129.93 sq km, the reserve is also home for 47 species of mammals and 174 species of birds. However, entire forest was never checked for counting the big cats in any census. Experts said merely 30% to 40% of the total reserve was evaluated during the census due to several reasons, including shortage of manpower.

State wildlife board member DS Srivastava said, “Tiger census was never taken seriously in Jharkhand. Reporting process for tiger has been faulty. Therefore, count dropped in census report.”

He said rising tiger numbers was a good sign for Jharkhand and an indication of improved habitation in the reserve area despite several threats. “Several government projects are coming up in the reserve that should be restricted to save the tigers in the reserve,” he said.