Uttarakhand forest department to radio collar wild animals for study
Uttarakhand forest department authorities have initiated the process to put radio collars on five tigers, 10 elephants and 15 leopards in the hill state in a bid to study the animals’ movements and behaviorial pattern and also prevent the growing man-animal conflict.
JS Suhag, chief wildlife warden, Uttarakhand, said that the radio collar project is in progress as part of the three separate initiatives to reduce man-animal conflict and study these animals’ movement patterns.
“We have received permission from the Central government to put radio collars on 10 elephants in and around the Haridwar forest division ahead of next year’s Mahakumbh. Usually, the elephants stray into human habitations. These elephants have been identified by a team of experts and the radio-collar project will start soon,” said Suhag.
The jumbo population has increased in the hill state, leading to an uptick in man-elephant conflict.
In June, according to the elephant census that was conducted earlier this year, the pachyderm population in the state has reached 2,026.
In 2012, there were 1,559 elephants in Uttarakhand, and their population rose to 1,839 by 2017.
Suhag said radio-collars would be put on 15 leopards in different parts of the state, but predominantly in the Rajaji Tiger Reserve (RTR) landscape.
The radio-collar project for leopards is a part of the initiative with the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII), he added.
“WII scientists want to study the nature of a leopard. For example, the areas it moves around, how much time it spends in what type of an area, around what time it moves and a natural habitat that it prefers. The leopards will be put radio-collars predominantly around the RTR landscape,” he said.
Neeraj Sharma, divisional forest officer (DFO), Haridwar division, said, “We are keeping a target of five leopards each from Haridwar and Dehradun forest divisions and another five from the RTR for the radio-collar project in a bid to study their behaviour. We will be able to form better strategies on how to reduce the man-leopard conflict after we learn more about their movement patterns.”
He said a leopard, which had strayed into human settlements, was captured last week and was later radio-collared at the Chidiyapur rescue centre. The leopard was monitored for upto 12 hours following which it was released in the wild.
Five tigers are due for translocation for the first time in Uttarakhand from Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) to RTR in November in a bid to increase the animal’s population in the western part of the Rajaji landscape.
These five tigers will also be radio-collared and monitored for the next two years.
DK Singh, director, RTR, said, “All preparations have been done for the translocation of the tigers. Camera traps have been set up in the CTR landscape to identify these tigers following which the translocation process will start by the first week of November. Radio-collars will be put on these tigers to study their movement patters.”
The tigers would be monitored for the next two years to get a sense of how they would move out of their natural habitat, their interactions with tigresses in the Rajaji landscape, etc, he added.
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) had given the permission to put radio collars on these tigers as part of the relocation project itself.
In July, CTR had reported the highest tiger density among India’s 50 reserves.
CTR has a density of 14 tigers per 100 square (sq) kilometres (km).
It also recorded the highest tiger population at 231 and 266, if the reserve is taken into account, according to a publication called Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India, which was released by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and WII.
Similarly, the tiger population in the RTR is 38, while including the reserve is 52.
Last September, the RTR landscape was chosen for a pilot project on man-wildlife conflict mitigation by the MoEFCC.
The forest officials had started their preparations for next year’s Mahakumbh since last November, when man-animal hotspots were identified and geo-tagged.
Response teams at multiple levels were formed and a geo-tagged map was prepared by the Haridwar forest division by collating information on all the conflict incidents over the past two years.
The geo-tagging holds the key in providing the precise information to the forest officials on how frequently did a conflict occur in a certain area and the pattern helps to devise an effective strategy to contain similar incidents in the near future.
RTR, a hotspot for human-leopard conflict in Uttarakhand, had cited in a report in 2019 that 23 people were killed in the reserve over the past five years.
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