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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

Uttarakhand wildlife activists want strategy to protect sub-adult tigers

Of the five tigers that died in Uttarakhand this year, three were sub-adults in the age group of 2-3 years, prompting wildlife activists to pitch for a strategy for the conservation of young big cats.

dehradun Updated: May 12, 2018 21:33 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times
The last national estimation done in 2015 recorded 340 tigers in Uttarakhand, including 240 at Corbett reserve.
The last national estimation done in 2015 recorded 340 tigers in Uttarakhand, including 240 at Corbett reserve.(National Geographic/Getty Images)
         

Of the five tigers that died in Uttarakhand this year, three were sub-adults in the age group of 2-3 years, prompting wildlife activists to pitch for a strategy for the conservation of young big cats.

A sub-adult big cat died at the Corbett Tiger Reserve in January, another in Terai region, and the latest death was reported from the Haridwar forest division.

Though tigers above 18 months old are included in the national estimation, there is no strategy to conserve the vulnerable sub-adults. Big cats aged 2-3 years are up against odds in the natural environment, and nothing much could be done to protect them, experts say.

“After the cubs become 2 years old, the mother pushes them out and that’s when they are most vulnerable. But that doesn’t mean that there should be a plan to conserve them. It’s a natural process,” said Qamar Qureshi, a tiger expert at Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

Only half of the three-four cubs in a litter survive as others are either killed by other tigers and wild animals, or die due to low immune system, experts say. The high mortality was a reason for non-inclusion of the cubs in the All India Tiger Estimation conducted every four years. The estimation includes tigers above 18 months.

The last national estimation done in 2015 recorded 340 tigers in Uttarakhand, including 240 at Corbett.

The Institute on Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) conducted a study on immunity level of animals in three tiger reserves -- Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh and Bandipur-Wayanad Tiger Reserve in Karnataka. The study shows how genetic variation helps cub survival in the wild, but conservation of sub-adult big cats remains a prime concern of wildlife lovers.

“The sub-adults can be easily conserved if the staff starts routine foot patrolling. For this, the number of ground staff should be optimum. Only patrolling on vehicles won’t help,” wildlife activist Rajeev Mehta said.

Activists want the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and forest departments to take up protection of sub-adults with an urgency.

“It’s difficult to save dispersed tigers, but with a strategy we can conserve sub-adults. After all, they grow up to become adults. If we manage to do so, then our tiger numbers will increase,” said Haridwar-based activist Dinesh Pandey.