| Tiger in Namdapha. Credit: Aaranyak |
Guwahati, April 3: Seeing is believing and Namdapha tiger reserve has proved just that.
The first camera-trapped picture of a tiger has proved that there is one in India’s easternmost park. There may be many more.
“This is the first picture of a tiger in Namdapha seen through camera-trapping which is now accepted as a reliable tool to ascertain tiger presence,” field director of Namdapha tiger reserve S.T. Jongsam told The Telegraph.
The picture of an adult male tiger was captured by two cameras in the park on March 20. Camera-trapping was carried out in Namdapha from the first week of February to March 29 by Aaranyak, an NGO, in collaboration with the state forest department.
The 1,985 square km Namdapha tiger reserve is located in eastern Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang district. The tiger reserve has been categorised by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) of India as “poor”, based on evaluation made by officials earlier.
Jongsam said there may be many more tigers as the team has noticed pugmarks and collected scat samples suspected to be those of tigers. Those have been sent to the genetic laboratory of Aaranyak for analysis.
“We are not disclosing the location of the camera that took the picture of the tiger because of some problems,” the official said. Poachers have stolen 20 cameras of the 80 which deployed at various locations in the park. The official said on earlier two attempts of camera-trapping tigers could not be seen. Four base camps were established at Happy Valley, Hornbill, Farmbase and Deban for the exercise. The report from Namdapha tiger reserve says during a camera-trapping exercise, the frontline staff and members of Aaranyak had to face poachers’ fire at Bulbulia and Kodboi and the base camps were damaged.
Firoz Ahmed, a wildlife biologist, who had conducted the camera-trapping exercise, said it is not that tigers in Namdapha have gone extinct. “There is a small population surviving,” he said. “There is no tiger habitat in 50-60 per cent area of the 1,985 square km Namdapha as these are high-altitude areas,” Ahmed said.
He said protection is “almost zero” and there is a dire need to strengthen protective measures.
Other than tigers, the camera trapping exercise also recorded over 30 species of mammals and a few species of birds. These include sambars, barking deer, serows, elephants, gaurs, wild boars, hog badgers, binturongs, Khaleej pheasant, marbled cats, Himalayan black bear, common leopards and large Indian civets.
“A permanent tiger protection force is essential in the park to tackle the activities of goons who had disturbed the camera-trapping exercise. At present some locals have been engaged temporarily,” Jongsam said.
He added that the exercise definitely indicates that protection measures in Namdapha tiger reserve need to be strengthened to save the tiger population and its prey base.
He said park has numerous problems right from infrastructure to communication and force. There are less than 25 staff for a 1,985 square km park. “A satellite phone has been sanctioned by the NTCA but the park still has not received it,” he said.
One of the biggest threats to protection and conservation efforts in the reserve is posed by settlements of the Lisu community in its core area. Altogether 84 families of the community, which migrated from Myanmar in the 1930s, are settled in five villages deep inside the forest area. “These people are adamant and are in no mood to go,” a senior forest department official said. The management effectiveness evaluation report had said as the Lisus occupy the interior areas, there is no mechanism to monitor their activities.