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Big cat hope rises in Dampa reserve
- Joint field survey finds tiger scats

Guwahati, April 25: Genetic evidence of tiger presence has been found for the first time in the Dampa tiger reserve.

Nine scats of tiger origin have been found in the reserve and work is on to find out the number of individual tigers. The findings came to light during a joint field survey by officials of the tiger reserve, Aaranyak and WWF India in March. “Nine scats of tiger origin have been found in Dampa out of the 25 scats collected,” Laltlanhlua Zathang, field director, Dampa tiger reserve told The Telegraph.

Dampa tiger reserve is situated in the western part of Mizoram, spread over an area of 550 square km and shares a 127km international border with Bangladesh. The area consists of forest with terrain interpolated by hills, valleys, streams and rivulets.

The work has been undertaken as part of the all-India phase-four tiger monitoring programme initiated by the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India. Dampa is a bio-diversity hotspot with variety of flora and fauna of Indo-Malayan origin. It was declared as a tiger reserve in 1994. “I am optimistic of tiger presence in Dampa once the results are out,” Zathang said. The conservation authority has categorised Dampa as one of the low-density tiger reserves, with a deficiency of data on the current population status of tigers in the area.

Udayan Borthakur, head of the wildlife genetics programme of Aaranyak, said, further efforts are on to find out the minimum number of tigers present in Dampa, through the use of DNA fingerprinting techniques. “It is good news that there is tiger presence in Dampa,” he said.

A park official said cameras have been deployed in 200 square km to find out tigers but no pictures of tigers have been captured till now. The genetic evidence of tigers in the reserve is good news for presence of the animal in some low-density tiger reserves in the region. Last month, the first-ever picture of a tiger in Namdapha was welcomed by wildlife conservationists, as there was great doubt of its presence. The management evaluation report of Dampa by the conservation authority said though the regular staff strength is just 16 and most of the protection is done by muster roll daily wagers, the morale of the staff is kept very high to extract better results.

“Though temporary, they are very active and give their best. They are allotted to different areas depending on requirements. There is a need to have better staff strength on a permanent basis and it is better to select locals for the work,” the report said. It also cited inadequate funds, which was also not received in time as some of the deficiencies.


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