| Tiger pugmarks at D. Ering Memorial wildlife sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh. Telegraph picture |
Jorhat, Aug. 14: Royal Bengal tigers have apparently returned to D. Ering Memorial wildlife sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh after a gap of over a decade.
Pasighat divisional forest officer and administrative head of the sanctuary Tashi Mize said tiger pugmarks were spotted a few days back in several parts of the sanctuary. “It is after more than a decade that tiger pugmarks have been noticed in the sanctuary,” he said.
Mize said for the first time, a tiger census would be carried out using cameras this winter in the sanctuary, which has, of late, turned into one of the most well protected wildlife habitats in the land of the dawn-lit mountains.
The 190sqkm sanctuary in East Siang district is crisscrossed by the Siang and Sibea rivers and was a haven for poachers and timber smugglers till a year back until the forest department took an initiative to develop it on the lines of Kaziranga National Park. The forest department took help of the Adi Baane Kebang, the apex body of the Adi community in this regard. The Kebang issued a directive to its people living near the sanctuary to give up hunting or face social boycott. This directive has come as a blessing, with villagers keeping away from hunting in the sanctuary.
Mize said though hunting was rampant in the sanctuary till a few years back there was no record of tigers being killed.
“Tigers probably deserted the sanctuary after the population of prey animals (mainly deer) started decreasing following rampant poaching,” he said.
The forest official said things had changed of late and apart from deer, the populations of buffalo and other animals witnessing a gradual increase. “This is probably the reason behind the tigers revisiting the sanctuary. A few have probably made it their permanent home,” he said.
The sight of a herd of deer grazing on the fringes of the sanctuary came as a pleasant surprise to Union minister of state for minority affairs, Ninong Ering, who visited the sanctuary a couple of months back. It was something unseen till a year back at the sanctuary.
Mize said the tigers had most likely come from the nearby Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Assam or Mehao wildlife sanctuary in Lower Dibang Valley district. He said efforts were on to develop the sanctuary into one of the best wildlife habitats in the region for which several NGOs, mainly Wildlife Trust of India, had been providing necessary help. “A motor boat provided by the WTI a few years back has helped a lot in regularly patrolling the sanctuary,” he said.
Arunachal Pradesh has two tiger reserves — Pakke and Namdapha. While six tigers were camera trapped in Pakke in 2012-13, Namdapha is believed to be home to three tigers at present. A comprehensive genetic monitoring exercise is currently on in the reserve to ascertain the exact tiger population.