Ranchi, Nov. 23: Two tiger cubs — and tiny pugmarks — have been spotted at Palamau Tiger Reserve, 180km from the capital, signalling a welcome boost to the population of the endangered Panthera tigris in India.
Pugmarks of cubs, spotted by villagers on the fringes of the reserve last week, confirmed the sightings of a “tigress and her two progeny” by Latehar foresters.
“Around a month ago, we spotted a tigress along with two cubs on the Latehar-Palamau Tiger Reserve patch. The exact time of their birth isn’t known but the tigress perhaps gave birth some three months ago,” said Mamta Priyadarshi, divisional forest officer of Latehar division.
She added that because the reserve did not come under their territory, they forwarded the information to Palamau officials.
“Maine aankh se toh nahin dekha lekin panja maa aur do chhauwa ka hi tha (I haven’t seen with my own eyes, but pugmarks looked like those of a mother and her two cubs). The two seemed of the same litter,” a daily wager over phone told The Telegraph. Tribal residents refer to tiger cubs as chhauwa.
However, reserve authorities don’t want to confirm the births before physical or visual confirmation. DFO (core) Premjit Anand said they were not in a position to give details on births. “We have received reports but unless we physically or visually confirm them, we can’t issue an official statement,” he said.
This summer, Palamau officials had said that camera traps and local sightings had confirmed two tigresses with bulging stomachs indicating pregnancy.
According to the nationwide tiger census, Palamau Tiger Reserve, spread over 1,100sqkm, is said to be home to 10 tigers.
On why newborn tiger cubs would go undetected for months, Palamau wildlife expert D.S. Srivastava said: “Tigers are shy. And a wild tigress is extremely protective of her young.”
Srivastava, who said his “network” had confirmed that at least two cubs were born, added he had spent a whole day in the forest to photograph cubs but failed.
He pointed out why the tigress might be shifting base frequently.
“Heavy police presence in Palamau-Latehar, including reserve areas, will make the tigers jittery. Gunshots, vehicles and heavy human presence naturally send animals to a tizzy. That’s why the tigress must be shifting frequently at the moment. I just hope they don’t encounter poachers,” said Srivastava.
That the tiger reserve needs to pull up its socks on overall security is apparent. On November 16, the management of the Palamau reserve booked three electricity board officials for causing the death of an elephant due to sustained negligence. On May 12, the adult elephant was electrocuted due to loose and hanging overhead wires.
“Norms say the minimum height of an electric pole should be 18ft from the ground but no one paid heed. So we have booked a JSEB executive, assistant and junior engineer,” said an official.