The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Camera for hill bear survey

Darjeeling, May 21: For the first time in India, heat sensor cameras will be used in a survey to count Himalayan Black Bear in a wildlife sanctuary here.

The two-year survey, started recently by the WWF-India and the state forest department in Senchel Wildlife Sanctuary, aims to understand the habitat and status of the animal with a hope to avoid bear-man conflict and draw up a conservation plan to save the Himalayan bear.

The black bear is hunted for their bile, claw and furs to be used in traditional Chinese medicines and because of their dwindling population, the shy animal has already been classified as an endangered species and found its place in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

“We are at a preliminary stage and have just finished training villagers and forest staff. We will soon start trail identification after which we will start both the direct and indirect method for sighting the animals,” said Sanjeeb Pradhan, the senior project officer of the WWF-India.

So far, the survey team has sighted three cubs and a mother in the sanctuary.

“We are certain that the number will go up as the survey will progress. This will be for the first time that heat sensor camera will be trapping the Himalayan Black Bear in the wild in India,” said Pradhan. The camera can also take pictures of poachers if they move in the area.

S Ghatak, divisional forest officer, wildlife-I, has admitted that the survey has started. “It is in a very preliminary stage,” she said.

The animal is found in some parts of eastern Himalayas right up to Arunachal Pradesh. “We know that there is lot of cross-border illegal trade. Even though there is no scientific evidence, the Chinese believe that it must be used in all their traditional medicines,” Pradhan said. The WWF-India is providing technical expertise and equipment for the survey, while the department is supplying the logistic and staff support. “We have earmarked Rs 5 lakh for the survey.”

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