Guwahati, June 21: Forest officials in the Northeast are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping that the upcoming tiger census will throw up a larger count of the big cats.
The 2005-08 estimate had pegged the tiger population in Assam at 70.
Sources said though there was no confirmed case of poaching of tigers in Assam, the situation in the Northeast’s other tiger reserves was not that too rosy.
Three tiger reserves in the region have been graded as “poor”. These are the ones at Manas in Assam, Dampa in Mizoram and Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh.
Tiger reserves at Kaziranga in Assam and Pakke in Arunachal Pradesh have earned “good” status tag while the one in Nameri in Assam has been graded “satisfactory”.
The grading is done by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
The latest haul of tiger bones by the customs has aggravated fear that the tigers are being hunted. Guwahati customs recently seized 10.2kg skulls and bones of full-grown tigers.
“There is some network and support in the protected area but once out, the tigers are at risk,” Rajesh Gopal, a member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, told this correspondent.
“Once they stray out from Kaziranga to Karbi Anglong, all animals face threats,” Firoz Ahmed of Aaranyak, an NGO, said. During floods, many animals seek refuge in the highlands in Karbi Anglong and adjacent reserve forests like Panbari, Bagser and Kukurakata close to the park’s boundary.
Chief wildlife warden, Assam, Suresh Chand, said there had not been any instance of confirmed tiger poaching in the state.
The executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, Belinda Wright, said there was admiration for the authorities of Kaziranga for the protection measures initiated by them, but little could be done when the animals venture out of the safe zones.
“Tiger poaching is done surreptitiously and it is difficult to track the people who are in this trade,” Wright says, adding that one must not forget Sariska and Panna national parks. In a recent incident of straying, a tiger was spotted in Upper Assam after killing two persons. It was later rehabilitated in Manas National Park.
An official of Kaziranga National Park said: “It is not easy for the poachers to target tigers here unlike the rhinos. The thick grasses of the national park are a deterrent.”