Itanagar: Despite unabated poaching of tigers in the Namdapha Wildlife Sanctuary & Tiger Reserve (NWSTR) in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh, a recent camera trapping exercise has revealed existence of 35 species of various animals, including tigers and leopards.

“The exercise was carried out by a Guwahati-based NGO Aaranyak with the logistic support provided by the NWSTR from the first week of February to March 29 last for a detailed report on tigers and their prey base animals”, field director S J Jongsam said in a report.

Four camp sites at Happy Valley, Hornbill Farm base with base camp at Deban were set up inside the Tiger Reserve for the purpose.

Eighty cameras were installed on multiple locations in the reserve identified as potential tiger habitats covering almost 25 per cent of the total geographical area of the Tiger Reserve.

“The consistent efforts of the team finally paid off when cameras sighted tiger pugmarks. Thirteen scat samples, thought to be of tiger origin, have been sent for an analysis to the genetic laboratory of Aaranyak at Guwahati”.

“The entire observation drill cost around Rs 19 lakh, which included procurement of stationeries, camp equipment, ration and payment of wages to porters who were engaged for transportation of material to the various base camps”.

The camera trapping exercise did not go smoothly, though. On several occasions, the frontline staff and members of Aaranyak were fired upon at Bulbulia and Kodboi areas and their base camps destroyed by suspected poachers.

One of the major threats faced by the authorities is the organized poaching of tigers by 84 Lisu families living in the core area of the reserve.

They were suspected to have fired upon a high level team led by PCCF (wildlife & biodiversity) J L Singh on February 28, besides recovery of a few iron-made Burmese traps set up all along the routes that had pug marks of tigers.

“They were also suspected to have stolen 24 memory cards and eight of the 80 cameras set up on a 300 square km area”, Jongsam said.

Jongsam said that, in order to tackle the activities of miscreants and poachers and to save the tiger population and its prey base, a well-equipped and regular Tiger Protection Force is essential for the park.

The reserve, having nearly 2000 sq km of area, has only about 60 employees to administer, monitor and protect it. Capacity building and equipment upgradation continue to remain key concerns of the reserve's management.

Namdapha, one of India’s major biosphere reserves and a national park, came under Project Tiger in 1983 and is spread over 1,985 sq kms with a core area of 1,808 sq kms. It is the only reserve in India that is home to four big cats.

The 2010 tiger census which had projected only 25 tigers – 11 in NWSTR and 14 in Pakke Tiger Reserve (PTR) in East Kameng district has partially changed with PTR, already recording 17 individual big cats till the last count.


(Agencies)