Hunt begins for the big cat- First comprehensive tiger survey in Karbi Anglong district ROOPAK GOSWAMI
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Guwahati, May 24: Is it there? Or is it not? It is time for some answers as WWF India officials have for the first time begun a hunt for tigers in Karbi Anglong.
Twenty-five cameras are being placed at the Marat Longri wildlife sanctuary for this study to find big cats, the first comprehensive tiger sign survey in Karbi Anglong.
The Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong has been identified as a priority tiger landscape and is among the top 12 in the world.
The work on the survey, which will encompass nearly 2,000 square km in Karbi Anglong and will take around a month, has started from Monday with the forest department providing all necessary support to the team.
“There is hope for finding tiger signs,” Jimmy Borah, assistant coordinator Tiger programme WWF India, said. Kaziranga, bordering Karbi Anglong, has the world’s highest density of tigers at 32.64 tigers per 100 square km. The WWF team had just returned from Arunachal Pradesh.
The survey also holds importance for tigers in Kaziranga as it is shares a border with Karbi Anglong. “For the survival of tigers in Kaziranga, Karbi Anglong is important as we would like to know the habitat there,” tiger expert Firoz Ahmed of Aaranyak said.
The 451square km Marat Longri, which was declared a wildlife sanctuary in April 2003, is an important component of Dhansiri-Lumding elephant reserve. The survey will also examine the elephant status and habitat.
Last year, forest department authorities of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, in collaboration with the Wildlife Trust of India, had started a reforestation drive to restore parts of encroached land in the Marat Longri wildlife sanctuary.
Karbi Anglong, the largest district in Assam with its five wildlife sanctuaries and two elephant reserves, plays a vital role in the protection and conservation of natural resources of the state.
A forest official said the corridors linking Kaziranga with the forests of Karbi Anglong have suffered extensive degradation because of encroachment, illegal logging, stone mining, growing settlements and tourist movements, which have severely disrupted wildlife movement, particularly during the flood season.
A report on Monitoring Tiger and Prey Animals of Kaziranga National Park, by Aaranyak, with technical support from Wildlife Institute of India last year, said gaur — one of the major prey species of tigers — which was common in the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape, has nearly disappeared from the Kaziranga National Park.
The primary reason for this depletion could be hunting in Karbi Anglong.
The report has suggested a scientific study in the hills of Karbi Anglong to address the issue of establishment of protected areas and protection of wildlife from hunting.
The State of the Forest Report, 2009, had found that the district had lost 37 square km of forest cover, compared to the 2007. Insurgency and shifting cultivation are the main reasons for this decline of forest cover in the district.
After covering Marat Longri wildlife sanctuary, the WWF team will then go to Lumding and Dhansiri areas.
Firoz Ahmed, a tiger expert with Aaranyak, said a lot of research work needed to be done on tigers in Assam as issues like genetic diversity are yet to be delved into.