Friday, March 24

Radio collars to study causes behind human-tiger conflict in Sunderbans

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More than three years after a young tigress was radio-collared in the South 24 Parganas Forest Division, known as the buffer zone of the Sunderbans, two more tigers — most likely from the same zone — will be fitted with the gadgets soon.

While earlier data from seven radio-collared big cats was used to decode home range and territory, foresters now want to ascertain their movement pattern near the human-dominated landscape.

State chief wildlife warden Ravi Kant Sinha told TOI that under the project in collaboration with WWF-India’s Sunderbans chapter, they have plans to radio-collar at least six tigers. “In the initial phase, we will start with two tigers,” he said.

Landscape coordinator of WWF-India’s Sunderbans chapter Ratul Saha said they have already placed order for two collars. “The idea is to gauge the extent of negative interactions between tigers and humans and the casual factors for these kind of interactions,” Saha said, adding that it will help the department formulate holistic strategies to minimise human-tiger negative interaction.

On the collars, Saha said they will be light-weight (about a kg) satellite collars with an automatic dropoff mechanism that will help field workers take out the gadget from the big cat through remote control. Recently, the collar on a tiger in Maharashtra that was tracked through VHF radio telemetry was removed through remote control after its battery drained out.

Asked about the areas where the tigers will be radio-collared, a source said while one may be collared in the South 24 Parganas division, the other likely in the Basirhat range — both under buffer zone of the Sunderbans.

“In such cases, we first try to collar a tiger that has strayed into a village. Otherwise, we try to venture into the sanctuary area to collar a tiger. But in no way, can we collar a tiger inside the national park,” added Sinha.

So far in 2020, 11 persons have been killed by tigers in the Sunderbans after they ventured into the woods to catch crabs. Last year, the figure was 13. While these are official figures, the actual number may be higher. The department, along with WWF-India, is also taking other steps to mitigate man-animal conflicts in the delta. “Nearly 520 ponds have been selected through joint forest management committees where WWF will release fish fingerlings. The idea is to ensure that villagers do not venture into the forests to collect crabs. Once the fingerlings are released, the villagers can do fishing activities in these ponds,” said Saha.


Source: Times of India

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