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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Big Cat Surprise

Death is saddening but does it augur hope? On this instance it does? A local daily has recently reported of a tigress found dead in Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary. Naurdehi WLS is about 80 km from my home town Jabalpur in MP, India.The recently in news regarding relocation of Cheetah. 

The sanctuary is large with the forest cover of about 3000 sq km. The area of the reserve is around 1000 plus sq km. Rich in prey base the place was seen as devoid of tigers and leopard. On my visits I have not heard or seen any evidence of tigers or leopards. The WLS is well known for frequent wolf sighting at Cheola Lake in Mohali Range where the carcass of the tigress was discovered. 

The forest has good prey base within the protected area but the big cats where presumed to be locally extinct due extensive hunting in days whence it was legal.   I have seen large herds of Sambar, Nil Gai, Spotted Deer, Langur and Wild Boars. The park has substantial population of Black Buck which prefer more grassy and open area.  

The big cat's presence is heartening, the forensic analysis is suggestive of natural death probably due to old age. The tigress was about fourteen years at time of death. These predators live to about 14, 15 years in the wild. Although a forest personal had reported seeing a tigress with two cubs few years back no further evidence to collaborate the findings was found later. Now it is confirmed, and presence of more tigers in the area would not come as a surprise. The large sanctuary has many inaccessible hill ranges where these creatures could still be surviving. A counting is being planned but I am not sure about it.

The natural death is suggestive of very little poaching taking place in the sanctuary. On my visits I could make out the sanctuary is well protected in spite of large number of villages inside. But the forest cover is under stress due to biotic pressure. The tiger cubs that where reportedly seen would be around 3/4 years now and capable of mating. 

The discovery also justifies that the place is capable of harboring big carnivores is. Within the sanctum sanctorum more big cats should be discovered..night patrolling is one way of discovering these nocturnal creatures. Cheetah relocation will further boost conservation of habitat. Due to diverse habitat preference there will be little conflict with the tigers present in these forests.

The WLS has interesting wildlife with species that are not seen easily in other tiger reserves. The forest type differs from Kanha and Bandhavgarh and more dry mixed forest type. The open grassy areas support black buck and are preferred by Nil Gai as well. They are ideal for Cheetah which is an open country savannah dwelling predator unlike the tiger which prefers dense cover.   

I have visited the sanctuary few times with Avinash Pathak who knows the ways of the wild. More trips are being planned for bird surveys.

During a day safari at Nauradehi one can see chinkara, wolf, fox and animals mentioned above. I have seen the fox here near the Cheola Lake in day time along with chinkara antelope which is fast loosing habitat in MP and many have been poached. Bird surveys will certainly yield some surprises.       

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