WWF-India’s conservation initiatives document area’s tigers
A sight to behold amidst Uttarakhand’s River KosiAs it nears the end of its journey inside Uttarakhand, River Kosi flows down the foothills of the Himalayas separating the Corbett Tiger Reserve from the forests of Ramnagar Forest Division to its east. The sight of fresh water skirting weather beaten boulders with dense forests on both sides makes a picturesque scene. Scenic splendour apart, this wilderness is key to tiger populations of both the above administrative units of forests as it is a critical corridor for the big cats to move freely between one another.
Though there have been frequent documentations of pugmarks and eyewitness accounts by visitors to the area on the presence of tigers, a team from WWF-India’s Kaladhungi office of the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) have, probably for the first time, photo documented a tiger traversing the river bed near Chukam village in the Ramnagar District. Debmalya Roy Chowdhury, Project Officer, TAL, shares an eyewitness account of this rare sighting. “It was almost 11 o’ clock forenoon of 31 October, 2011. I was with Chandar Singh Negi (Assistant Project Officer) and Tara Thaplial (Field Assistant), all very tired after a six kilometre walk on the bed of River Kosi under a scorching sun. We were about to reach one of the camera trap points along River Kosi, where WWF-India has been conducting the Kosi Corridor Monitoring Study for past two months. Just after crossing the river bed, Tara screamed out “Sir, tiger-tiger.” I looked up. How I felt at the moment of what I saw ahead is very hard to describe in words. There was a huge, mature male tiger walking along the river bed in that broad daylight attempting to move into the Corbett Tiger Reserve. The big cat was few hundred metres away from us. After a few seconds of being perplexed, I started clicking its photographs. The tiger spotted us and tried to take cover but realising there being none it turned back towards our camera point in the island and disappeared in the jungle. This sighting made us get over our tiredness and we followed it’s pugmarks up to our camera point. This was the most memorable on foot sighting of tiger I ever had in my life and probably the best direct evidence to document the functionality of River Kosi corridor.”
The amazing findings of River Kosi corridorAdding substance to the above documentation are the earlier findings by WWF-India in 2011. As part of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and Wildlife Institute of India’s all India tiger estimation exercise WWF-India was involved in camera trapping and the subsequent estimation of tigers in the Ramnagar Forest Division including River Kosi corridor. The results were astonishing – both the positive findings as well as the challenges faced by the tigers. According to Joseph Vattakaven, Tiger-Coordinator, WWF-India,”Our study lead by tiger biologist Meraj Anwar revealed that Ramanagar Forest Division has the highest density of tigers outside a Protected Area anywhere in India and perhaps the world. We obtained a high tiger density of over 15 tigers per 100 sq. km. In fact this density is higher than that of many well known Tiger Reserves in India.” The detailed findings were published in Status of tigers, co-predators and prey in India, 2010.*
Adds Joseph, “We have initiated a detailed study on the pressures River Kosi corridor is currently facing. Our intensive camera trapping study that is ongoing shows that tigers are dispersing via the River Kosi corridor but the unchecked mushrooming of resorts in the corridor is the single biggest cause for concern. Also, the fact that these tigers are in a non PA increase the urgency for measures to protect them as the protection they currently get is far less than the adjoining the Corbett Tiger Reserve.”
Another interesting finding of this study is what looks like the first photographic evidence of a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) from this area. WWF-India is continuing its work for these forests through its office at Kaladhungi under the Terai Arc Landscape programme.
* Y.V.Jhala, Q.Qureshi, R.Gopal, and P.R.Sinha (Eds.) (2011). Status of the Tigers, Co-predators, and Prey in India, 2010. National Tiger Conservation Authority, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. TR 2011/003 pp-302