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Thread: Satkosia update: Big cats vanishing from Satkosia

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    Default Satkosia update: Big cats vanishing from Satkosia

    Big cats vanishing from Satkosia
    By Siba Mohanty| ENS - BHUBANESWAR 26th March 2013 01:09 PM

    Shocking as it may sound, Satkosia Tiger Reserve seems headed the Sariska way. Dwindling tiger signs and absence of breeding since two years in the habitat have rung alarm bells for Odisha’s second tiger reserve (TR).

    In the 2010 enumeration by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the tiger population was estimated at eight. A host of factors now indicates that the number may have declined drastically. Although the management of the tiger reserve is collecting tiger signs from the prime habitats, they have been declining and are discouraging to say the least.

    According to sources, camera traps installed in the tiger reserve have shown signs of existence of large cats, but the population is reported to have hit the nadir. Already designated a low tiger density reserve, the drop in population may push the large cats into extinction in Satkosia soon. The number at present could well be just one or two and unless urgent measures are taken, there would be none left in near future.

    ‘’Tiger population does not seem to be thriving since there are no signs of cubs with mothers or even juveniles to suggest that breeding is taking place and the cycle is going on. This could be fatal to the population,’’ said a source in Satkosia. Interestingly, prey base in the tiger habitat, which is connected to the tiger habitats of Central and Southern Odisha and onwards to the Central India tiger landscape, has improved over the last few years. The population of wild boar, spotted deer and sambhar has jumped significantly, but there has been no sign of an improvement in tiger population.

    The Satkosia TR management too is aware of the impending crisis. “Prey base has improved and so has the habitat and there is no incident of poaching and no sign of repopulation. It may have to do with the sex ratio of the existing population,” Field Director Pandav Behera told “Express” on Monday.

    Sources said skewed the sex ratio could be a major reason behind the crash in the tiger population in Satkosia. “Camera traps had captured an adult male in Labangi about three months back and it suggested existence of the last few. But absence of growth in population indicates that there is either no female and even if there is, it is not in the breeding age anymore,” sources added. Worryingly, all the photographs captured in the reserve area are of the same male tiger.

    The tiger that is currently roaming the forests of Chandaka Wildlife Division is believed to have strayed from Satkosia and may have been a key indicator of what is wrong with the latter. Wildlife Wing insiders say the male may have been out on the lookout for a female for mating. Satkosia was declared a TR in 2007 with 524 sq km as core area out of the 963 sq km reserve area. The NTCA in its Management Effectiveness Evaluation Report 2010-11 had categorically pointed out Satkosia had “poor protection, little wildlife orientation and no monitoring,” asking for urgent redressal. But the State has not made any effort yet.

    * The number at present could well be just one or two and unless urgent measures are taken, there would be none left in near future

    * The population of wild boar, spotted deer and sambhar has jumped significantly but there has been no sign of an improvement in tiger population.
    Mrudul Godbole

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    Default Satkosia Tiger Reserve: Jan 2013

    I was in Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Jan 2013.

    This visit to Satkosia was after a long gap, so I don't want to do a then and now comparison.

    First impression:
    The Tiger reserve has too many villages. Since this place is blessed with abundant water due to streams, lot of land is under cultivation. The anthropogenic pressures are huge. Looking at the hoof marks in the streams, which otherwise would have been ideal place for the herbivores and carnivores, one can only say that the place is swamped by cattle.

    In the core area, in labangi, they have recorded images of a tiger through a camera trap several times. I had heard about tiger movement in this place and wanted to visit it for a long time.

    I got into the watch tower and stayed there alone for the entire night in the biting cold to get a feel of the jungle. I had my sound recording equipment with me to help me in listening. Twice I heard alarm calls in the night, once around mid night and the other early in the morning. I presume the alarm call was about 500 meters or so to my left. At around 4.30am there was an unusual human voice for a few moments.

    The early morning dawn chorus is not spectacular like the western ghats. The dawn chorus recorded at Satkosia can be heard by checking this link: http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/sho...wn-at-Satkosia

    In the morning one sambar, one cheetal and another barking deer came to the salt lick.

    One of the forest department staff had a direct sighting of a tiger on foot while going to the watch tower. One of the forest guards revealed that he had seen a leopard kill some two months back. After that no other signs of kill. The prey density appeared to be low, despite the forest department saying that it is bouncing back. One should remember that in disturbed areas the herbibvores and carnivores become nocturnal. However, in the night also there were not many signs of them. One didn't find evidence of big herds of deers etc. I did see two gaurs, one sambar fawn alone in the night as well as one wild boar. Unless the prey population bounces back to the level of other Tiger Reserves like Bandipur, Nagarhole, one should not expect the tiger population or carnivore population to increase.

    There are patches of dense forest that makes us happy. Rest of the forest areas are traumatised by human presence.

    Tourist pressure is not much as other tiger reserves however they come for boating. The forest department had reduced the bookings during the Supreme court interim order banning tourism in core area of tiger reserves. Tourists visit the gorge for boating and one can find all the associated ills of tourism.

    In the past there had been some efforts towards relocation of villages. However, that has stopped. Satkosia Tiger Reserve needs urgent action. Else, we have to forget the tiger and other predators.

    Muggers & Gharials:
    The ranger informed us that there were only four gharials (Gravilis gangeticus) in the Mahanadi gorge and unfortunately all of them are male. In the past there used to be crocodile breeding in breeding centre at Tikarpada. However, now it acts as a mini zoo and has two gharial females and four muggers (Crocodilus palustris). Since the gorge doesn’t have female gharials and the breeding centre only has two females and no males, no breeding happens in the wild or in the centre. If a breeding age male can be trapped and brought to the mini zoo and mated with one of the females then the female can lay eggs. The eggs can be hatched and the baby gharials can be released in the gorge once they become ready for release.

    Gharial eggs can also be collected and hatched in the mini zoo. Or baby gharials can also be brought from other zoos or from the wild and can be released in the gorge.

    This place used to serve as the breeding ground of tigers. Today its a sad story.

    Satkosia was declared as a tiger reserve in 2007 by merging the Baisipalli Sanctuary and the Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary. It is a part of the Deccan plateau as well as Eastern Ghats and is biodiversity rich. With the abundance of water, dense forests, this place used to be teeming with wildlife. Alas, the wildlife has been replaced by the two legged variety.

    Though this reserve is spread over 964 sq kilometer, even the designated core area of 524 Sq. Kilometers have villages and is highly disturbed. The forest department has said that poaching has reduced. However, the forest department has to display strong leadership at the top level to make changes happen. A lot of leadership skills are required to coax the villagers to relocate outside the forests. Only then the forests can be nursed back.

    One cannot save the tiger with good intentions alone. We need to save its habitat and make it inviolate.
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    Thanks for sharing....an informative and thought provoking article written with heart

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