a news article by the times of india today has given conservationists and wildlifers of the west bengal enough reasons to rejoice.often in the badbook for straying of leopards in the tea gardens,killing of elephants in the rail track,man-animal conflict with bison and rhinos and the recent poaching of a tusker in Buxa tiger reserve and conflict between forest department and the locals,this time there is a really heart warming news from the duars region.the times of india today reported the sighting of a pack of asiatic wild dogs or dholes in the region from jaldapara national park with photographic evidence.(http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/...w/33041078.cms ) ! Although the news claims that the dholes were sighted for the first time in jaldapara,there were other news articles on reporting sightings of dholes from the said protected area.
http://www.telegraphindia.com/.../si..._18123479.html this article reports the first sighting to be in 2011 only,the very same paper reports of evidence of dholes with photographs and documentation of their treatment after rescue in as early as march 2009 http://www.telegraphindia.com/109030...y_10623869.jsp.
this time as the toi reports a pack of dholes were sighted near the kodalbasti region of the national park,and the dfo states "There were four to five wild dogs in the pack and one of them was dragging a kill, a hog deer, into the bush when one of our forest guards managed to record the video on his phone camera placed near the site prior to the animal's arrival. They were sighted three months back in the area while crossing the road, but our forest guards couldn't manage to click the image then. It seems the same pack has settled in the area. And we hope they are breeding too,"
whether this is the first evidence or not is a doubt,one thing is clear that jaldapara is a shelter for these highly endangered animals and if the reports are to be believed the population is either stable or breeding healthily over the last four or five years.and that definitely proves that the youngest national park of west bengal,jaldapara has much to contribute to the conservation of bio-diversity of the terai duars region as these part is a vital link between the indo and malay biomes.
being declared as a national park only in the month of may 2012,jaldapara has always been important for the rhino populationa and its role in harbouring other animals like gaur,elephant and leopards and also bengal tigers,even when it was not a national park,it was a vital link between buxa tiger reserve,gorumara national park,mahananda wildldife sanctuary,chapramary wildlife sanctuary and forests of bhutan traditionally suuporting elephants and tigers.
jaldapara has been historically the royal hunting preserve of the maharaja of coochbehar,it along with its adjoining chilapata reserve forest comprises of an area of 216 sq.kms.with the declaration of the national park the chilapata has been made an integral part of it and is now a range of the park.it is this range only where the dhole sightings has been reported from time and again.this time also the place in news the kodalbasti beat is in the chilapata range only,which further signifies that the dholes are sighted from the same area over years making the probability of the packs being resident higher.
although presence of dholes is not new in the duars region with strong records of their presence in the forests of buxa and mahananda,and occasional presence of them in the higher reaches of neora valley national park in bengal and forests of sikkim (i myself sighted them in the barsey rhododendron sanctuary in west sikkim),now-a-days dholes has been extremely rare in not only the duars region but also in the whole of eastern india.
The dhole normally lives in forest habitats, but can also eke out an existence in the open steppes of Kashmir and Siberia. As the Latin name, Cuon alpinus suggests, the dhole is often found in hilly or mountainous regions. The dhole's historical range reflects this great adaptability, extending from India to Russia, and down through China to Malaysia and Indonesia (Java being the southern limit). In recent decades, however, there has been massive habitat loss within this region. Today, very little is known about the dhole's distribution, but restricted surveys indicate serious decline and fragmentation of the former range. The best remaining populations are probably to be found in central and southern India, but even their stability is in question. The urgent need for more information on the dhole's present distribution has been highlighted in the latest IUCN Action Plan for Canids.
Dholes once ranged throughout most of South, East and Southeast Asia, extending from the Tien Shan and Altai Mountains and the Primorsky Krai southward through Mongolia, Korea, China, Tibet, Nepal, India, and south-eastwards into Myanmar and Indochina, Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra and Java.
During the last glacial period, they ranged across most of Eurasia, and are known to have once inhabited North America from a single fossil find in the Gulf of Mexico.A canid called the Sardinian dhole (Cynotherium sardous) lived on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia during the Pleistocene, but it is not as closely related to the living species as its name would imply.
however there are less than 2500 dholes left in the wild today,mostly in the southern and central india,featured in the iucn red data list.of this,the southern and central india still has a sizeable population,but the scenario on eastern india is grave.dholes have been extinct from the forests of chhotanagpur,their status is unkonwon in the protected area of saranda and betla,which had a healthy population till late 80's.orrissa has a very small and dwindling polpulation.the north bengal forests too portrayed the same dismal picture.habitat destruction,fragmentation of corridors,contact with domestic and feral dogs and in-breeding have put a huge question mark on their existence.
therefore the news of a healthy and stable resident population of dholes from an hithertho unknown area of their existence is a reason to celebrate especially when the duars forest are suffering from a screwed predatorrey ratio,with the lack of apex predators like the tiger (there are hardly any photographic evidence of tiger in the buxa tiger reserve and very few from jaldapara as well) and the huge pressure of herbivores over the grasslands and loss of predators like leopards to man-animal conflict.hope these packs of dholes bring ggod fortune for our wilderness ! cheers!
Photo-dhole (representative image only by author)