N. Rahul

Tigresses seen with cubs by forest teams at least twice at Dornal and Atchampet

HYDERABAD: As the 11-day field exercise of estimating the tiger population in the State came to a close four days ago, forest officials are upbeat about the prospect of the presence of the big cat in larger numbers in forests across Andhra Pradesh.

Against a population of 122 tigers and 203 panthers estimated by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun, in the State when the agency carried out a similar census in 2005-06, the officials say that they have gathered more evidence about the tiger and panther on the prowl during their field visits from January 20 to 30. The Wildlife Institute had concluded in the last census that there were 38 male, 69 female, 14 cubs and one tiger in the State. There were 82 male, 95 female and 26 cub panthers too.

With some refined methods of estimating the population of tigers, co-predators and prey and habitat evaluation as suggested by the institute, the Forest Department took up phase one of the programme in all forest areas, irrespective of sanctuaries and national parks in the latest survey. Narrating the field level experience, a senior official told The Hindu that the tigresses were seen with cubs by forest teams at least twice at Dornal and Atchampet in the Nagarjunagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve which is spread over 3,500 square km.

Another tiger was spotted while crossing the road near Domalpenta on the Hyderabad-Srisailam highway.

He said cub sighting in the wild was rare as the young animal remains with the mother for only two years before being abandoned. It indicated that conditions were ideal in the forest for breeding. It also showed proper sex ratio and reproductive age of the tiger population.

Key indicator

The field visits revealed that more herds of spotted deer, sambhar and wild boar were seen. This was important for the survival of carnivores.

The second and third phases of estimation with hidden cameras in the forest and re-verification of data with satellite images would be taken up later. The institute will generate probability of tiger population in an estimated range towards the end of the year, he added.