Caught on camera: Sikkim’s Royal Bengal Tiger

January 09, 2019 09:16 pm | Updated 10:36 pm IST - Kolkata

Two clear images of a Royal Bengal Tiger going up and down a path beside a camera trap laid at 9,538 feet have provided the first visual evidence of a tiger in the Himalayan State of Sikkim.

“The images were captured on the night of December 6 at 6:23 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. near Goru Jurey inside Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary, East Sikkim,” Dechen Lachungpa, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), East Wildlife Division, Government of Sikkim, told The Hindu . “We got to know about the camera trap images only a couple of days ago when the images of camera traps were inspected,” she added.

According to the DFO, the area where the tiger was photographed shares a boundary with the Tibet Autonomous Region under the control of China and Bhutan. Ms. Lachungpa said that while there were sightings and oral records of tiger presence in Sikkim until the 1980s there was no photographic evidence to confirm the presence. S. T. Lachungpa, DFO of Khangchendzonga National Park said that in 2017 there were reports of a cattle kill at a place called Theng and pug marks of tigers were found in the area. After the first camera trap images confirming tiger presence in Sikkim, the State Forest Department is planning to install more camera traps at higher altitudes with the aim of obtaining more evidence. The development also assumes significance as it comes only a few weeks after a tiger was spotted in the snow-clad Dibang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh, at a height of 3,630 metres.

Bishan Singh Bonal, of the Global Tiger Forum, said certain organisations had started working on a project to estimate tiger density at high altitudes in States like Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

“After the project is completed we will be able tell whether the tigers are permanently resident in these high altitudes or they are spillover from other areas or these areas are used as corridors for them,” said Mr. Bonal, who had earlier served as member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

The project which along with GTF is supported by World Wildlife Fund for Nature and International Union for Conservation of nature (IUCN) will not cover only high altitudes states of India but also in the high altitude areas of neighbouring countries of Bhutan and Nepal.

Mr Bonal said that tigers have high capability of adaptation and these high altitude areas have a good prey base to sustain big cats. “Now with increased technology at our disposal we have getting concrete proof of tigers in high altitude areas,” he said.

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