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Tigers return to patchy south Bengal forests

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Pug marks confirm the presence of a tigress and a cub, 300 km away from nearest habitat

Almost 20 months after a tiger was killed when it strayed into the forests of south Bengal, officials in West Bengal on Wednesday confirmed the presence of tigers in the fragmented, patchy forest of south Bengal. Unlike in 2018, when a male tiger had come to the forest in search of territory, this time, it is a female tigress with a cub.

“We have got no photographic evidence, but the pug marks indicate that it is a tigress and a cub,” Ravi Kant Sinha, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, West Bengal told The Hindu. He said tracking teams, trap cages and tranquilisation teams have been stationed in the forests from Monday.

‘Need translocation’

Mr. Sinha said that the forests of south Bengal are not suitable habitat for a tiger, and the tigers need to be rescued and translocated elsewhere.

Prior to 2018, for almost 100 years, there has been no record of a tiger in south Bengal. The last recorded evidence of tigers, in Lalgarh, Midnapore, in 1911, is seen in the Bengal District Gazetteers authored by LSS O’Malley. The report points out that carnivores in Midnapore were then represented by tigers, leopards, bears, hyenas, foxes and jackals.

In 2018, the first evidence of a tiger’s presence was seen in February, with photographs from camera traps. Before the forest officials could rescue the big cat, the tiger was killed allegedly by locals in second week of April 2018.

Mr. Sinha said that, like in 2018, he was not certain from where the tigress and the cub had come into the forest of south Bengal. “All we know is that the nearest tiger habitat is about 300 km away, either in Jharkhand or in Odisha,” he said.

Causing alarm

The presence of tiger in forested areas with inhabited villages in their fringes have caused considerable alarm. On Tuesday, Rabindranath Pramanik, a villager from Pathatchapri village in Binpur, reported seeing a tiger cub. The villager said that before he could do anything, the cub had disappeared into the forest.

Forest officials are keeping their fingers crossed that the tigress and cub don’t meet the same fate as the male tiger that had strayed into the south Bengal forests in 2018.

Mr. Sinha said that in 2018, the male tiger remained most of time in the Paschim Medinipur forest, but on this occasion, the tigress was staying more in the forests of the Bankura district, an area less than 100 km from where the male tiger was spotted in 2018.

‘Tiger dispersal’

The forests in south Bengal are called Jangalmahal, a patch criss-crossing the three districts of Purulia, West Medinipur (also Jhargram) and Bankura, which have become fragmented because of increase in agricultural activities.

According to experts, the phenomenon of “tiger dispersal” occurs when lack of territorial space and prey base in a particular habitat results in the dispersal of male tigers. A number of examples have come to fore, where male tigers have travelled hundreds of kilometres in search of territory. Experts say that it is only under extreme stress that female tigers come out to look for new territories.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 6:33:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tigers-return-to-patchy-south-bengal-forests/article30516756.ece

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