Joint monitoring protocol for tigers stressed
A two-day discussion titled ‘Scientific monitoring of tigers in the Sundarbans of India and Bangladesh’ concluded on Monday putting forward a set of recommendations to strengthen monitoring to measure the changes in tiger population in the world’s largest mangrove forest.
The two-day programme also stressed the need for information management on conservation activities, identifying threats to the ecosystem and biodiversity, and assessing the effectiveness of interventions in the Sundarbans.
Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh (WTB) and the Forest Department jointly organised the two-day technical discussion at Ban Bhaban (Forest Department) at Agargaon.
The international experts brought to support this process are Dr John Goodrich from Wildlife Conservation Society, Dr Linda Kerley from Zoological Society of London, Dr J L Dave Smith from University of Minnesota and Dr Yadvendradev Jhala and Dr Qamar Qureshi from Wildlife Institute of India.
The objective of the discussion was to develop a joint monitoring protocol for the Sundarbans of Bangladesh and India. Technical tiger monitoring experts from Bangladesh, India and around the world presented papers on various scientific techniques available, reports news agency UNB.
During the two-day meeting, the experts discussed the unique ecosystem of the Sundarbans and put forward a number of recommendations for a joint monitoring protocol for tigers across the mangrove forest.
Earlier, on Sunday, Environment and Forests Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud, Chief Conservator of Forests M Yunus Ali.
KOLKATA, April 23: Finally, there will be a joint survey across 10,200 square kilometres of Sundarbans, spread across Bangladesh and India, this July to determine the exact number of tigers on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The numbers, given by the Bangladeshi forest department and its Indian counterparts till date, are disputed on the ground that big cats frequently cross over the Indo-Bangla border.
Every time, Sundarbans authority in India or that of Bangladesh comes up with their respective tiger census figures, they are disputed on the ground of tigers’ frequent crossing over the political Indo-Bangla border.
Bangladesh and India have signed a protocol to prevent poaching and smuggling of the tigers and their body parts from their sanctuaries. According to the protocol, the two countries will undertake joint scientific research, launch projects to promote understanding and knowledge of Royal Bengal tigers, develop information systems, share research, and exchange personnel for training and education.
“There will be an attempt to conduct the tiger census simultaneously in Sundarbans on either side of the border using a common methodology. If necessary, Wildlife Institute of India (WII) will help the Bangladesh Sunderbans officials with technical expertise for conducting the census,” said sources.
According to the last tiger census in 2003, there are 440 tigers in Bangladesh. On the other hand, a census in 2006 had claimed that Indian Sunderbans had 270 tigers, which was disputed by wildlife experts. The latest tiger census in India, conducted in 2010, pegged the big cat numbers in Sundarbans between 60 and 90. But the cross-border movement has always put question mark on the claims.
According to the protocol, two countries will start patrolling of the waterways that crisscross the mangrove forests on their respective sides to prevent poaching of tigers.
The wildlife monitoring is extremely important to the management to ascertain how the species are responding to the current management practices. Based on monitoring results, the necessary changes are made in the management practices to make those more effective.
“The tiger estimation has traditionally been done in Sundarbans by using pugmark method, where the fresh left hind leg pug mark impression is collected from the field and analysed,” said a Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve officer. The method was field-friendly but due to some drawbacks, Project Tiger developed a new methodology – Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey. Later, camera trapping, DNA tests were included to ascertain the range of tiger population in Indian Sundarbans.
All these, forest department officers said, began during the tenure of Jairam Ramesh as Union environment and forest minister. Ramesh had suggested that India and Bangladesh should join hands to protect the Sundarbans from environmental degradation by forming Indo-Bangladesh Sunderbans Eco-System Forum.
When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh headed to Dhaka, he formalized Ramesh’s forumthrough a specific Indo-Bangladesh Bilateral Environmental Treaty for the Sundarbans. The treaty was to facilitate implementation of the programs under the forum and mandate inclusive and coordinated reform between the two nations at state, district and grass roots levels. This, according to an official, will help tackle the problems of sensitive ecosystems as a whole rather than in the separate and piecemeal form, currently the norm in both countries.
India Tiger Population Increasing
“These days in the course of a 10-day tiger safari people may see five, 10 or more tigers, and often with close-up views,” says Dr. Will Weber of Journey’s International. “This is partially due to increasing skill and knowledge of the guides, but there are more tigers.”
In the past, viewing a tiger was rare. In 2010, India’s Bengal tiger was classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Now, the total population of Bengal tigers is probably still under 2,000. A nationwide census carried out in 2011 estimated a total of 1,706 up from 1,411 from the previous count in 2007.
“If you know where, how and when to look, you will certainly find pleasant surprises,” says Avi Sakhrel, noted Indian birder, naturalist and wildlife guide who leads India wildlife tours. Sakhrel notes, “The Indian conservation community is very pleased to see positive results of efforts to save our wildlife. Even some of the lesser known parks now offer regular big cat sightings.”
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