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Over 100 tiger sightings in Vidarbha during machan census
Pench tiger reserve roars with 44 tigers
The 24-hour-long waterhole estimation to count herbivores on May 10-11, the Buddha Pournima day, concluded without hassles with over 100 direct tiger sightings by volunteers in various parks in Vidarbha and buffer zone of Tadoba.
The 100 tiger sightings may not necessarily mean exactly 100 tigers were sighted and some may have overlapping entries. Many volunteers have admitted about good sightings in Tadoba-Andhari, Melghat, Pench, Bor and Navegaon-Nagzira tiger reserves.
MS Reddy, chief conservator of forests (CCF) & field director of Melghat, said, "Melghats's three divisions, Sipna, Gugamal and Akot, recorded 1, 9 and 10 tiger sightings, respectively.
The area in Akot division from where villages have been rehabilitated have become a good home for tigers due to better prey base, said Reddy and added, "Also, 300 sloth bears were sighted."
Volunteers sighted tigers even in Navegaon National Park, which was devoid of big cats. "Volunteers recorded tigers in Navegaon and Koka. Reports for Nagzira were yet to be compiled," said deputy director (core) of NNTR, Amlendu Pathak.
CCF & field director of Pench, Rishikesh Ranjan said core and buffer areas under the tiger reserve recorded 49 tigers and 14 leopards. "There were tiger sightings in almost 60% of the Pench area. This is a good indication," Ranjan told TOI.
This includes 36 tiger sightings in Pench and its buffer, 4 in Umred-Karhandla, six in Bor and New Bor and three in Tipeshwar. Apart from tigers, 3,870 chitals and 1,229 sambars were recorded.
"On Junapani machan in Deolapar, I was lucky to sight a tigress on solar waterhole in the morning and a male at night. Volunteers on three machans sighted these tigers," said Alok Meher, a senior research fellow.
Businessman Sameer Gharote, who was on Badi Chadhai machan, said, "We were in the area of Pench's Prince but were not so lucky. But we saw many herbivores and a pack of wild dogs."
Malcolm and Mary Titus said, "It was a well-organized census."
In Tadoba, there were reports of 12-15 tiger sightings from Mohurli, Tadoba and Kolsa ranges from at least 12 machans.
"I saw a male tiger on waterhole at 12 noon. In the evening, a tigress with two cubs, and another male was sighted separately," claimed Harshavardhan Chawhan, who was at Wanarchuha (Mohurli) with his friend Roshan Japulkar.
Deputy director (municipal administration) Sudhir Shambarkar sighted a male tiger Bajrang twice. "It appeared on the Mahalgaon lake at 6.44pm and then again in the morning. It was lifetime experience for my daughter Aishwarya," said Shambarkar.
Tadoba buffer saw record 27 tiger and nine leopard sightings. "We had 109 waterholes in which 252 volunteers and staff took part," said Gajendra Narwane, deputy director (buffer), Tadoba.
The number of tigers in Maharashtra's Pench Tiger Reserve has increased to 44 this year, as compared to 31 in 2016.
The increase of 13 tigers was recorded in East Pench (Sillari), Chorbahuli, Saleghat and Deolapar areas of Mansinghdeo sanctuary, and Paoni and Nagalwadi. Officials said that of the 44 tigers recorded, 22 are males and 22 females. "An official report is still being finalised. But, yes, the number of tigers has gone up to 44 in the 660 sq km area where the estimation was done. This number doesn't include cubs, which are around 7-8," said Pench chief conservator of forests (CCF) and field director Rishikesh Ranjan.
As per National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) guidelines, the Phase IV annual estimation exercise with camera traps was conducted jointly by Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) and Pench Tiger Foundation over 21 days in January 2017.
The figure of 44 also includes a couple of tigers that have died since the January exercise in and around Pench. Since January this year, Pench has lost four tigers, of which two died in territorial fights. "Even though a couple of tiger deaths were not considered, increasing tiger numbers is also vindicated by death of tigers in territorial fights. It shows that growing Pench tiger population is crying for space," officials said.
Even as the death toll of tigers in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh has gone up to 42 in last 14 months, steady increase in tiger numbers in Maharashtra Pench is an achievement for wildlife wing and NGOs working in and around Pench.
Officials said five adults have been sharing common territory on the MP and Maharashtra border of Pench. However, during the exercise these tigers were recorded in Maharashtra Pench.
Wildlife conservationists attributed Pench success to former field director MS Reddy, who took over Pench when the number of tigers was 19. Reddy said, "I have not seen the report but yes, team work has yielded desired results."