Sushanta Roy is a journalist in the north eastern states of Assam and Meghalaya, India, who photographs and writes about the people, animals and flora, and the things that affect them.

Assessment of the Royal Bengal Tigers in the North East India with particular orientation to Karbi Anglong and the Hamren districts spread over three territorial forest divisions within Karbi Anglong Hills Circle, Diphu. A humble effort has been made in the following lines.

Royal Bengal Tigers

The Royal Bengal Tiger, Pathera tigris tigris, is the most sensitive carnivore of the Indian forests ecosystems spread over various landscapes in India. In most cases the landscapes fall within the human dominated ones.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, an estimated number of about 10,000 individuals of the tigers roamed in the landscapes despite being hunted down considerably in Shikar mode.

The colonial days during the period preceding the independence, the tigers lost most of its sustainable population due to hunting. The shikar records reveal that the Maharajah of Cooch Behar bagged 365 tigers alone during his forays into the jungle of the Bengal Dooars area. Other co-predators of the area were not too far from such results of an itchy trigger fingers. The Zamindar of Gauripur estate could boast of 300 leopards that were ‘bagged’ during Shikar days.

Let the tigers be, but that happened to everything that moved, crawled, swam or winged, or just burrowed. Unfortunately, the trend continued in post independent India with arranged Shikar Tours by the Shikar agencies that were most responsible for the near collapse of the species. The ‘Project Tiger’ was introduced to Indian ecosystems with carnivore populations in a scientific way in 1972 under the aegis of the Govt of India and the WWF (now World Wide Fund for Nature with the same acronym).

Reliable Counting Methodology

Saroj Roy Choundary was the first forest officer cum wildlifer who developed a reliable methodology for tiger estimation in the wild when there was none available. This held away for over five decades in the forest departments across India. There had been site specific modifications of Roy Choudary’s methodology named the ‘Pug Mark Count’ method. With the scientists getting involved in the activities in the late 1990’s the methodology was systematized by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.

It was called a countrywide Estimation of Tigers, prey base and the co-predators since the beginning of the year 2000. This utilized the inputs from the field observations along with the GPS receiver readings. This at least ensured that the actual works of the estimation were done in the right places.

As for example, a certain protected area located on the south bank of the river Brahmaputra, reported certain coordinates that were supposedly from the GPS readings. On being fed to the computer software, the coordinate went away all the way to Mongolia on the display of ARC GIS. Well, that is how the manipulations in Kaziranga National Park were detected over and over again.

Conservation

At that moment, the north eastern Indian landscapes had the following Tiger Reserves: 1.Monas, 2.Nameri, 3.Kaziranga, 4.Namdapha, 5.Intanki, 6.Dampa.

Varied terrain, thick vegetation, the soil cover etc posed stiff challenges with the new methodology which incorporated camera sighting operations too. All along, the ecological audit of the Bengal Tiger Reserves of the area along with the rest of the country was continuing.

Towards the beginning of the second decade of 2000, the landscape of Karbi Hills Massif was targeted. Because of the accuracy of the co-ordinates sent in to the WII for transects numbering over thirty, it warned accolades and the result was the ‘Most prospective area’ for tiger conservation’. Thus, it gave a number about 65 individuals in the entire 6,000 km2 large landscape, mostly hilly. The corollary or the interpretation of the data is astounding:

  1. The Bengal tigers of the Karbi Massif Hills are endowed with a large home range.
  2. The stocking of the prey base is not as good as the Kaziranga National Park which is north of this landscape.

This came in handy in conceptualizing a separate Tiger Reserve area under the aegis of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). The environment and forests department of the KAAC tried its utmost to survey and then prepare the proposal for the same. Several things came its way from the day one. The proposed area map got leaked out in the print media and flaks came from all the communities living in the Karbi Hills Massif area. So, the authorities shot down the area.

Indo Myanmar Biodiversity Hotspot

Despite being the northern tip of the Indo Myanmar Biodiversity Hotspot; despite there were already four wildlife protected areas en bloc adjacent to the Kaziranga National Park of world repute, despite the presence of the bengal tiger population; the ardent dreams of the conservationists of the world over to protect a landscape so wonderful can be called another episode of the Paradise Lost! Responsibilities will lie on the political leadership of council for being inure to the needs of the Conservation world .

The author is Ex Wildlife warden of undivided Karbi Anglong autonomous district.

Indo Myanmar Biodiversity Hotspot
Indo Myanmar Biodiversity Hotspot map.