29 tigers present in Dibang block: Report
The confirmation of the big cat presence based on scat samples and camera trap images comes amid concerns about the proposed diversion of large forest areas around Dibang Valley Wildlife Sanctuary for a power project and a dam.
An estimated 29 tigers were present in Arunachal Pradesh’s Dibang-Kamlang-Namdapha Block, according to the Status of Tigers, Co-predators, and Prey in India report (2018) released on Tuesday. The confirmation of the big cat presence based on scat samples and camera trap images comes amid concerns about the proposed diversion of large forest areas around Dibang Valley Wildlife Sanctuary for a power project and a dam. Experts say the projects will impact both the tigers and their prey.
The 3,097 MW Etalin Hydropower Project will impact 1150.08 hectares and the Dibang Multipurpose Dam 4,577.84 hectares in the unclassified state forests and other community lands. Both are under different stages of the Union environment ministry’s consideration.
Two adult individual tigers were photographed in the sanctuary in 2018 during the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)’s tiger estimation, according to the report. Dibang Valley holds unique importance for in-situ conservation of this “unique and genetically diverse lineage of tigers” as the local aboriginal community of Idu Mishmis considers tigers as their elder brothers, it added.
One adult tiger was photographed in Dibang Valley during the estimation process in 2014. Molecular signs were also noted. “Tiger presence is repeatedly being seen during camera trap exercises. The Valley is definitely a very good habitat for tigers,” said NTCA member secretary SP Yadav.
The 2018 estimation has recommended discussions with Idu Mishmis before proceeding with any notification of the sanctuary as a tiger reserve.
Arunachal Pradesh Wildlife Advisory Board member Anoko Mega said the projects will impact both the tiger and tiger prey. “Some of the prey cross the Talon river or are found in abundance along the river like the Mishmi Takin. If the environment ministry really considers the tiger to be an important species, it will not consider projects which will be disastrous for the tiger habitat here. The community had always known there were tigers here,” said Mega. “If at all a tiger reserve is declared here, the boundary should be demarcated after consulting local people so that there is no impact on human habitation.”
Wildlife Institute of India (WII) researchers identified 11 individual tigers, including two cubs, during a three-year camera trap-based study in the sanctuary and the Mishmi hills. They published their findings in the Journal of Threatened Taxa in 2018. But WII, in a report titled Wildlife Conservation Plan for the Impact Zone of Etalin HEP, said there was no tiger presence in the project area.
Environment ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee in its factsheet had said Etalin Hydropower project is located in sub-tropical evergreen and rain forests and in a vital tiger area.
The Idu Mishmi Cultural & Literary Society (IMCLS) wrote to NTCA and the Union environment, forests & climate change ministry in 2018, saying the community should be consulted before proceeding with notifying the sanctuary as a tiger reserve. “Based on years of empirical research on ecological and social aspects of tigers in Dibang Valley, we strongly believe that the right strategy for Dibang tigers would be to develop a new kind of tiger reserve that is built not with fences and armed patrol guards, but around a cultural model, a culture which has so far proven to be effective in saving the tiger,” wrote IMCLS.
The 2018 NTCA report said Arunachal Pradesh has large contiguous forests over 136,000 km, which include Pakke Tiger Reserves, Tale Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Mouling National Park, D’Ering Wildlife Sanctuary, Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary, Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary, and Kamlamg and Namdapha Tiger Reserve. “Compared to earlier surveys, this landscape unit shows a persisting low-density tiger population…the largest tiger population of Arunachal Pradesh is within pockets of this landscape,” it said. The report added the 1,811 km Trans Arunachal Highway will become a barrier for the movement of the wildlife species in several of these corridors.
One in every three tigers in India lives outside reserves, according to the report, highlighting the challenge of protecting India’s national animal and reducing instances of man-animal conflict. The proportion has increased from around one in every four tigers living outside reserves, according to a 2014 study.
India recorded a 33% increase in tiger numbers from 2014 to 2018, according to the summary of the report, All India Tiger Estimation Results, released last year. There were 2,967 tigers in 2018, compared to 2,226 in 2014.
No tigers were recorded in Mizoram’s Dampa and West Bengal’s Buxa tiger reserves while they face the severe threat of local extinction in Jharkhand’s Palamau reserve, according to the report. Corbett Tiger Reserve, which is among reserves at or nearing capacity, had the largest population of tigers—about 231—in 2018, the report said.