WILDLIFE: New haven for tiger – Island springs up on torsha, home to hispid – villagers keep away or be eaten ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY ANIRBAN CHOUDHURY
Alipurduar, Aug. 24: An island has come up on the Torsha river in the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary over the past five years and its grassland has become an ideal habitat for rare herbivores and big cats.
A number of elusive and endangered hispid hares are found on the 800-hectare char or sandbank. Foresters have also spotted pug marks and tiger scat on the island.
“This is very good news for Jaldapara as this natural tract of grassland is surrounded by a river and provides undisturbed habitat for the wildlife. We have spotted a good number of endangered hispid hare in the area. Our staff have also collected tiger scat from there,” said Om Prakash, the divisional forest officer of wildlife III.
He said several deer species like the hog deer, sambar, spotted deer and barking deer had started inhabiting the island. “Even rhinos visit the island that was formed over the past five years or so,” said the officer.
Om Prakash said the grassland was out of bounds for tourists. “Watchtowers have been erected around the char under the Malangi beat of the 218-sqkm sanctuary. Forest guards are patrolling the area on elephants to keep vigil.”
The forest department takes tourist inside the sanctuary on vehicles to show them elephants and rhinos. But the island is far from the spots where the visitors are allowed. Besides, there are no roads nearby, keeping the fragile grassland far from humans.
Evidence of tiger presence on the grassland has brought cheers to the foresters as Jaldapara has a dwindling population of the big cat.
“As Jaldapara has only five-seven tigers, the grassland will act as a specially protected habitat within the sanctuary for the animal to breed,” said Om Prakash.
According to the foresters, all grasslands need to get flooded every year for their sustenance.
“There are varieties of grass on the island and even if it is completely flooded, the water level recedes very fast,” said a senior forester. He added that vast grasslands of Kaziranga National Park in Assam were prone to floods each year. The officer said a part of the grassland had been damaged because of human intrusions.
“We are worried about the intrusion of villagers into the island for fuelwood and fodder. Some patches of the grassland close to human settlement have already been damaged. We have been planting grass and creating wallow pools for the rhino elsewhere in the sanctuary. We are happy that the island was created naturally and it will provide a safe haven for the fauna of the region,” he said.