WILDLIFE: Track control flak for forest

WILDLIFE: Track control flak for forest – Buddhadeb quick to shoot off letters to the Union Minister but still holds back on the forest departments for political mileage ?!!

The calf, one of the seven elephants that were hit by a goods train on Wednesday, died an hour after it was spotted in a garden along the tracks the next day - tragedy never to be repeated ?!! (TT)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Alipurduar, Sept. 27: The forest department is yet to send an employee to the railway control room here to liaison between the two departments, although a couple of days have passed since such a decision was taken at a joint meeting to tackle deaths of wild animals on tracks.

On Saturday, a meeting in Gorumara National Park decided that a forester, probably a beat officer, would be posted at the railway control room here. He would remain in constant touch with the divisions, beats and the ranges through which the tracks pass from Siliguri to Alipurduar junction to keep watch on elephant movement.

Today, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee sent a letter to Union minister of state for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh to take “urgent action” to stop the deaths of wild animals, particularly elephants, on railway tracks.

Concerned over the deaths of seven elephants by a goods train on Wednesday, Bhattacharjee asked Ramesh to make the railways stop the running of trains between 6pm to 6am on 147km-long Gulma-Rajabhatkhawa stations.

Dilip Bhattacharya of Malbazar Nature Club said he along with the members of Alipurduar Nature Club, Jana Jagaran Nature Club and East-West Corridor Movement Committee arrived at the divisional railway manager’s office here in the morning to request the railways to take steps after seven elephants had been run over by a goods train on Wednesday.

“We were surprised to hear that the forest department was yet to send an employee to man the control room along with the railway staff. If they were serious, they should have followed what was agreed at Saturday’s meeting,” Bhattacharya said.

The DRM of the Alipurduar division, S.N. Singh, who was present at Saturday’s meeting, said: “It was decided that a forest staff would be in our control room at all times by rotation from Monday. But till late afternoon, no one has come.”

V.K. Sood, the conservator of forests (wildlife) north Bengal, said they needed three persons to maintain a round-the-clock vigil. “We had never committed that the manning would be done from today. It will take a few days.”

The chief minister in his letter to Ramesh said: “The trains that run through these tracks during the day time should have a speed restriction of a maximum of 20kmph. Such drastic steps are needed as the tracks run through four wildlife sanctuaries and across 20 identified elephant corridors.”

Bhattacharjee pointed out that from 1974 to 2003, 26 elephants had died after being hit by trains. “In contrast, during the short span of seven years, from 2004 to 2010, after conversion to broad gauge, 27 elephants have been killed on the railway tracks.”

In Jalpaiguri today, state chief secretary Ardhendu Sen said the government was taking up the issue with the Union forest ministry. “A number of recommendations were made in relation to running of trains on the track, including speed limits. However, the railways have not followed the norms that have led to these accidents. The state government has decided to take up the issue with the Centre and seek intervention of the ministry.”

Wild breeding for red panda – but no village awareness programs against illegal poaching and its penalties ?!!

Forest foray awaits: A red panda at Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling - only to be illegally poached by ignorant villagers and greedy conscienceless hunters ?!! (TT)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Darjeeling, Sept. 27: Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park has decided to conduct the breeding of red pandas in the natural habitats to make the endangered species more adaptable in the wild before their release in forest.

A.K. Jha, director of the zoo, said: “We have already made a proposal to start breeding programmes at Tiger Hill in Darjeeling, Dow Hill in Kurseong and in the forest of Lava in Kalimpong. We will ensure minimum human interference for the animal’s breeding in natural surroundings.”

The move is aimed at honing the animal’s natural skills, which could be restricted when bred in closed enclosure as is being done currently at the Darjeeling zoo. Experts believe the new initiative will facilitate the release of the animal in the wild.

The hill zoo was the first in the country to release captive animals in the wild successfully. So far, the zoo has sent four red pandas to Singalila National Park.

Jha said 74 red pandas had been spotted in the Singalila forest. “But the number is in decline across the world. We have been told that the Centre will take up the issue of red panda conservation with authorities in Nepal and Bhutan,” said Jha.

The Indian government believes that it is necessary to take up the issue of conserving the red panda habitat in Nepal and Bhutan as human interference in its corridor is resulting in the animal’s inbreeding.

“The red panda area in India is contiguous with Nepal and Bhutan. The animals will not mingle if there is human interference in its corridor, leading to poor genetic strain of the species,” said Jha on the sidelines of a workshop on the red panda in Darjeeling last week.

The Darjeeling zoo is currently classified as a co-ordinating zoo for the breeding of red pandas and other animals like Tibetan wolf, Satyr Tragopan, grey peacock pheasant, snow leopard and Himalayan salamander. The animals born at a co-ordinating zoo will be exchanged with participating zoos, which will act as a back up for the species (in case of epidemics) and also to ensure their healthy genetic strain.

The Darjeeling zoo presently has nine male, three females and two infant red pandas. The zoo will also be framing up guidelines on the conservation of the red panda to be followed by other zoos in the country, especially those in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

Animal experts believe it is desirable that there should be an equal ratio of male and female animals in captivity for better breeding.

“Since we have more males, one of them will be sent to Auckland zoo in New Zealand on September 30,” said Jha. The New Zealand zoo will in turn send a female red panda for Darjeeling.

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