WILDLIFE & EDUCATION: Japan to fund Gangtok zoo upgrade – Rescue centre for trespassing animals on the anvil

WILDLIFE & EDUCATION: Japan to fund Gangtok zoo upgrade – Rescue centre for trespassing animals on the anvil – children’s love and compassion for animals is the most natural phenomenon, wonderful capitalization of ecological tourism an example for all India ?!!

Students at the entrance to the Himalayan Zoological Park at Bulbulay near Gangtok on Monday. (Prabin Khaling) - learning from the university of life ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Gangtok, Oct. 4: The Himalayan Zoological Park housing high altitude endangered wildlife species is set to be upgraded at an estimated cost of Rs 30 crore over the next five years.

The park’s revamp is being taken up as part of the Rs 330.57-crore Sikkim Bio-diversity Conservation and Forest Management project funded by the Japanese International Co-operative Agency (JICA).

“We will use the funds of around Rs 30 crore to set up a rescue centre where any animal captured while transgressing into human habitats will be rehabilitated. Enclosures of the animals will be enlarged and upgraded,” said zoo director Sangay Gyatso.

The Red Panda, Sikkim's State animal - cute as a teddy bear ?!! (HN Files)

Spread over 235 hectares at an altitude of 5,840ft, the thickly wooded park has red panda, Himalayan black bear and snow leopard among other animals. The zoo, located 10km from here, has been designed to allow people see high altitude animals in semi-wild environment.

Upgrade of the ex-situ conservation (shifting an animal from the threatened habitat to a new area for its protection under human care) at the park is also part of the project. In fact, the zoo has been showing good results in captive breeding of red pandas and the animal’s population at the facility has risen to 11 now. They are kept in three separate enclosures.

Red panda, the state animal of Sikkim, figures in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act because of its dwindling population.

Gyatso said offices and an interpretation centre would also be set up at the park. “We will also make efforts to bring in more high altitude species like munal, tragopan and blue sheep to the zoo so that the facility will become a perennial tourist attraction. We have only 12 species right now,” he told a group of students who had come to the park as part of the weeklong wildlife week celebrations organised by the forest department.

The students were excited to see the rare animals. “We are lucky,” gushed a boy when he saw a Himalayan black bear rumbling over dry grass in its 15000sqm enclosure.

Zoo keepers stationed at each enclosure briefed the children on the habitats and other details of the animals.

An agreement to implement the bio-diversity conservation project was signed between Indian and Japanese governments earlier this year. The Sikkim forest department is the nodal agency of the project that spans over 10 years.

Funds from the JICA will be spent on the scientific mapping of wildlife species and to derive ways to improve the economic status of the people living on the fringes of forests. Some other features of the project are sustainable bio-diversity conservation, afforestation, eco-tourism and non-consumptive management of the forest.

A butterfly park will also come up in North Sikkim under the project.

Around 150 students from 13 schools in and around Gangtok were invited to the zoo by the forest department.

The red pandas and a female snow leopard, Maliaka, were most liked by the students.

Leopard count in Buxa reserve – novel effort, and elephants too ?!!

Buxa Tiger Reserve: Scat analysis in December - accurate approximation ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Alipurduar, Oct. 4: Leopards will be counted for the first time in the Buxa Tiger Reserve through the DNA analysis of their scat in December.

The census to be flagged off by Union environment and forest minister Jairam Ramesh in the BTR on December 5 comes after an NGO reported the presence of 15 tigers following a count using the same method.

The BTR is also in touch with the Wildlife Institute of India to set up trap cameras in “transect areas” to photograph the tigers. All data on the big cats’ DNA will be fed into a gene bank to be prepared in the near future.

According to the DNA analysis report submitted by Aranyak, an NGO based in Guwahati, there are at least 15 tigers in the reserve, 6km from here. Of them, nine are females.

The report says that most of the tigers are seen in the hilly terrain and have a tendency to move along the northeast part of the reserve. In the north of the sanctuary, there is Bhutan and on the east is the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary.

R.P. Saini, the field director of the BTR, said: “I had submitted a report to the central minister (Ramesh) during his visit. He had earlier received letters from different people in Alipurduar, who said there were no tigers in the reserve. The minister admitted that he had been misguided. I asked him to visit and see for himself the state of the reserve. He assured us that he would visit the BTR on December 5.”

The movement of the tigers to Bhutan, Saini said, is now a trans-border issue that had to be discussed between the two countries at the ministerial level. The BTR authorities would request Ramesh to ask the Bhutan government to keep a watch on tiger movement. A preliminary discussion already had been held during a meeting of the Global Tiger Forum, an international body, in July in Delhi.

The scat analysis also revealed that a tiger had moved or covered around 28km in the reserve, Saini said. The foresters said this time more focus would be on collection and preservation of scats and GPS readings to rectify the mistakes that occurred during the December 2009-February 2010 census.

“More importantly, this time after collecting a scat, the staff will be advised to cover at least 4-5km left and right of the spot to know the movement of a particular tiger. We are concentrating on clearing the canopy so that sunlight can enter, which is needed to grow grass. This is the first time we will go for estimation of leopards in BTR following the same DNA analysis method.” This time scats of tigers and leopards in South Khayerbari will also be collected for DNA analysis.

Saini also said an elephant census would be held in the region from November 24 to 26. According to the last census held in 2007, there are 350-400 elephants in north Bengal. Of them, 155 are in BTR.

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