BHUBANESWAR/BALANGIR : The death of the an adult Royal Bengal Tiger on Balangir-Nuapada borders has thrown up crucial questions about tiger population and their distribution in the region which connects the Central India tiger landscape.
While post mortem report of the tiger is yet to be received, contrasting views have emerged about the origin of the tiger, whose carcass was found in Chandil Reserve Forest near Choulmunda village under Khaprohol block on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the remains of the tiger were consigned to flames in Lathore Range Office campus as per the National Tiger Conservation Authority protocol after post mortem. Preliminary investigation hinted at the fact that the tiger died due to congestive heart failure.
According to DFO, Balangir, Rashmi Ranjan Nayak, during the tiger census in February, no trace of the large cat was found though excreta and pug marks had been recorded. While it is believed to have come from Sunabeda wildlife sanctuary and Gandhamardan range, it is still not clear whether the tiger has been inhabiting the forests or had strayed into the area.
On the other hand, DFO, Sunabeda wildlife sanctuary, Gadadhar Patra, said census had found presence of four RBTs in the sanctuary and the one which existed in forests of Balangir may have been found dead.
The region being contiguous to Central India Tiger Landscape, Sunabeda benefits from spillover tigers of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra that come into Odisha. This population is badly needed by the State to repopulate the tiger habitats that have been emptied after years of mismanagement and lack of conservation.
While notification of Sunabeda as a Tiger Reserve has been hanging fire for more than eight years, it is now imperative that the State Government immediately identify and secure habitat contiguities and tiger corridors like Ampani and Sunabeda that connect Odisha’s tiger habitats to the well protected, large and stable tiger source populations of Central India.
“Protecting and reviving habitat contiguities is critical to reviving tigers in Odisha as protected areas such as Karlapat and Satkosia landscape - almost bereft of tigers today - stand to benefit greatly from them,” points out wildlife conservationist, Aditya Chandra Panda.
He says that Sunabeda is the only area outside Kanha Tiger Reserve to have Barasinga until the 1960s. It was also home to Central Indian wild buffalo that still survives in the neighbouring Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve of Chhattisgarh. “Odisha needs to act fast, notify and secure Sunabeda Tiger Reserve and think of reintroducing these iconic species in our State,” he explains.
In Sunabeda landscape’s vicinity, cattle kills by tigers and leopards have been frequently reported as has been poisoning of big cats. In the absence of strong conservation measures, the entire corridor would face threat which in turn would affect tiger population in the region.