Tigers sighted in North Sikkim

GANGTOK, 26 Jul:

A fresh sighting of Royal Bengal Tiger has been reported from Gamthangpu above Lachen in North Sikkim. The tiger was spotted at an altitude of 3600 metres above sea level through camera traps set up by World Wildlife Fund as part of its special High Altitude Tiger Project under the National Tiger Conservation Authority. A similar project for Tiger Conservation has been initiated by the WWF in West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Forest Department, ML Shrivastavasays, “Since November 2018, we have had multiple sightings of the Royal Bengal Tiger here in Sikkim, which asserts that Sikkim is a thriving circuit for these big cats.”

In recent weeks, tigers have been photo-captured in camera traps in 2 different locations in theremote montane forests of North Sikkim, a press note from the Forest Department informs.

“These tiger images from North Sikkim are significant for a number of reasons. These are the mostauthentic photographs of the species from this district in recent times. Based on these photographs,it is established that there is presence of at least two different individual tigers in the area. One ofthese animals, a male, was photographed at an elevation of 3600m which is one of the highestaltitudes that tigers have been recorded in India thus far,” the release mentions.

These images resulted from surveys that wereconducted as part of the Project Status of tiger habitats in high altitude ecosystems of Bhutan, Indiaand Nepal. The survey involved a range of methods inclusive of interviews with local communitiesabout the presence and status of tigers and other mammals, sign surveys to detect wildlife presenceand camera trapping. It was undertaken in select areas across North and East Districts of the state.

Mr Shrivastava said that the department has been instrumental in providing the manpower for the project which laid out the camera traps.

In the last 3 years there have been reports of cattle being killed by wild animals but it was not certain what animal was feeding on them, he added.

"The project is devoted towards tiger conservation with WWF laying out the necessary equipment, the project has been up and running for 4 months now. The previous sighting in November, 2018 was through a different project under JICA. Hence, such multiple sightings can ascertain that the ecosystem in Sikkim is suitable for Bengal Tigers to take the circuit," informed the Secretary. The animal tends to take the circuit which begins in Bengal and takes the route through the dense forest bordering Bhutan and Sikkim reaching beyond the tri-junction area. Apart from Royal Bengal Tiger, the camera traps have captured snow leopards as well, surprisingly in altitudes much lower than their natural habitat.