By : Mohan Verma
Himachal Pradesh’s wildlife officials have begun looking for a tiger spotted in the Renuka wildlife sanctuary in Sirmaur district.
A wildlife wing team is on the prowl ever since a watchman of the Renuka lion safari-cum-mini zoo near Nahan town spotted the tiger on May 16 night.
“We have installed camera traps in the safari’s adjoining wildlife sanctuary to track the movement of the wild animals,” Sandeep Rattan, wildlife wing’s senior veterinary officer, told media.
He said the tiger doesn’t exist in the area as it’s not its habitat. But there are chances that it can migrate from adjoining Uttarakhand’s Rajaji National Park, the only park in the region that supports tiger in the wild.
Mr. Rattan said that the wing has started extensive search in the 402-hectare Renuka wildlife sanctuary, but could not find any evidence of the tiger so far.
“For over a month we were getting reports from the villagers (settled in periphery of the sanctuary) about the sighting of the tiger. Now, our lion safari guard spotted it. His claims that it can’t be a farce as he could easily distinguish the wild cat with black stripes,” he said.
The lion safari, which is part of the wildlife sanctuary, is home to two lions and several leopards.
The official said more camera traps would soon be laid in the forest. “A team of experts in pugmark and scat (fecal) identification has been dispatched.”
The Renuka wildlife sanctuary is also home to many flora and fauna species.
According to the wildlife wing, famous mammals found in the sanctuary are the leopard, jackal, jungle cat and various herbivores like barking and spotted deer, wild boar, hare and porcupine.
The sighting of the leopard is quite common in the sanctuary.
Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife) Mr. Satish Gupta said, “We have extensively surveyed the area. We have spread sand in the forest to take his (tiger’s) pugmarks.”
Researchers with the high-altitude field station of the Zoological Survey of India in Solan town says that the spotting of a tiger in Himachal Pradesh was only recorded in the Simbhalwara sanctuary, also in Sirmaur district.
“Like the elephants, the tiger is occasionally migrating from the adjoining Rajaji National Park to Simbhalwara,” said a researcher.
He said researchers twice collected scats of a tiger in the Simbhalwara sanctuary between 2005 and 2007.
Wildlife experts say if claims regarding the presence of a tiger in Renuka sanctuary are corroborated, the state should again ask the central environment ministry to extend its tiger project from the Rajaji National Park to Simbhalwara.
Simbhalwara supports a thick growth of elephant grass, making it ideal for a tiger reserve, they said.
Both Renuka and Simbhalwara sanctuaries lie in proximity. Even Kalesar forest in Haryana is adjoining the Rajaji National Park.
The state wildlife wing earlier sent a detailed report to the central environment ministry proposing to include 4,400 hectares, including 1,990 hectares in Simbhalwara, under the tiger reserve.