BY VISHAL GULATI
Chandigarh– First a camera trap captured an adult tiger sauntering in Himachal Pradesh. Now the tiger, seems the similar one, has been caught on camera, raising hopes of wildlife enthusiasts to work on establishing a multistate tiger reserve comprising Rajaji Uttarakhand, Kalesar in Haryana and Simbalbara in Himachal Pradesh.
Haryana Forests and Wildlife Minister Kanwar Pal on Thursday said a tiger was caught on a camera trap in April in state’s Kalesar National Park, the first sighting in the area in 110 years.
“It is a proud moment for the state as the tiger was seen in the Kalesar area after 110 years. The last sighting was reported in 1913,” Kanwar Pal wrote on his Facebook post. He also tagged two pictures of the wild cat.
Responding to development, Additional Chief Secretary (Forests and Wildlife) Vineet Garg said the tiger is believed to have reached Kalesar from the Rajaji National Park in Dehradun. It was captured on camera trap twice on April 18-19.
Wildlife experts believe the sighting of the tiger at both adjoining national parks of Haryana and Himachal indicates the need to restore the habitat of the 810-km Terai Arc landscape, comprising both parks, between the Yamuna river in the west and the Bhagmati river in the east, dominated by leopards.
Previously, Uttarakhand foresters claimed that the tiger that was spotted in Simbalbara in February strayed from the Rajaji park and travelled over 120 km across in search of new territory by passing through several human habitations in less than three months.
The Kalesar park is adjacent to Simbalbara. They are connected to the Rajaji National Park through a forest landscape.
Occasionally, elephants from Rajaji are using the Kalesar- Simbalbara corridor to roam in the Shivalik range. They are sighted in both Kalesar and Simbalbara parks, but on several occasions in the former, wildlife officials told IANS.
Responding to the minister’s post on the sighting of tiger in Kalesar, Rajiv Kalsi, a former associate professor in zoology at Mukand Lal National College in Yamunanagar, said it “is news worth rejoicing but also of concern”.
“And if the tiger stays, then the huge local human population must be educated to share space with the biggest of all cats. The main concern is that the Kalesar national park (just 43 sq km) is too small for a tiger while the surrounding Kalesar sanctuary (110 sq km) is heavily disturbed by people.
“I am hoping against hope that the tiger uses the Kalesar-Simbalbara corridor and that there is a little conflict. HOPE…,” he wrote.
Kalsi retired as associate professor in March 2022. His last funded research project was on the spatial ecology of small cats in Kalesar.
The Kalesar National Park is situated in the foothills of the Shivalik range. It falls under Yamunanagar district, sharing boundary with three states — Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
According to the state Forest Department, Kalesar is full of biodiversity, having dense Sal and Khair forests with patches of grasslands, which support an amazing variety of plants and animal species.
The park, which supports the leopard, ghoral, barking deer, sambar, chital, python, king cobra and the monitor lizard, was declared as national park on December 8, 2003, having an area of 11,570 acres.
Just adjacent to the national park is the Kalesar Wildlife Sanctuary that was notified on December 13, 1996, having an area of 13,209 acres.
According to a post on the department’s website, if little improvement in habitat management is done in the Kalesar park, tigers and elephants may stay throughout the year.
So this park is very important in conservation of highly threatened animals like tigers and elephants. This habitat can provide an alternate home for these two animals coming from the Rajaji National Park, it adds.
According to the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), the Simbalbara National Park is the only conservation area in Himachal Pradesh where the occurrence of tiger and elephant has been reported.
In a faunal survey by the ZSI in 2005 and 2006, tiger pugmarks and scats were observed in two instances. One scat sample collected was composed of pure soil with abundant undigested ants, while another scat sample composed of digested bones in the form of powdery calcareous substance along with undigested hairs.
Although Simbalbara supports a good prey base for large carnivores, its smaller size is not suitable for a tiger to reside permanently, says the ZSI.
In November 2022, a herd of elephants was spotted in Simbalbara National Park, which is now renamed the Sher Jung National Park.
On the habitat of the elephants, the ZSI says since grass is the major food item for elephants, the smaller size and deciduous vegetation of Simbalbara, without much grassland, cannot sustain an elephant herd for a longer period. Hence the park is not an attractive habitat for the elephant.
On the tiger’s presence in Simbalbara, Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife) N. Ravisankarm who is posted in Shimla, told IANS the water flow in the Yamuna river is minimised during winter and there “is possibility that it reached up to Simbalbara from the Rajaji National Park”.
About the movement of tigers, a wildlife expert told IANS that the Simbalbara and Kalesar national parks are connected.
Wildlife experts say now the claim regarding the presence of a tiger in Simbalbara and Kalesar parks is corroborated, both states should ask the central Environment Ministry to extend its tiger project from the Rajaji National Park by including the Kalesar and Simbalbara parks.
Previously, the Simbalbara National Park, the Kalesar National Park and the Rajaji National Park were well-connected tiger corridors. (IANS)