Friday, November 13, 2009

Three bears foray into Dikchu in North Sikkim

Forest Dept to beef up its resources and manpower capacity

GANGTOK, November 13: Matching the labourious efforts of the State forest department to stem the wave of bear transgressions into urban Sikkim, three tenacious bears crossed the river Teesta and killed a goat during their flirtation around Dikchu area while another bear romping around fringes of Himalayan Zoological Park here is still proving difficult to be pinned down.
The forest department informed that three bears had crossed the Teesta river to come close to Dikchu where the animals killed a goat. This latest foray takes the number of bear sightings in the State in the past one month to at least 18.
With bears taking much of newsprint, the forest department called a press conference here today evening to brief the media about the latest updates on the measures taken and proposed to contain the issue.
Chief Wildlife Warden NT Bhutia, Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) HP Pradhan, Chief Conservator of Forests (Territorial & Land Use) C Lachungpa, Senior Research Officer Usha Lachungpa, DFO (KNP/KBR) Nambi Tshering Bhutia and DFO (Wildlife, East) Karma Legshey addressed the media.
Informing that around 18 sightings have taken in all parts of the Sikkim since October 24, the forest officials informed that a strategy has been formulated to address the incidences of bear sightings and encounters with humans.
Dozen of these sightings have taken in West Sikkim alone.
We have set up four teams each headed by Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) in East Sikkim, said the CWW. Range Officers have also been deputed in the BACs to assist the local forest officials in such incidents. The RO has been tasked to ascertain the reports and inform the ACF who will in turn coordinate with police officials for proper handling of the incident.
The senior forest officials stressed that they will be coordinating with the concerned police officers for immediate cordoning of the area where the bear is reported to have been sighted.
The CWW informed that the bear sightings have also been included in an ongoing survey that is presently going on in Pangolakha sanctuary from Rhenock to Tumin. Villagers are being asked about the wild animal sightings and encounters and the survey findings will be the baseline for future sightings, he said.
CCF Pradhan informed that two cages with trap doors which can be easily transported have been developed in case a bear has to be captured. He said that the department is preparing a comprehensive report for beefing up the infrastructure and resources of the department.
The report will be submitted to the State government soon, said the CCF. He said that the department would be requesting for financial assistance worth around Rs. 60 lakhs to procure equipments and protection materials like ambulance, helmets and firearms.
We will also select a team of young Block Officers and give them training to handle such incidents, said Pradhan. The department would also be approaching Wildlife Institute of India and other institutions for training of the frontline staff.
The department also strongly rejected the allegations over the tranquilizer misfire during the Upper Sichey incident on November 3 when an apparently sedated bear mauled three foresters. The department said that lack of visibility and noise created by the crowd could not allow the tranquilizers to have the desired effect on the bear.
Meanwhile various reasons were offered for the rash of bear sightings and encounters in Sikkim.
The senior forest officials opined that increase in the population of bears and other wild animals in the forest areas have led to food competition forcing the bears to migrate into human settlements in search of food which is found in garbage. The population of wild animals has increased due to strong conservation policies of the State government; they said adding that poaching has stopped while their habitats have improved due to the ban on grazing.
Seventy percent of garbage in Sikkim consists of waste food items and the wild animals are induced into feeding from the garbage dumping grounds, said the forest officials. They also claimed that sections of army troops stationed in higher altitude areas are dumping their waste food as food for the bears. The bears are feeding on these dump sites, they said.
“We are indirectly feeding the bears and inviting trouble”.
The department would be soon submitting its concerns to the GOC, 17th Mountain Division along with a CD containing footage of bear feeding the waste food items of the army near the army camps in East Sikkim.
The villagers are being sensitized on the ‘dos and don’ts’ whenever a bear or any other wild animal is spotted close to the villages.
The forest department has appealed to the people not to retaliate or take any independent action or approach the wild animal in the event the bear is sighted in and around human habitations. The people have been appealed not to fuel or heed any rumours which may create panic in the area.
The department has already released the appeals in the local dailies requesting the people not to dispose garbage especially rice beer wastage in and around human habitations. The department has attributed collection of edible wild items from the forest areas for the increase in man-animal conflicts.
Meanwhile, the bear which had been sighted around the Himalayan Zoological Park (HPZ) area on November 9 is still at large despite continued efforts to trace and push back the wild animal into deeper forest areas away from the human habitats.
However, the bear is still elusive and is suspected to have migrated to another area and the danger that the wild animal may wander into a human habitat still lurks.
Dr Madan Shankar, deputy director, HPZ informed that the zoo staff have been searching the bear but could not trace the animal. A trap has already been set up to capture the bear.
The bear was yesterday night sighted at Kazi Dara near Enchey school by a driver and we reached the spot and launched a search but the bear could not be traced, said Dr Shankar. The bear keeps on wandering and we are trying our best to prevent the animal from entering into human habitats, he said.

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