Tiger pugmarks seen at 10,000 feet

From The Times of India

2 Apr 2009, 0938 hrs IST, IANS

GANGTOK: Pugmarks of a Royal Bengal Tiger have been found in the snow at an altitude of 10,000 feet in the Himalayas near Jelepla in eastern Sikkim after a gap of nearly 18 years, officials said.

Officials called it a rare discovery, since tigers are usually found in the plains and almost never above 6,000 feet.

The latest pugmarks were photographed March 27 in the Ganek-Lungto area in eastern Sikkim, Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife) Karma Legshey said.

Tiger pugmarks were last officially recorded at this altitude in Sikkim some 18 years ago, by then divisional forest officer Tshesum Lachungpa.

Legshey said forest officials were on a routine patrol when they found the pugmarks on the snow in the northeastern part of the Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary in Sikkim.

The team then recorded the altitude of the pugmark site using the Global Positioning System. They also measured the pugmarks and photographed it, he added.

“The pugmarks measure 19 cm long and 17 cm wide with a stride of around 110 cm,” Legshey said, adding that a subsequent study confirmed the pugmarks as being those of a Royal Bengal Tiger.

He added that the trail of around 70 metres (of the animal’s track) resembled that of a tiger on a “normal walk”. The team then followed the track from Ganek to Devithan from where the terrain became too steep to follow.

“After making necessary arrangements at the site, we came down to Zuluk from where it was possible to catch the mobile telecom network and informed our superiors of our find. Immediately, a team from WWF-India, Sikkim Programme Office, led by Partho Ghosh, a tiger expert, left for the site and conducted necessary studies on the spot,” Legshey said.

“After interviews with local residents and senior officials, it was presumed that the animal is a female,” he added.

The residents in the area heard tiger roars in the past and also came across carcasses

of yaks and goats killed by the animal, Legshey said.

He said the tiger might have crossed into Sikkim from Bhutan through the Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a forest extending into the neighbouring country.

Currently, a team of forest officials is camping at Zuluk to monitor and alert the villagers, police and defence personnel about the probable presence of a tiger in their midst.

Meanwhile, forest officials have urged the local residents not to harm the animal even if it attacks livestock, and assured appropriate compensation in case of an attack.

Tigers have been reported to prowl in the forests of Lachen and Lachung in northern Sikkim at an altitude above 8,000 feet, but sightings have been rare.