A tiger was spotted in Jharkhand's Palamau Tiger Reserve (PTR) on Saturday, after more than three years, claimed Forest officials. The PTR which was teeming with tigers in the 1970s reported nil tigers in 2018. Though a tigress was found dead in February 2020. The sub-adult male tiger was seen in the Kutku range of the reserve and it was captured on a mobile phone camera, around 170 km from the capital Ranchi, by PTR (North) deputy director Prajesh Jena. "I captured the animal on a mobile phone camera at a distance of some 15 meters on Saturday. We had information about the tiger's presence in the region, which also killed an ox on Friday. So, a 20-member team is in the area for the past three days," Jena told PTI.
PTR field director Kumar Ashutosh told PTI, "Earlier, there was a report of a tiger sighting in November 2021 in the Baresand area but it could not be captured neither in a trap camera nor by a personal camera phone." He said that the Kutku range in PTR has been a tiger corridor between Chattisgarh and Jharkhand but the presence of the animal was missing for the past few years. "It seems tigers are returning back to the track. Since there are good numbers of tigers in Chattisgarh, they might be traveling to Jharkhand and again finding the PTR region as their territory," Ashutosh said. He said, "We will send the images and evidence of the tiger to National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for its inclusion in the Tiger Census report, which is expected to be released in July this year."
Spread over 1,129 sqkm, PTR, which was constituted in 1974 under Project Tiger, had 22 tigers in 1972, a former principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife), Jharkhand, Pradeep Kumar wrote in his book ‘Main Baagh Hoon’, which was published in 2016. The reserve recorded its highest tiger population in 1995 with 71 tigers. Thereafter, the population started declining. There were 44 in 1997, 34 in 2002, 10 in 2010, and 3 in 2014, according to the book. Of the 1,129.93 sq km area of PTR, 414.08 sq km is marked as the core area (critical tiger habitat), and the remaining 715.85 sq km as the buffer zone. Of the total area, 226.32 sq km is designated as Betla National Park. In the buffer zone, 53 sq km is open for tourists.
PTR mainly consists of sal and deciduous forests and bamboo groves. The reserve zone is a watershed area for Koel, Burha, and Auranga rivers. It was one of the first nine tiger reserves in the country during the inception of Project Tiger. The first tiger census, based on pugmark count, was carried out in PTR in 1932 under the supervision of the Palamu Divisional Forest Officer JW Nicholson. Apart from leopards, it also boasts elephants, grey wolves, gaur, sloth bears, four-horned antelopes, Indian ratel, otters, and pangolin among its inhabitants. A total of 47 species of mammals and 174 species of birds, 970 species of plants, 17 species of grass, and 56 species of medicinal plants have been identified in PTR, officials said.