SUBJECT :Sikkim’s faunal richness evidenced by Camera Tarps 

By: Bijoy Gurung

Gangtok, May 7, 2019: Jangal main mornacha, Kisney dekha?  Is a lovely India proverb which means that even a very good thing needs to be made public if it to be acclaimed by the people.

For this particular report, this proverb can be extrapolated that without visual evidence, Sikkim’s faunal exclusivity would be forever contested like the ‘Yeti’ discovery claims of the India Army.

The India Army last week posted in social media that it has found traces of the mythical Himalayan creature, Yeti, a claim which immediately attracted cynicism as only ‘ tracks in snow’ were shown.

As for Sikkim, the Himalayan State can confidently share with the world about the wildlife found in its landscape ranging from as grand as the Royal Bengal Tiger to as mystical as the Snow Leopard. This confidence comes from the digital photos and video of the wildlife being captured by the camera traps here since 2016-17.

A total of 262 camera traps were installed at strategic location in the seven Protected Area in the State by the Forest department. This was done with funding received from JICA- assisted Sikkim Biodiversity Conservation and Forest Management Project. In the second phase, 200 plus camera traps were placed in these Protected Areas.

Camera traps are motion sensitive cameras that can sense and record movements of animals in form of digital photos and videos.

History was created last December when  a camera trap at Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary recorded image of the Royal  Bengal Tiger roaming the sanctuary. This camera footage supported the previous oral narratives of tiger freely criss-crossing the wilds of Sikkim having migrated from neighboring North Bengal.

“ Earlier before the camera traps and its footages,, we could only say that Sikkim has different types of exotic and endangered wildlife species.

We did not have photos or video records. As an example, we have heard of Royal Bengal Tiger moving around our State’s forests but it was doubtful without photographic evidence. But now, thanks to our camera traps, we have all the evidence and  records to show that our biodiversity support such endangered and elusive wildlife species. There is no doubt that the forests of Sikkim are indeed a rich repository for floral and faunal diversity,” said Dechen  Lachungpa, DFO (East Wildlife Division)

The same month saw the movement of a snow leopard at Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary subsequently captured by the camera traps.

Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary spread over 124 sq km in East Sikkim, shares borders with the forests of Bhutan, and Neora Valley National Park of North Bengal. It has proved to be a happy hunting ground for the camera traps which also captured the Indian Bison on two occasions this year.

First, it was a lone Indian Bison and in the second time, it was a whole herd of the Indian Bison. The Indian Bison is also a Schedule I species under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

Wildlife Division team visit the camera trap locations every two months. They replace the battery of the cameras and retrieve the data stored in the memory cards.

As informed by the DFO, fresh footages are yet to be collected from the higher altitudes due to snow and inclement weather conditions.

Data collected from the camera traps are shared with Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun for analysis, she said.

Source: Sikkim Express