Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change : ZSI Scientists Report First Photographic Evidence of Sambar from Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary, East Sikkim - Songoti

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change : ZSI Scientists Report First Photographic Evidence of Sambar from Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary, East Sikkim

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National : The scientists of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has reported the first photographic evidence of Sambar (Rusa Unicolor) from Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary (PWLS) and adjoining area of East Sikkim, stated Dr Dhriti Banerjee, Director, Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) today. She also said that such evidence was first reported during the April-May period of 2019. A total of twenty-five photographs of Sambar were captured by our camera traps placed at two locations with elevations 2137 m and 2655 m asl. Furthermore, photographic capture of Sambar through our study and tiger by officials of the Sikkim forest department from the same locality indicates the availability of good quality habitat for Sambar as well as tiger, stated scientist Dr Lalit Kumar Sharma of ZSI. The study has opened up new avenues for further population monitoring and protecting habitats in and around the PWLS, East Sikkim. So long, Sambar was not reported from the Sikkim state of India. However, the unconfirmed reports (no direct sightings and photographic capture) suggested its rare occurrence from Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary (PWLS) and the southern part of Sikkim. The ZSI scientists undertook

 a large scale camera-trapping exercise in the selected landscapes of the Indian Himalayan Region IHR, including the East Sikkim, under a long term monitoring project to assess the status of threatened vertebrates in the IHR. The sign surveys and camera trapping was carried out in the East Sikkim district from March 1, 2019 to March 14, 2020 and covered all three protected areas, i.e., Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary (FWLS), Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary (KAS) and PWLS, as well as reserve forest under the seven territorial ranges. They used the pre-existing tracks and trails in the forested habitat for sign surveys and deployed 76 camera traps in the forests (PA and Non-PA), covering about 650 km2. The camera-traps had white LED flashes, with the ability to click colour pictures and videos at night. We covered a wide range of elevation zones from 350 m– 4500 m asl of East Sikkim. The camera trapping effort of 5353 trap nights (Figure 1) resulted in the documentation of 29 mammalian species from the East Sikkim (Figure 1). Out of 76 camera traps, two cameras captured 25 photos of Sambar individuals (Figure 1). We obtained a single capture of one Sambar individual on April 4, 2019 in a camera trap deployed at Regu reserve forest under Rongli territorial range at an elevation of 2137 m asl with a dominant tree cover of Michelia excelsa. The other camera trap placed in the south range of PWLS at an elevation of 2655 m asl got 24 photographs of a single female Sambar from April 15 to 17, 2019 and four photographs of two individual Sambars (a female with fawn) on May 3, 2019. Moreover, for the first time, the Sikkim Forest Department also captured a tiger (Panthera tigris Linnaeus, 1758) in the adjoining areas where the ZSI scientists reported Sambar. Extensive habitat loss or disturbance in other supposedly areas must have resulted in the movement of Sambar to new areas for foraging and shelter, opined Dr Sharma. The presence of Sambar in PWLS signifies that the area harbours important wildlife that warrants immediate protection. Moreover, the obtained record of Sambar from high elevation areas of Sikkim in the Central Himalayan region can also be corroborated with climate change. Several studies have indicated that species are moving to the higher elevations, searching for new refuge to combat the climate-mediated change. Sambar (Rusa unicolor) is one of the largest deer belonging to the family Cervidae. It is distributed in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, South China to mainland Southeast Asia. In recent years, the population size of Sambar has declined due to illegal poaching for local consumption, habitat degradation, and fragmentation.

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