Animal study in hill forest

Siliguri, Feb. 21: Help may soon be on way for three lesser-known animals in the forests of north Bengal.

After tigers and elephants, wildlife experts and the forest department have shifted their attention to co-predators like wild dogs (Cuon alpinus) and clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa) and herbivores like Hodgson’s giant flying squirrel (Petaurista magnificus).

In association with two Calcutta-based NGOs, the department is about to start a survey to find out the status of these three animals at Neora Valley National Park in the Kalimpong hills.

“We are doing a baseline study at Neora to see if such a survey is viable there,” said Biswajit Roychoudhury of Nature Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS), one of the NGOs working on the survey. Since pug marks and other evidence have proved the animal’s existence in Neora, experts from NEWS and Society for Nature, Environment and Sustainable Ecosystem will start the survey on Friday.

Roychoudhury said if the survey shows that the animals are under threat, the government will be more likely to put them on the priority list of wildlife conservation. “That is why we submitted the proposal to the Union ministry of forests and environment,” he added.

Forest officials are monitoring the entire process and providing necessary aid to the NGOs. “The survey was required not only to find out the status of these animals but other factors related to their lives,” said Ujjal Bhattacharya, the chief conservator of forests (wildlife). “These include availability of food and whether there is any threat to their existence.”

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