Ratel numbers in state forests more than earlier estimate: Study

Ratel numbers in state forests more than earlier estimate: Study

Submitted by alvin on Thu, 2016-07-07 10:35 Ratel encounters a leopard. Photo/NCFBengaluru: The ratel or honey badger, which was rediscovered recently in state forest, continues to surprise wildlife lovers.Camera traps installed by the Nature Conservation Foundation has revealed that the species is more in number than earlier estimates.Ratel, the smallest carnivore, is nocturnal and very elusive. Though it is known to exist in forests in Karnataka since the mid-seventies, advanced ‘camera trap’ technology has revealed that the honey badger is found both in Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) and the adjoining Malai Mahadeshwara reserve forest.A research paper authored by Sanjay Gubbi, V Reddy and others presents the records of 41 camera traps from CWS. “The first photographic evidence of Ratel for the southern Indian state of Karnataka comprises 41 camera-trap records from Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary,” write researchers in the paper ‘Photographic records of the Ratel Mellivora capensis from the South Indian state of Karnataka’.“During January–March 2014, Ratels were detected in the sanctuary’s different ranges. A wider occupancy survey, using a range of methods including camera-trapping, would help obtain a better understanding of the distribution of this cryptic species in Karnataka and neighbouring regions,” the paper says.The paper further states that the animal being elusive in nature, there is a little reliable information on its status and distribution. Though it has been listed as least concerned in the red list of International Union of Conservation Network, it has been accorded a protected status under schedule one of the Wildlife Act 1972 for being a rarely visible animal.“This note presents the first-ever photographic evidence of occurrence of Ratel, to the best of our knowledge, from the southern Indian state of Karnataka. The other two were in the seventies and early 2000s,” says the paper.According to the researchers, a ratel was first camera trapped in Halagur range in January 2014 and was subsequently recorded in Hanur, Kaudalli and Malai Mahadeshwara hills. “Ratels were photo captured, always by night, 41 times at 31 camera trap stations,” say researchers, adding that they were “photographed twice” at eight camera trap stations and “thrice” at one, with successive records at any given station separated by at least 30 minutes.“Of the 41 photo captures, seven showed Ratels in duos. The other images each showed a single animal, although it cannot be concluded these animals were solitary: other individuals may have been present but not in positions to be recorded on the image. It was possible to identify sex of the animal in 19 photographs: males on 14 occasions and females on five,” says the study.Noting that ratels have been camera trapped in Malai Mahadeshwara hills also, Gubbi says that are possibilities of the species being sighted in Biligiriranganaswamy temple tiger reserve and North Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, reserved forests of Kestur, Bilikal, Mallahalli, Natrapalaiyam, Biligundlu, Voddappatti, Bevanurmalai and Badanavadi. “This species is found in almost all the drier woods. It has been sighted in Bannerghatta also. This establishes the importance of dry forest.  And places like these forests serve as a link to Eastern and Western Ghats,” he says.The forest department, which had installed about 170 cameras separately in addition to NCF cameras in the sanctuary, has also sighted this animal. Elated with this, the department has stepped up the protective measures. “Such findings are always an inspiration for conservations. We have begun educating and creating awareness among the staff about this animal,” says Ramesh Kumar, Deputy Conservator of Forests, CWS. The species has now become a mascot of CWS.