Tigers, men can live in harmony, says study

Peaceful existence

Tigers are not only capable of peacefully co-existing with man in the reserve forests but also, over the years, they have learnt how to thrive by lying low in day-time dominated by noisy human activities and being more active in the night, a new study has claimed.

 Even though the research was conducted among tigers in Chitwan Reserve Forest in Nepal, the researchers claimed that the methods and conclusion of the study are applicable to Indian forests in which both people and tigers live. Published in the September 3 issue of Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, the study comes at a time when India is witnessing an intense tiger versus tourism debate in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent directive on closing down core areas in tiger reserves.

Since the entire forest is core area in most of the tiger reserves in India, the court order means an end of tourism in tiger parks.

Analysing tiger behaviour at Chitwan between 2010 and 2011 through more than 75 camera traps, researchers from Michigan State University and their colleagues in Nepal found that tiger density in the forest was high despite the ubiquitous presence of people.

The big cats adapted to human presence by becoming more active at night and having a somewhat dormant life in the day, when human activities such as collection of woods or other forest resources and tourism would be at peak. Here, human refers to villagers, tourists and Nepal army personnel that patrol the Park.

The estimates of tiger density in Chitwan were higher than sites in Central and North India where tigers and people coexist. Tiger occupancy in Chitwan was 12 to 30 per cent greater than sites in Indonesia and India. According to the last official estimate, Chitwan has about six breeding tigers in every 100 sq km.

“The case of Chitwan.. is particularly fascinating, because Chitwan is a premier tourist destination.  (Here) tigers have a surprising capacity to adapt to high human presence and that tiger-human coexistence is enhanced by good management policies and a local population tolerant of tigers,” Neil H Carter, the first author of the paper from the US university told Deccan Herald.

The increase in tiger count happened notwithstanding the 55 per cent raise in the presence of local residents between 2010 and 2011.

The big cats seem to be using Forest Department roads to travel from one location to another avoiding jungle trails because the forest department roads are shorter and hence more energy efficient for them.

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