'Conflict, price of success of tiger conservation'

Karanth says tiger numbers can be doubled

Recent cases of conflict between humans and tigers was the “price of success” of tiger conservation in the country, said wildlife scientist, Ullas Karanth, here on Monday.

Speaking at the 15th Conservation Speak on ‘Tiger ecology and tiger-human conflict’, held at Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, he said that without a rational policy, based on scientific discoveries, conflict would continue to persist. Before devising quick fix solutions to resolve the conflict, a logical and scientific analysis about the same is necessary, he added.

Noting that cases of conflict related to tigers had increased during the past few years, he said that shooting down those tigers predating on humans, was the only solution. “In the last few years, 10-12 cases of attack on humans have been reported. During such incidents, sentiments regarding the animal should be set aside and the tiger should be shot down,” he said.

Reason and logic would not help in reasoning with forest fringe communities, which have been affected by tiger attacks. After such cases, darting the tiger was not advisable, he said.  

He said that there was no single solution for conflict. “But, we have to eliminate some individual tigers to save the species,” he said.

Territory

Comparison of studies on tigers carried out in India and other countries show that home range of tigers was relatively smaller in the country. “In a country like Russia, home range of a single tiger extends to 600 square kilometers, which is equivalent to the expanse of Nagarahole. In India, however, home range of tigers on an average is 12 square kilometers. This indicates that the protected regions have high carrying capacity, sustaining more tigers.” he said.

Encouraging signs

Research on aspects such as prey density and territory of the tiger has helped estimate the number of tigers that can be sustained at these reserves. Based on the estimates, there is potential to double the number of tigers in the country in the next few years, he added. There has been encouraging signs, as number of tigers at Nagarahole has increased from 50 in 1970’s to over 350 today, he said.

On tiger density, he said that there were natural variations in their numbers owing to mortality of cubs and deaths of adults due to territorial fights. In reserves of the region, the density varies from eight to 15 for 100 square kilometers, he said.

Dispersal

He said that research has shown that tigers from one reserve, frequently move to different reserves. Such movement, which is essential to ensure genetic diversity has been threatened with proposals for infrastructure projects along the Western Ghats corridor, he said.

Noting that a tiger which was camera trapped in Bandipur reserve was later found in Bhadra, he said that caution should be exercised while going ahead with infrastructure projects near reserves.

Shy animals

Additional Principial Chief Conservator of Forests, Ajai Misra said that cases related to human tiger conflict were less, when compared to other animals. “Tigers are shy animals that avoid conflict. Conflict occurs only when survival of tigers are threatened,” he said.

On the increase in tiger numbers, he said that it was a result of conserving the cat’s habitat and ensuring a connectivity between reserve forests.

In the coming years, the increase in tiger numbers will be a big challenge for the Forest department.

To avoid conflict, rehabilitation of villagers from forest-fringe villages is also necessary, he said.


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