Carving a safe haven

wild dwellings

Carving a safe haven

The recent findings on the tigers in the country has given positive results. There has been a visible increase in the numbers and tigers can hope to look forward to a bright future, provided we give all the necessary support they need. One of the major activities carried out to aid the breeding of tigers is relocation of families living in and around core tiger reserves in the country. To provide inviolate space for wildlife, villages from the core or critical tiger habitat are to be compulsorily relocated, after settling their rights
accruing under Forest Rights Act, 2006.

Research indicates that the minimum population of breeding tigresses, which are needed to maintain a viable population of 80-100 tigers, needs an inviolate space of 800-1,200 sq km. Moreover, tigers being an ‘umbrella’ species, will also ensure a viable population of other wild animals, facilitating the total ecological viability of an entire habitat. Thus, it is imperative to keep the core areas of tiger reserves free from all incursions.

Mainstreaming wildlife concerns
After tigers went missing in Sariska, the tiger task force constituted by Indian government in 2005 made certain recommendations and Chapter IV B on National Tiger Conservation Authority was inserted in Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. Sections 38 V of these provisions provide that tiger reserves should have core and buffer areas and the core area should be kept inviolate. Buffer area of the tiger reserve are multiple use area which may encompass forest areas, conservation or community reserves, revenue lands, private holdings, villages, towns and other production centres. Existing land use in buffer can continue with due mainstreaming of wildlife concerns.

Although some tiger reserve managements started moving people out of core areas, some of the major disturbances like stone quarrying, cattle and human pressure in Sariska could not be adequately addressed and thus, tiger reintroduction programme didn’t succeed. On the other hand, a similar situation in Panna Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh was tackled in a more professional way and the tiger re-introduction programme showed remarkable success.

Now, Buxa Tiger Reserve of West
Bengal is showing signs of decline in tiger numbers. Although scat samples sent from this reserve to Wildlife Institute of India confirms the presence of at least three tigers, independent assessment from Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun reveals that there are no signs of any tiger in Buxa.

This has caught the attention of the state forest department and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), who are taking all measures to minimise the disturbances in core areas by relocating families and by providing more stringent protection. It is also being contemplated to increase the core area by another 50 sq km. Core area of this reserve is now likely to become 450 sq km, which might bring in little more improvement in situation. With 25 breeding females, the area would support 70-75 tigers, including cubs. In such a situation, even if there are one or two instances of poaching in a year, the entire population wouldn’t be at the risk of being wiped out.

Among the tiger reserves in Karnataka, Bandipur and Bhadra have been freed of all violations to a large extent. Bandipur is part of a bigger landscape along with Mudumalai of Tamil Nadu, Wayanad of Kerala and Nagarhole of Karnataka. Extending over 2,500 sq km, with the tiger density ranging from 10-12 per 100 sq km, this entire landscape is considered to be one of the best home for tigers on earth. Thanks to the dedicated efforts, Karnataka overtook Madhya Pradesh, ranking first among all the states in the country, in two successive All India Tiger Estimations in 2010 and 2014.

Progress in the State
Villages from Bhadra Tiger Reserve were relocated 10-12 years ago. The forests have revived, ungulates have bounced back and as a result, tiger density has gone up. The successful model of relocation deployed in Bhadra has been replicated in many tiger reserves of the country. In 2011, Karnataka had proposed for notifying Kudremukh National Park as tiger reserve and even the Central Government had granted the approval, but the goal didn’t materialise. Fortunately, the state government decided to add the area to its Protected Area (PA) network during this period, which has seen an
increase from 6,500 sq km to nearly 9,000 sq km. Long-term vision of the tiger reserve is to make it inviolate by shifting human and cattle population outside the core area. It is heartening to note that the management of Anshi Dandeli Tiger Reserve has begun relocation process and have taken appropriate action to shift 88 families. Although small, this is a good beginning, considering the fact that there are totally 630 families to be relocated from the core area.

Sixty eight out of 88 families opting for voluntary relocation during 2014-15, have already moved out and the cases pertaining to remaining 20 families are in the process of finalisation. The relocation is done in accordance with NTCA guidelines and a sum of 10 lakhs has been paid to every eligible family under option I of the guideline. It is also reported that three of these villages viz, Savantmatkarni, Babakumbri and Kulkulmane are fully relocated while the remaining villages are partially relocated.

Relocating families outside tiger reserves is generally very expensive processes, as many families own high value coconut, areca nut and banana farms, besides land and house properties. In this relocation programme, families with properties valued lower than Rs 10 lakhs, were covered. In order to relocate families with higher valuation of their properties, State Government has to come up with a policy of higher relocation packages.

During Management Effectiveness Evaluation of Tiger Reserves of Madhya Pradesh, I learnt that the Madhya Pradesh government has pumped huge money for relocation of families from tiger reserves. Nearly 20 villages from Satpura Tiger Reserve were fully relocated in a period of two years, which was a very important step in making the reserve inviolate. The fact that Karnataka is also serious about making its tiger reserves inviolate, which is necessary for long-term survival of tigers, co-predators and prey animals, is very heartening. Hope all the efforts in this endeavour bear fruits and all degraded habitats are restored soon.

(The author is retired principal chief conservator of forests and head of forest force, Karnataka.)

Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi? Who will win the battle royale of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019

Get real-time news updates, views and analysis on Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on 

Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram with #DHPoliticalTheatre for live updates on the Indian general elections 2019.

Comments (+)