Maha's example shows the way but challenges ahead

Pictorial representation. Photo credit: AFP

Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka may have more tigers but in terms of increase, Maharashtra tops the chart in tiger conservation but there as several challenges ahead.
Maharashtra has over 312 tigers of the total 2,967 tigers estimated in India, according to the Status of Tigers in India-2018 report. 

While the 2006 report shows the presence of 103 tigers in Maharashtra, it rose to 168 in 2010 and 190 in 2014. The 2018 report gives estimates 312 which is very encouraging. 
This cames as a  major boost to the tiger conservation programme of the Maharashtra government particularly in view of the fact that a tigress, Avni, aged between five and six, was shot dead on 2 November 2018 in the Pandharkawada forest division of Yavatmal district. The tigress was responsible for 13 human deaths in the region. 

Coinciding with the Global Tiger Day, hours after prime minister Narendra Modi released the report, Maharashtra's forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said that tiger is the top of the ecosystem. "Lets plant trees and secure their future," he said, adding that the government has aimed to plant 33 crore trees in a phased manner.  In fact, his home district of Chandrapur has the largest tiger population.

"Maharashtra has overcome many challenges in Tiger conservation in last 10 years and left few critical ones which will be deciding factor in coming years," says Kishor Rithe of Satpuda Foundation, a former member of  Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife. "Village relocation, zero tolerance on poaching and wildlife trade, staff recruitment and placing efficient officers in wildlife reserves are some of the tasks he listed behind this success," he added. 

Maharashtra state has declared 11 new tiger PAs (sanctuaries/conservation Reserve) in last eight years and brought round 1912 sq.km area under legal cover. These new sanctuaries are located at very strategic locations for the breeding and safe dispersal of tigers. No other states in India have declared such Tiger sanctuaries to provide this much additional area to Tigers. Some of these new sanctuaries have later brought under the cover of Tiger Reserve viz Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve in Bhandara-Gondia district (12 December 2013) and Bor Tiger Reserve in Wardha district (1 July 2014). They became the 46th and 47th Tiger Reserves of the country respectively.

Maharashtra has also relocated 30 villages from core areas of tiger bearing protected areas including Tiger Reserves and provided 3000 ha of core area for safe breeding of tigers. "Very few states in India have implemented village relocation programme for tigers so successfully. The best part of the programme is that the Government ensured these 4900 families a happy life near their market place and provided all civic amenities," said Rithe. 

He, however, added the government need to still achieve the success in addressing accidental deaths of tiger/leopard/sloth bear and other wild animals. Existing and proposed linear projects like railways, highways, canals and transmission lines have continued to cause serious problem to disperse wild animal populations. The number of deaths is increased due to these projects. Though a few steps have been already taken, they are not enough. 

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