When the Indian tiger pays a visit to villages!!!!!

In summer 2009, we conducted a field work in Kanha Tiger reserve, as part of the ground truthing exercise to study the effects of eco-tourism and to understand the zone of interaction around the park for better management. It was an afternoon on a scorching hot day, the open jeep on which we were exploring the core area, suddenly stopped. Sensing wildlife nearby, I started looking around. Everyone whispered Tiger! Tiger!; still I cannot see it. After few seconds, looking at where the cameras around me are zoomed, I realised that the mighty Tigress was resting right ahead on the track blocking us.Order nike air max

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The tigress [Panthera tigris tigris] spotted in Kanha, pic taken by Prakash Matada:ray ban retro sunglassesair jordan 1

Due to the camouflage and the heat, it took sometime for me to realize that it was indeed a tigress lying on the track. It was my first sight and the most beautiful one. She was relaxed, not at all perturbed with our presence, made us wait for some time before she decided to move and gave way for us.

It is amazing the way these carnivores get used to human presence in the Indian forests. Thanks to our human embedded landscapes with increasing population, it is nearly impossible to enclose an area stating core habitat. In the same trip, I was also surprised to see the amount of tourists flooding into the park to see wildlife. Even though they are allowed to enter in the buffer zones, the number of vehicles inside the jungle with cheering people wearing colourful dress surprised me. Being a wildlife enthusiast is well and good, but we need to learn how to respect their “ecological niche” when we are in.Oakley sunglasses Clearance

Why am I digging this old story now? Increasing instances of Tigers killing humans in the neighbouring villages of parks have triggered the debate again. How do we find a balance between, human intervention, government lead developments, tourism and habitat conservation? There are number of reports by the government recruited expert panels which recommends steps to successful conservation.
All good, nice recommendations, what about implementation?? Thats where we lack focus, everyone has an opinion and it will get highly politicized maligning the vision of entire exercise.
        Recently two such reports on one of the most important biological hotspot – Western Ghats triggered a political furore in the southern state of Kerala. These reports became hot topic of discussion among many households, which are not even directly linked to any of its effects. That was the kind of popularity it gained due to the heavy political intervention and media overkill of the issue. The Gadgil report (led by the prominent scientist Dr. Madhav Gadgil) which came first was strong in their recommendations and proposed stricter strategy in delineating the Ecologically Sensitive Areas(ESA’s), where he proposed that 94-97 % of the western ghats area must be declared eco-sensitive and promoted a people inclusive approach. Upon strong protests from the people led by political parties, the government decided to put another panel led by Dr. Kasturi Rangan. This report relied on Remote sensing and Geospatial tools to delineate the villages coming under Ecologically Sensitive Zones(ESZ’s), and recommends stopping of all the activities like mining in these villages, but only for 37 % of the total area of the Western Ghats. For full report see here. But the political band-wagon is again in the picture alleging that the report will have impacts on development in these villages especially in the state of Kerala. Kerala government again proposed changes in the report, asking for removing some area from the proposed ESZ’s. The changes are under consideration by the central government now. Amidst the ongoing debate on which report would be better in our landscapes, the Gadgil report is already thrashed by the authorities stating “Too much”. Now who decides this boundary of threshold of acceptance, Is it possible to make all the stakeholders happy and get the job done? I don’t think so.
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        All said, this is a complex web of multiple stakeholders, where the mightiest has the final word. But with the increasing human-animal conflicts, we must introspect our real position in protecting our treasures. There should be awareness in all levels, right from the decision making bodies such as politicians. As we are making noise on removing villages from proposed ESZ’s, the conflicts are increasing in this regions, recent being the killing of ‘Man-Eater’ Tiger (BBC news here) in the forest periphery around Kerala-Tamilnadu border.
        This paper by Defries et.al published in Biological Conservation, demonstrates the need of delineating park based Zone Of Interactions (ZOI). ZOI varies with park depending on the hydrologic, ecological, and socio-economic interactions. In the three parks studied, they found that the ZOI is multiple times larger than the park itself.
        Ironically, 10 years back, all of us were demanding increasing efforts in reviving ever decreased tiger population in India, now as there are reports on successful programs which helped in increasing tiger populations, there comes the ugly picture of increasing conflicts killing humans and livestocks. Towards the end of 2014, there were 17 mortalities due to tiger attacks in 5 weeks over 4 states of India (news report here).
In 2005 we came to know about shocking reports of no tigers left in the Sariska Tiger reserve in Rajasthan due to poaching. Authorities geared up, activists came into picture demanding stricter action and repopulating measures found success with a recent survey in 2014, reporting 19 in Sariska. And there is an overall increase in tiger population in India, with an increase in conflicts too.

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A different satellite view of Sariska taken at night:

Sariska at night (image taken in 2012), The blue color line is the park boundary and the bright pixels shows the night lights around, and inside parks representing the human presence.

Increasing Tiger population in Sariska is a good news, but do expect the conflicts unless we engage in serious strategies educating and involving villagers in conservation practices.

Question is how many “man-eaters” do we have to deal with before we get serious on “human” aspects of conservation !!!!

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