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Teeming With Tigers, India Needs To Manage Their Population

India is facing a serious 'problem of plenty'. Rising tiger population in many parts of the country is creating conflict zones. And the tiger- human clashes are going up, alarmingly in many landscapes. The Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) needs to take initiatives to control the situation. Fifty years after the project tiger as India moves on from dwindling tiger population to surplus numbers of the big cats,  the nation needs an active tiger population management plan. As MoEFC&C yet to  become proactive, a team of  tiger catchers continue to carry out search operations for the past over five months to  capture a tigress with four cubs. Thge team members are  scanning Tadoba Andhari Tiger Landscape in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, grappling with the issue of over population of 200 tigers. As many as 53 people lost their lives in Chandrapur in 2022 in tiger attacks while 14 tigers have also died from January 2022 to January this year. This

Bhopal's Urban Tigers Need Tiger Reserve Not Chain-Links Mr Chief Minister

 

Tigers Need Tiger Reserve,

Seven years ago, a tiger sitting atop a building in a busy Bhopal locality attracted the attention of the whole country.  To be precise on December 25, 2015, the tiger was found sitting on the rooftop of the Central Institute of Agriculture Engineering (CIAE) in Nabi Baugh of Bhopal.  Horde of onlookers assembled on the surrounding buildings and many climbed nearby trees to have a glimpse of the tiger. Wary of  the large number of people , the tiger jumped onto a shed and the roof caved in making it difficult for the forest department to carry out the rescue operation to capture the tiger. The operation took a few hours  to complete when the big cat was tranquilized and shifted to Van Vihar national park  in Bhopal around 3 pm.

60 Tigers Ready To Move From Ratapani 

Tigers Need Tiger Reserve,

The presence of the tiger over a building left the forest department clueless. Perhaps for the first time, the department realized that there were a number of tigers roaming around Bhopal -  less than 10 kms away from the busy New Market -and may prove dangerous to the residents. The department also started an exercise to resolve the issue. Though the  tiger sightings were already taking place on the city outskirts in Kerwa forest patch , Nabi Baugh is located in the opposite direction to Kerwa. Soon, this mystery was also resolved as the department realized that the tigers dispersing from Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary about 70 kms away from Bhopal, were moving in both the directions – towards Raisen straying to Nabi Baugh and also towards Kerwa. 

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Over a period of time, gradually, the source population in Ratapani sanctuary has swollen to about 60 in 2022,  more than many national park of the state. After the December 2015 incident, there was a knee jerk reaction from the forest department and  “they intended to shift all the tigers from Bhopal outskirts”.  The then Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Narendra Kumar had told the media that ,”It’s a hilly area and we will have to use elephants to track and tranquilise the tigers.” The big cats from the outskirts of Bhopal will be shifted to other tiger reserves.” But a final decision could not be taken as the officials realized it would not solve the problem and more tigers would soon replace those captured from Kerwa”.   

Rehabilitate Urban Tigers 

Tigers Need Tiger Reserve,

In fact, the political masters have still not been able to take a decision, a decision to rehabilitate Ratapani tigers in the sanctuary itself. The government has been sitting over the Ratapani file for the past 9 years forcing the  “unique population of tigers” to stray . Ratapani has been a wildlife sanctuary since 1976. In March 2013, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) granted an in-principle approval for upgrading it to the status of tiger reserve. 

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It will become a tiger reserve by the notification of the government of Madhya Pradesh. But for 9 years, the tigers of this wild life sanctuary have been waiting for their abode to be upgraded but justice continues to elude them. The government is expected to show a political will to issue a notification and accord  status of tiger reserve to Ratapani.As their number increases in Ratapani,   the big cats are pushed to the state capital -as if seeking justice from Bhopal babudom.  But  as they reach Bhopal they have been termed as urban tigers, almost on the lines of urban naxals. 

Create  Jungle Corridors 

Tigers Need Tiger Reserve,

All the tigers moving around Bhopal are identified with the help of their pictures taken from camera trap. Geomapping of the tiger territory has also been done with the help of Google map. Their movement is monitored on a day to day basis to track change in their territory. While managing the tigers around the state capital, a new concept of urban tiger management has been coined and Bhopal tigers  have become urban tigers. The tigers  close to the city  live in the mixed forest spread across almost 200 sq kms area in Mendora -Mendori , Veerpura villages of Bhopal  forest division, Kathotia  Sewaniya  of Sehore and Dahod    of Obedullaganj forest divisions. There are about 12 tigers moving around Bhopal . Of them about 5  have become Bhopali tigers , unique to  Kerwa region as they are born and brought up there only. 

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The undulating terrain comprises a river, 2 dams and  also 23 gaushalas (cow sheds)  around the forest area under electronic surveillance system .There are 4 towers  each of them 50 meter high fitted with high resolution night - vision devices and cameras  monitoring the movement of urban tigers. All the statistics related to the tiger are collected every day and analysed to understand the territory and spots where the predator hunts. This also helps in giving compensation to the villagers for their cattle loss. There are 23 gaushalas (cow sheds)  around the jungle and the cattle from these cow shelters left in open for grazing in the jungle attract tigers.   

Unique Tiger Population in Ratapani Sanctuary 

Tigers Need Tiger Reserve,

Tiger population  of Ratapani is unique.  Their biological details do not match either to the tigers of Kanha national park nor those in Pench tiger reserve. This has also been proved in the laboratory of the National Centre for Biological Science, sources said. There is no movement of tigers from Satpuda tiger reserve to Ratapani wildlife Sanctuary.  We need to develop further and maintain the forest corridor for the dispersing tigers of Ratapani.  From Ratapani, the tigers move out towards Kheoni sanctuary in Dewas   and while doing so they pass Bhopal.

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But they could not move beyond Laadkuee and Ichawar villages in Sehore where forest corridor is fragmented. If this corridor is developed, the tigers may move upto  Omkareshwer, yet to be made a national ark sanctuary. Omkareshwer is spread in Khandwa and Dewas. Though the state government had committed to   make Omkareshwer a national park, the issue has been pending since 1988.   This national park along with two wildlife sanctuaries was promised by the government in lieu of the  forest submerged in Indira Sagar project. There is another corridor where   Ratapani tigers may move out to Nauradehi via Singhori wildlife sanctuary.  “It is less than 100 km of forest corridor but fragmented and needs to be developed to let the tigers move out safely”. 

Chain Link May Change Tiger Behaviour 

Tigers Need Tiger Reserve,

Instead of making Ratapani a tiger reserve and Omkareshwer a national park, the government took a short cut. It decided to place a chain-link to check the movement of urban tigers while they disperse from Ratapani . Over 20 km long chain link has restricted the movement of the big cat to protect some educational institutions and residential areas cropped up in the jungle. The tigers were sighted in the campus of various institutions in Kerwa region . They also visited  some of the city parks. Despite the presence of so many tigers and so much human presence, there was no known man -animal conflict reported so far. But these chain links may prove dangerous as it has created hurdles in the   years of tiger movement. It is observed that the urban tiger is not comfortable as it is confined within its own house as for   years; the tiger had learnt to survive without confrontation.

Banner Pic: Tiger on roof -top in Bhopal; Other representational images 

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  1. These are civilised tigers. Save them and their habitat.

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