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Prep Before Cheetahs Become Free Ranging In Kuno National Park

  When another male cheetah, Obaan,joined the two rock stars – Freddie and Elton -- in yet another bigger enclosure of Kuno national park on November 18, only five female cheetahs remained in smaller bomas in the park where they were released on September 17. Like the three males, the five female spotted cats will also be released soon in larger bomas to run and chase their prey to kill. India’s  wildlife authorities accompanied by the experts from the cheetah conservation fund (CCF) from Namibia   have been taking utmost care and caution  before the  cheetahs in Kuno are ultimately made “free -ranging” meaning released in open to move around the entire length and breadth of the park. “Free ranging cheetahs and their monitoring  will be like a grand finale of the Project Cheetah to be played in Kuno for a longer  period in the coming years'", said a senior official of the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFC&C).  Apprehensions, Concerns  on Chee

Tiger Takes Rest After Months Of Tourism Stress

Tiger Takes Rest

Most of the tiger reserves in India are going to be shut down in the months of monsoon. Ever wondered why? This is the time when tiger gets rest from the horde of tourists, the vehicular traffic and the accompanied noise. The ionic cat retires deep in the jungle to remain in serenity- much needed break from shutter sound and phone photography. Few years ago, a study in Kanha national park and Bandhavgarh tiger reserve had revealed high stress among the tigers because of tourist traffic

Impact of Tourism on Tiger 

Tiger Takes Rest

The study was conducted in 2015, the same year when the government of Madhya Pradesh decided to give only three months’ break to tiger to rest. It curtailed full one month from its yearly time table of shut down in forests to facilitate tourism. Before this, parks would remain closed from June 16 to October 16. In 2015, the government decided to stretch the tourism season and issued orders for the parks to remain closed for three months -June 30 to September 30. The same year scientists from Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) at CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad  were collecting tiger scats  in Kanha and Bandhavgarh  national parks .They conducted the study examining - glucocorticoid metabolite -stress hormones in tiger scat collected from  the two jungles . The results stunned conservationists around the nation.  Tigers exhibited higher levels of glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations in both the reserves during the tourism period compared with the non-tourism period, meaning that they were more stressed when tourists are around.  Moreover, the researchers had anticipated a slight increase in stress but what they found was much higher. 

Also Read: Balloon Safari In Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve Creates Controversy

The study revealed that these iconic carnivores suffer from high levels of physiological stress due to wildlife tourism and a large number of vehicles entering the parks. Prolonged stress can adversely affect both survival and reproduction, it found. “Chronically elevated glucocorticoid levels can negatively impact growth, reproductive success, immunity, and cause muscular atrophy,” senior author Govindhaswamy Umapathy who was principal scientist and project leader wrote. “If it continues it will have a definite impact on the population in the long-term.” Interestingly, a previous study by the authors, published in 2015, showed that tigers re-introduced in Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan  in 2008 failed to reproduce, probably due to stress elicited by human disturbances. As the conservationists are concerned over the impact of tourism on tigers, eco tourism has gone up manifold over the past few years. For the study the researchers had collected 206 tiger fresh scat samples during the tourism period between January and March and the non-tourism period, the month of September. From these samples, they extracted glucocorticoid metabolites—steroid hormones that are released when the animals are stressed.

It’s Myth That Tiger Breeds only in Monsoon

Tiger Takes Rest

Most of the state government sight tiger breeding in monsoon as the reason behind the monsoon break. Contrary to the myth, tigers breed round the year. “Except when raising a litter, a tigress comes into oestrus  ( a  recurring period of sexual receptivity and fertility in many  female mammal) every 21 days. Even in the event of stillbirth or premature death of cubs, it comes into heat again within a month”, scientists said. On the contrary, they claimed, the rainy season was not the best time for tiger breeding. While elephant breeding is indeed linked to rainfall patterns — they breed round the year in places where it rains likewise — a high number of births are observed in the winter months of November-January in India, indicating a surge in mating in the pre- and early monsoon months of May-July. 

Also read: Coal Mining All Set To Threaten Tiger Corridors Around Tadoba

A study  in 2009 on reproductive behaviour of elephants in Rajaji revealed that the musth phenomenon in adult male elephants was mostly observed during February to July, which was dominated by dry period and peak breeding season in largely the warm period starting May. Monsoon may not be the best season for tiger breeding but a number of species do breed in the forest during the rainy months and together they maintain the ecological balance, or the food chain, that supports the apex species.

So Why National Parks Remain Closed in Monsoon

Tiger Takes Rest

The main reason why the parks are closed down during the monsoon is the risks involved in driving inside the jungle and stay in forest resorts and hotels .  Jim Corbett National Park banned the night stay in several tourist zones of the  park  from June 14 due to monsoon. “They will resume the services from November 15  so that tourists can enjoy the park thoroughly again”, the park authorities announced before the jungle was shut down. The rainfall washes off the jungle pathways, rivulets overflow and the undergrowth grows fast and should remain intact.  “In fact the jungles makeover during the monsoon and would wish to do it in the absence of humans”, said a park director in Uttarakhand where a minister had announced in 2021 to open   Corbett and Rajaji national round the year. Monsoon in Assam forces Kaziranga National Park to stay practically shut for six months between May and October. A tropical forest is least accessible during the monsoons. 

Also readWhere Did Ranthambore  Tigers Vanish ? NTCA Must Find An Answer

But  meagre rainfall in Rajasthan allows Ranthambhore National Park to stay open for 9 months between October and June. Though it rains heavily in Madhya Pradesh ,  the state  is also  following the same time table. Nagarhole and Bandipur Tiger Reserves of Karnataka are closed down to tourists in the dry summer season to protect animals from stress and the forests from fire. But the absence of tourism is linked safety of tiger. The hustle bustle of tourism keeps the poachers at bay. The poacher considers the monsoon an opportunity when guards struggle to patrol much of the reserve. That is why Project Tiger has always emphasised enhanced vigilance during the monsoon. I think you need to strike a balance between ecology preservation and economics of tourism.

Banner pic : Bandhavgarh National Park


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