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For the First Time the Official Tale of Kuno Cheetahs

  Ahead of the first anniversary of the  controvertial cheetah project  and the release of African cheetahs in  Kuno national park ,  interesting observations have been shared by the  director of the park where   14 cheetahs await re-release in the wild. They were caught   and brought back to bomas following 6 cheetah deaths after septicemia caused by abrasion from   satellite collars.   Uttam Kumar Sharma , the park director has dwelt in detail on cheetah movements and their exploration of the landscape , their interaction with each other and the  efforts  made by the  park management to  monitor the  animals  round the clock as he tried to hammer home a point- African cheetahs are adapting fast in India.  Asha: The Hope   Based upon his observations, Sharma has released newsletters   revolving around   two cheetah coalitions -Gaurav-Shaurya (Rockstars) and Agni-Vayu (White walkers), Asha, the female cheetah from Namibia and  Jwala and her Indian born cubs. The story  of the two coali

Rising Tiger Numbers Midst Shrinking Forest Cover Makes No Sense

Rising Tiger Numbers

Tiger population in India is going up with shrinking forest  cover that provides shelter to the big cats. This coupled with increasing human dependence on forests is leading  to a serious issue -man animal conflict. On the International Tiger Day, ThewildlifeIndia raises the issue of  rising graph of Human-Tiger  conflict. Urban area around Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Maharashtra is one such conflict zone with an alarming rise in the cases of clashes between big cats and villagers. In places like Brahmpuri, as many as 6 lakh people are vying for space in the presence of large tiger population. Presence of breeding big cats in a thermal power station and a coalmine operating right on the edge of TATR have made the matter worse. The situation has reached a flash point  and an immediate intervention with strong political will is required to maintain harmony.


100 Tigers, Fragmented Forest And  Human Pressure 


Rising Tiger Numbers

Why is there an element of urgency for intervention?  A forest department official replied, “In 2020 we received   some absurd and unrealistic recommendations from our department to control the conflict.  The department ( forest) controversially suggested that 20 male tigers be sterilised to curb the growing tiger population in Chandrapur”. Some wildlife experts have also been reported as mooting humane euthanasia for “surplus” tigers. “Sterilization issue reached the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and also the State Wildlife Board.  Though it was turned down out rightly, it reflects the state of affairs and lack of understanding of the issue.”    There are over 250 tigers roaming in Chandrapur, known as the tiger capital of Maharashtra housing the famous TATR, many of these tigers are dispersing to the adjoining districts of Gadchiroli among others. They also include the resident tigers in Brahmapuri landscape and their numbers are estimated to be around 100 including the cubs and sub-adults. This is more than the number of tigers in many tiger reserves of the country.  While villagers go to the jungle for their needs, tigers look at the village cattle and mostly prey on them. 

Also readCoal Mining All Set To Threaten Tiger Corridors Around Tadob

The man-animal conflict figures speak for itself as in over three years (2016-2019), 34 human deaths and 304 cases of human injuries were officially reported in wild animal attacks in Brahmapuri division alone. The government also paid Rs 16.52 crore compensation which includes for cattle kills and crop damage. The conflict continues and people are restless .The forest is more or less in fragmented blocks adjoining TATR with paddy fields in between. Of the 750 villages in Brahmapuri, 449 are forested. “There is a population of over six lakhs in Brahmapuri .A large number of them visit regularly in forests for timber extraction and grazing of cattle. “ Over 40 % cases of tiger-human conflict take place when villagers go inside forest to extract fuel wood. About 25 % cases happen while they take animals for grazing into the adjoining jungles ”, a department official explains.  Though there is a scheme to provide subsidized LPG cylinders where the state government makes 75 %   payment,   villagers continue to be dependent on fuel wood.    Recommendations for an elaborate mitigation plan of an expert committee are yet to be made public for implementation.

Resident Tigers of Power Plant in Chandrapur 

Rising Tiger Numbers

Home to 5 tigers, Chandrapur Super Thermal Power Station or CSTPS located in Chandrapur and is connected to famous TATR  through a corridor of coal mines that is thickly covered with Prosopis plant species. Durgapur mines are located barely 1.2 kms away from the buffer of TATR. The power plant has become a tiger source with the fourth generation  of the big cats growing up inside  its sprawling premises. This thick vegetation, result of plantation drive by the power station and coal mines long back,  has become a hideout of the tigers.  Adequate prey base in the form of stray cattle and wild boars, substantial tree cover and a perennial nullah ( a  broad drainage) passing through the CSTPS help meet all the basic needs of the resident tigers, experts explain.

Also readMonsoon Magic At Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

 The coal for the power plant is sourced from Durgapur and Padmapur Collieries of Western Coalfields Limited .Almost 30% of the  Maharashtra's power supply is  sourced from this CSTPS. Tigers roam freely inside the power station area  sharing the premises with 10,000 people , mostly families of the workers. “ The leftovers in the residential area of the plant  attract  wild boars  and stray cattle  and they become tigers' prey”, an official of the  power plant explained.   There is no dearth  of food for the tigers as there are estimated 2,000 to 4,000 stray cattle inside the CSTPS area and their number has grown substantially after a ban on slaughter of cows and their progeny. “ There was a tigress with 5 cubs and another tigress with a female sub-adult. Her male cub was captured  earlier this year after it mauled a plant worker  on February 16.”

Forest  and Wildlife Low on Government Priority List 

Rising Tiger Numbers

In fact Wildlife Institute of India (WII) , the premier institute for wildlife research in the country, has already warned that this rise in  tiger numbers could lead to an increase in tiger-human conflicts. The WII sources pointed out that camera trap and tiger assessment preliminary findings this year show that areas housing tigers may  go up by another 5,000-10,000 sq km. “ However, this is not enough to support the present tiger population,”, they underlined . A senior WII researcher said that “the  present tiger area -74749.02 sq km- cannot increase beyond 90,000 sq km and a maximum of 10,000 sq km may be added to the list.”   

Also readStone Pelting on Tiger Cubs :Kanha Pench Corridor Becomes Conflict Zone  

In July 2019, the then minister of state for Environment  and Forest Babul Supriyo had told the parliament that the ministry gave permission to cut 1.09 crore trees for development purposes between 2014 and 2019. A senior official in the ministry of environment  ,forest and climate change said “ Low on  government priority list and lack of political will ,  majority of the states  have  expressed inability to expand  even the buffer zones. Besides,number of projects  which require felling  of  lakhs of trees are being cleared on regular basis. Relocation of villagers is also getting complicated  day by day, so what is the solution”. He said, “The camera trap assessment has shown tiger presence beyond forest areas. We have asked all  the states with a healthy tiger population to prepare a man-animal conflict and tiger mitigation plan. This will be compiled and released with the upcoming tiger census report,” he said. All tigers straying out cannot be captured and housed in rescue centres.

By Deshdeep Saxena

Representational Banner Image. Picture number  2 and 3 are video grabs from Bramhapuri and Power station. 

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