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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

Shooting In Valmiki Tiger Reserve: Why More Tigers are Turning Into "Pests"

 

a man eater in cage

Shooting  of a tiger in  Bihar's  only national park, Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR), shocked the nation earlier this month. It was also a cause of concern for the conservationists. This was another case of increasing man- tiger conflict as more tigers turned “pests” necessitating their elimination .  In the last three years, 125 people have died in the conflict with the cats. If I put this into perspective in the backdrop of increasing tiger population but decreasing forest cover and prey base outside the protected areas,the situation is alarming.

 Huge Human Population Pressure on VTR

shoot at sight order for tiger

In the VTR, where the young tiger of about 3 year of age was shot dead by special task force of Bihar police in a marathon hunting operation involving about 400 personnel, the number of tigers has gone up from 10 in 2006 to over50 in 2022. In the same period, anthropogenic or human pressure has also gone up manifold around the park and its buffer.  A recent study - assessing forest health using remote sensing based indicators and fuzzy analytic hierarchy process in Valmiki Tiger Reserve , published in September 2022 revealed, “A total of 136 villages are located in the buffer zone of the study area .Five pilgrim shrines existed within the Reserve. These pilgrim sites attract devotees in large numbers every year. The presence of villages indicates heavy anthropogenic pressure on the forest and wildlife. Large forest areas are destroyed due to road constructions leading to serious road surface erosion, direct habitat loss and indirect habitat loss by the fragmentation of an ecosystem into smaller and more isolated patches.”   Besides, there is a railway line right inside the park creating vertical divide. 

Also readUrban Tigers On The Prowl in Bhopal 

In all there are 350 villages in the sensitive zone. Sugar cane harvesting is being practiced on the edge of the park providing tigers a good hideout.  This tiger was also born in sugarcane fields and was surviving on the  village cattle. But in the past few months the tiger had allegedly killed 10 villagers. But there are many  expeerts who believe that all 10 were not killed by the same tiger. There is aother tiger  who is  killing people. The park authorities however denies this.  In February 2021 also, a tiger was captured after it had killed 3 villagers. The tiger later died in Patna zoo. Many times tigers were also found dead under suspicious circumstances  near VTR  after alleged revenge killing by the villagers.  The conflict is on the rise.

 Himalayan Green Necklace Fragmented

Tree felling in Himalaya's  Terai Arc Landscape

In the backdrop of a 33 % rise in tiger population in India between the two tiger census cycles from 2014 (2246 tiger ) to 2018 (2967 bug cats ), this is an alarming situation.  In 2010, India had 1636 tigers.  India is home to 52 tiger reserves covering almost 75 000 square kms in 18 states. India has 75 % of the global wild tiger. In fact the whole terai  arc landscape (TAL)  or the low land area  of Himalayas -mainly spread over three states of India namely Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar- has been facing this problem . TAL is one of the most fragmented and threatened ecosystems in Asia. The VTR runs parallel to the foothills of the Himalayas. 

Also readRising Tiger Numbers Midst Shrinking Forest Cover Makes No Sense

Nearly 70% of this TAL is directly used by humans for agriculture and settlement. Over the last two decades, high population growth, agricultural expansion and changing socio-economic objectives are the critical challenges for forest management in this landscape, says the study report .VTR has been subjected to more anthropogenic stressors including overharvesting, overgrazing, illegal logging and sand mining. The other parks situated in the region include Jim Corbett and Rajaji  National parks in Uttarakhand,  Dudhwa national park, Katarniaghat  and Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh. There are six national parks in the same region in the adjoining Nepal and it includes the famous Chitwan national park. TAL is represented by a green necklace around the foothills of the Himalaya.

 Conflict  Zones Galore

conflict zone near Valmiki tiger reserve

Of the 125 human deaths from 2019 to 2021, the maximum deaths -61- occurred in Maharashtra, Union minister of forest, environment and climate change, told Lok Sabha in July 2022. One such  conflict zones, Brahmapuri division, is   situated on the edge of  the famous TadobaAndhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) where  5 lakh people   in 750 villages jostled for space with 100 tigers of Chandrapur, known as the tiger capital of Maharashtra. As many as 34 people died and 200 injured in the conflict between 2016 and 2019. Tigers are caught almost on regular basis, caged and dispatched to rescue centres.No one knows about their fate  afterwards.  Locales in Brahmapuri division are up in arms against the forest department. A senior official of the MoEFC&C said, “Shooting a tiger is always the last thing.  We always want to catch the pest tiger as the conflict derails the conservation works.”  We seem to have more tigers than the space available in our jungles, comment ae MoEFC&C official. 

Also readAvni's killing: Core Issue of Tiger Corridors Lost in Oblivion

 Many times, the tiger shooting is also challenged in courts .Avni or T1 was shot dead in 2018 after a hunting operation led by a civilian hunter and forest department in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra. The tigress had allegedly killed 13 people from 2016 to 2018. After a petition, the Supreme Court has sought answer from the government whether the tigress was indeed “man -eater”. Midst rise in tiger population, tree felling is continuing at a massive scale. More tigers live outside the protected areas of national parks. Conflict begins when they move out in the fragmented forests and in the absence of a jungle corridor; they enter farm fields, like the one on the sugarcane fields on edge of the VTR.  The states with large tiger populations are preparing human tiger conflict mitigation plans also which is also likely to be released with tiger census data. 

Representaional cover image. Second image shows  STF personnel looking  to shoot tiger , Tree felling in Himalayan region and  the last image shows the conflict zone of VTR  

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