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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

Urban Tigers On The Prowl in Bhopal

 

Urban tigers

Two sub- adult tigers, now more than 24 months’ of age, seem to have started exploring the city of Bhopal. On October 3 night, one of them explored the sprawling campus of a regional engineering college located on a hillock in Bhopal. The tiger sighting led to panic. In the adjoining hostels, students were advised to stay indoors in the hostel.  For the last over a year or so, these tigers have already been accompanying their mother  as the trio roam the city outskirts.  Termed as urban tigers by the state forest department, there are as many as six resident tigers of Bhopal. In all there are 18 tigers moving about in a forest corridor near Bhopal and one third of them are now  city residents – born and brought up in the jungles near Bhopal. There seems to be no action plan with the government  which apparently awaits some major man-animal conflict in the tiger movement area.

 Exploring New Territory

Urban tiger

Now the forest department has placed a cage to trap the tiger in the green patch near the hostels of MANIT or the Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology. The big cat was sighted near the sports ground and the  college hostels . The tiger also mauled cattles in the college premises. The students panicked and soon the tiger sighting details started circulating in the college whatsApp groups. Next day the forest department personnel reached the college premises and started  a search operation.  Camera traps were installed and a trap  with bait was also placed to catch the cat. The tiger sighting was also taking place regularly in the sprawling premises of WALMI ((Water and Land Management Institute). One of these two tigers seems to have settled  down in the woods of WALMI which also have  food ( herbivores) and water availability .There is a small forest corridor connecting the hillock of WALMI and MANIT located about 1 km from each other.

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

Earlier this year,  tiger movement was also reported in  Bhoj University campus  with a  patch of lush green tree cover . Almost in the same location on the city outskirts popularly known as Kerwa region, students of National Law Academy located, its faculty, residents of the area, owners of the food joints and employees and officials of the Artificial Insemination Training Institute in the same locality have often seen tigers while travelling from one place to other. There are a number of schools and colleges in the region. The government has put up sign boards with caution “Beware, tiger movement area.” The tiger movement is taking place in a large contiguous area spread over 22 square kms in the jungles around two dams- Kerwa and Kaliyasot and WALMI located on a hill close to Kaliyasot dam. WALMI campus alone is spread over 200 acres of forest area on the right bank of Kaiyasot. MANIT seems to be the new stopover for the big cats.

No Action Plan With Govt

urban tiger

Those monitoring the tigers said that two sub-adult cubs (T1231, T1233) have started detaching from their mother (T123). “They are exploring the city, maybe marking their territory as they grow,” they said.  And we need to know the other places where they may have visited in the past, a department official said.  “We only learn about their presence only after their sighting. But we are unaware of their movement in other city areas which is why radio collaring is required”, said another.  The chain linking has fenced a large 22 km area restricting the tiger movement.  Now the WALMI management has shown interest in “  fencing 200 acres   compound of the  institute”, sources said.   If this is done, the tiger movement will be further restricted and may lead to their movement in the  neighbouring  densely populated colonies and it may lead to  some conflict. Those who have been following these tigers also claim, “There is a change in their behavior. Like national park tigers, these big cats also don’t mind the presence of humans which is dangerous. In the tiger reserves, tourists are safe inside a Gypsy.”

Also readIt's Time to Radio Collar Urban Tigers of Bhopal

So what is the way out? The state forest department is mulling  over  translocating  T123,  the breeding tigress and  mother of the two sub-adults   to Madhav national park where  a tiger safari is being planned .  But, experts believe, she may be replaced by another big cat. There is a movement of as many as 18 tigers on the city outskirts , originally belonging to  the 60 plus tiger population of  Ratapani  sanctuary, awaiting a notification of tiger reserve from the state forest department. But the state government has been sitting over this pending issue for the past over a decade.  There seems to be no action plan with the government to handle the  big cats for which a strong political will is required.

 Bhopal Urban Tiger Project Needs Help 

urban tiger

The Bhopal Urban Tiger Project is the first scientific research aimed at understanding how the magnificent tigers are surviving in urban and semi-urban areas around the city of Bhopal. The study will help inform Bhopal's local stakeholders and government decision-makers about the presence of a healthy ecosystem with tigers as its apex predator and aid the conservation of this unique landscape, said DP Srivastava, the research scholar studying these tigers. “The behavioral and dietary adaptation by large carnivores such as tigers living in and around the urban environment is a topic of global interest for wildlife conservation”, he said. 


Srivastava also needs help  through donations to procure  equipment like camera traps. Rapid economic growth and an ever-increasing human population are fuelling a rapid transformation of villages, towns, and cities in India. The natural landscapes surrounding these rapidly transforming human habitations are typically over-grazed, fragmented, and disturbed by human activities leading to the situation faced by cities like Bhopal.

By Deshdeep Saxena

Camera trap images courtsey DP Srivastava, Research scholar .Second image representational

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