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A Cheetah By The Tail

 Cheetah  rescue operations after they stray  away from the  safe confines  of  congested  Kuno national park  have been reported   regularly in India  since  September 2022 when  the  maiden  batch of African cat landed in India  amidst much fanfare. But the latest visuals of yet another such action- this time in  a crowded Rajasthan village in Karauli district-put a question mark again  on the safety of the animal.   This cheetah had to be handled physically in order to prevent it from falling into a ravine as it cornered at the crest of the ravine after darting amid a gathering of an huge crowd nearby. Pawan's Life Was At Risk  Rajasthan forest  department officials alerted Kuno  National Park authorities  about the cheetah leading them to a rescue operation. Pawan, the male cheetah had wandered into Rajasthan through Chambal river bank and was spotted by the local villagers who in turn informed the  local authorities. “Male cheetah Pavan was rescued from Karauli district in Raj

50 Years After Project Tiger: New Challenges & the Road Ahead

Image from Status of Tiger Report :2022

India may boast a rise in its tiger numbers and is a reason to rejoice, the situation of the tiger habitat from one corner of the country to another is alarming. Though the Tiger Status report 2022 released by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi  quoted  the  figure of a minimum number of 3167  tigers ( up from 2976 in 2018 ), it also expressed concern over local extinction of tigers in some regions. There is a decrease in tiger numbers across the WesternGhats and it indeed is a matter of concern. No media has highlighted these issues mentioned in the same report. Tigers are increasing, so is the human population and the pressure on the forests . If the jungle corridors are not protected, we are headed in a direction when the tigers would be confined to small isolated patches of forests.  

On Local Extinction Of Tigers & Decreasing Numbers In Western Ghats

Image from Status of Tiger report:2022

Dwelling in detail from one tiger landscape to another, the Tiger Status report raised the local tiger extinction issue. In Central Indian Highlands and Eastern Ghats Landscape ( largest  tiger  region with Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand ,Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha) , the report said , “it is crucial to record that the local tiger population has become extinct in several areas, Sri Venkateswara National Park, including Tiger Reserves like Kawal, Satkosia and Sahyadri. While the expansion of tiger habitats is a positive development, there is a need to pay attention and act quickly in these areas to reverse the trend of extinction of small populations and avoid negative human-tiger interactions. Serious conservation efforts are needed to help tiger population recovery in Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh. 

Also read: Rising Tiger Numbers Midst Shrinking Forest Cover Makes No Sense

About the Western Ghats , it said the Nilgiri cluster is home to the world’s largest tiger population, but recent data shows a decrease in tiger occupancy throughout the Western Ghats, except in a few areas like Kali (Anshi Dandeli). While tiger populations within protected areas have either remained stable or increased, tiger occupancy outside of these regions has significantly decreased in areas, such as the Wayanad landscape, BRT Hills, and the border regions of Goa and Karnataka. The Mookambika-Sharavathi-Sirsi landscape and Bhadra have also experienced a substantial decline in tiger occupancy. Beyond the protected area border of Anamalai-Parambikulam complex, a decrease in tiger occupancy was also observed. Although tiger populations in the Periyar landscape have remained stable, tiger occupancy outside of Periyar has decreased.  Local extinctions of tiger populations were noticed in Sirsi, Kanyakumari, and Srivilliputhur. In the fragile Shivalik Hills and Gangetic Plains Landscape, linear infrastructure projects in the congested corridor between western and eastern  parts of Rajaji  tiger reserve have left the area functionally extinct for large carnivores and elephant movement, and the adoption of green infrastructure is needed to recover the tiger population in this fragmented landscape.

Also read: Govt Pushes Railway Project: Western Ghats, Tiger &  Elephant Corridors Under Threat

The North East region of India continues, face several threats such as habitat loss, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict, which necessitate increased conservation efforts. The region is home to several tiger populations, and although various Tiger Reserves have been established, only Kaziranga and Manas have sizable tiger populations. Tiger populations continue to be threatened, and more measures need to be implemented to address these threats, including fortifying protected area management, intensifying anti-poaching measures, involving local communities to wean away from traditional hunting practices and tackling the underlying reasons for human-wildlife conflict.

 Project Tiger Success Midst Challenges

Tiger in Bandhavgarh
The release of the report coincided with the completion of the 50 glorious years of the Project Tiger. The half a century campaign has  not only successfully restored the  tigers in India it has also  strengthened the of tiger   reserve network -  9 tiger reserves spread over 18,278 sq km on April 1, 1973 to 53  reserves across over 75000 sq km area.  But 50 years later, many tiger reserves in India   are under tremendous pressure and have already touched or crossed its tiger carrying capacity leading to territorial fights among the big and man animal conflict  due to the spillover of the  feline  numbers outside the parks. This also leads to   tiger deaths. The area of a tiger reserve cannot be increased and a tiger has to move out to create a new territory to survive. And the moment a tiger steps out of a protected area, it becomes extremely vulnerable when it wanders  the fragmented jungle corridors with heavy human presence . 


With flourishing illegal international illegal-trade of tiger body parts, a tiger is always a precious commodity for poachers. If it still survives, a speeding truck or train may run over the animal. Then the expanding coal mines and other illegal mining activities have also threatened the tiger and its habitat. Tiger movement in the open forests also leads to man -tiger conflict, a phenomenon rising alarmingly in many parts of India. A report released by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and  United National Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2021 revealed that as many as 35 % of India’s tiger ranges are outside protected areas and human-animal conflict affects over 75 per cent of the world’s wild cat species. The report “A Future for All – A Necessity for Human-Wildlife Coexistence”, examined rising human-wildlife conflicts. A report of Dehradun based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) had also portrayed a similar picture in 2015. To ensure the long-term survival of tigers in India,  the Status Report also recommended a multi-faceted approach including protecting and expanding tiger habitats, preserving population connectivity, minimizing human-tiger conflicts, and combating threats like habitat loss, poaching, and illegal trade. It’s important to restore habitats, increase ungulate populations, and plan reintroduction of tigers in low density areas to tackle conflict issues.

The Road Ahead


Tiger in Bandhavgarh tiger reserve

After 50 years of the grand success of Project Tiger ,India needs to have a relook at this great conservation programme for the iconic cat.  This has become all the more important in view of climate change. Addressing the issue of Climate Change, the Tiger Status report 2022 recommends Tiger Reserve Network (TRN) wide actions .It recommends assessment of carbon sequestration potential of TRN and implementation of activities to promote carbon – neutrality, development and Implementation of Habitat Enhancement Plan with a focus on Invasive Alien Species growth due to  climate change . As a developing nation, we also need to strike a balance between economics and environment.
  

 When the Project Tiger was launched, it also aimed at ensuring a viable population of the Bengal tiger in its natural habitats and “preserving areas of biological importance as a natural heritage that represent the diversity of ecosystems across the tiger's range in the country”.  The task force behind the Project also envisioned the tiger reserves as “breeding nuclei”, from which surplus animals would migrate to adjacent forests. “Funds and commitment were mustered to support the intensive program of habitat protection”, reminisces a former officer of Indian Forest Service.  Fifty years later, it's the right time to  review and   take stock of the  conservation work in earnest.  Can we do a repeat of Project Tiger to safeguard our forest wealth in the times of Global Warming when  survival of forest and tiger  is  correlated with the survival of mankind.

By Deshdeep Saxena 

Cover Image  and the second  picture from the Status of Tigers in India:2022 report.Credit in the images .The last two images from Jittu Bandhavgarh



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A Cheetah By The Tail

 Cheetah  rescue operations after they stray  away from the  safe confines  of  congested  Kuno national park  have been reported   regularly in India  since  September 2022 when  the  maiden  batch of African cat landed in India  amidst much fanfare. But the latest visuals of yet another such action- this time in  a crowded Rajasthan village in Karauli district-put a question mark again  on the safety of the animal.   This cheetah had to be handled physically in order to prevent it from falling into a ravine as it cornered at the crest of the ravine after darting amid a gathering of an huge crowd nearby. Pawan's Life Was At Risk  Rajasthan forest  department officials alerted Kuno  National Park authorities  about the cheetah leading them to a rescue operation. Pawan, the male cheetah had wandered into Rajasthan through Chambal river bank and was spotted by the local villagers who in turn informed the  local authorities. “Male cheetah Pavan was rescued from Karauli district in Raj