India is in a leadership position on the tiger front with almost 70 per cent of the global tiger population. We pioneered tiger conservation with Project Tiger and by conserving 2.4 per cent of our geographical area as tiger reserves. Yet, we see the big cats becoming victims of human-tiger interface conflict. Why?
- Our tiger reserves, national parks and sanctuaries exist only as islands in a vast sea of human, cattle and unsustainable land use.
- There are multiple stakeholders in this effort of conservation; ranging from primary (local people) to secondary (government departments) and tertiary (business groups) with little coordination between them.
- Urbanisation and growth agendas (illegal tourism) has a cascading effect on the ecological dynamics of wildlife. This leads to ecological dislocation wherein endangered wild animals either cause distress or land themselves in trouble.
- Loss of forest productivity in terms of forage for wild herbivores means that we cannot sustain medium-sized wild herbivores like deer which is the food source of big-cats like tigers.
- Agriculture and cash crops beyond protected areas lure wild pigs and other preys, which in turn lure big cats to areas beyond protected areas. The inevitable outcome is ‘conflict of interface’ between wildlife and humans, which causes distress to people. All this interface lead to unavoidable killings.
Facts and figures –
- India’s 3.28 million sq km land area amounts to 2.4 per cent of the planet’s geographical area. But we have almost 17 per cent of the world’s human population and 16 per cent of global livestock.
- Our per capita forest is just 0.064 ha compared to global average of 0.64 ha which explains the forest resource dependency on a large number of rural people.
- With 668 protected areas which add up to 14 percent of our forest area and 4.9 percent of our geographical area, we have only 50 protected areas as tiger reserves. All this despite having two-thirds of global tiger population.
Way forward –
- The truth is that human-wildlife interface is here to stay, therefore, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has brought out several Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to deal with various challenges of the human-tiger interface.
- A prime animal straying close to human settlements require active monitoring and translocation to suitable habitat. 24X7 monitoring using technology, management of corridors, building up the frontline capacity, creating village teams for reporting wild animal presence, and, an intersectoral portfolio is the ‘masterplan’ envisaged for protection of big cats.
We cannot allow a big cat to get habituated and then be brutally killed. Human-tiger interface management demands proactive measures.
Source – The Indian Express
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