Wednesday, January 21, 2015

As numbers rise, the #bigcats need more space

Dehradun: As the tiger population rises, some of the big cats have been moving out of the core Corbett Tiger Reserve, now allegedly saturated, into adjoining Territorial Forest Divisions. The protection of these divisions and the removal of corridor bottlenecks are now vital for the creation of the ideal tiger habitat.

AK Singh, senior official of World Wildlife Fund in Uttarakhand, told TOI, "There are around 12 corridor bottlenecks for tigers in the state. We need to improve connectivity gradually, removing encroachments to facilitate movement of tigers in the Terai landscape. Tigers know no boundaries, and they move into adjoining territorial forest divisions of Lansdowne, Ram Nagar and Terai West, and we need to create a suitable environment for them there too."

Qamar Qureshi, tiger expert and scientist with Wildlife Institute of India (WWI), spoke of other viable forests where tigers can expand in numbers.

"There is need for improved connectivity in the western bank of the Ganga in Rajaji National Park. With this, adjoining states such as UP, Himachal Pardesh (Paonta Sahib) and Haryana (Kalesar forests), with a total 1,500 sq km area, known as Shivalik Territorial Division, which otherwise have no tigers despite good prey base, can contain a good population of tigers. In the eastern part, Chilla and Haridwar also have capacity to offer tiger habitats. The entire area can emerge as another ideal habitat for tigers in the state," Qureshi said.

He said territorial forest divisions that have a good population of tigers but lack manpower to offer better protection to the big cats must make wildlife part of their working plan, and not focus on timber growth alone.

YV Jhala, another senior tiger expert with WWI, said apprehension about increased numbers of tigers to the west of the Ganga causing more intense man-animal conflict, with leopards being pushed to the fringes, were misplaced.

"There were more tigers in that area some five years ago, and they never created any problems," Jhala said, adding that forest officials are paid to tackle issues of conflict between humans and wild animals, and must get down to doing their work, rather than cooking up excuses. He said talk of leopards being pushed to the fringes was just nonsense. 

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