Monday, June 27, 2016

Kanha National Park - Man Killing - Indian Tiger Conservation Issues

Kanha National Park
Madhya Pradesh - India

It is always unfortunate whenever a human is killed by a tiger. The tragic circumstances always manage to raise eyebrows - even among the avid conservatives. Human life is precious but we have ordained it to be supreme and in the gluttony we have forgotten about other life forms.  

It is because of this attitude that animals like tiger, rhino and many more have lost ground and are on the last leg of survival. I have rarely come across stress on increasing land for other forms. Anyway India takes the lead but is this enough? 

Unlike the Asiatic Lion which has survived and come out of the brink of extinction in South Gujarat in India the tiger lags much behind. There are more than five hundred lion in 22000 sq km in Gujarat and expanding.

Though this has created problems for large agglomeration of rural and small town folks the acceptance seems to be remarkable. Man animal conflict persists but it seems that there are many sympathizers of the big cat hence assuring its survival. The lions are slated for relocation in Kuno Papur in Central India which has still not taken place thank to parochialism.     

The tiger has been nowhere lucky in reserves in India where it now survives. Stray tigers outside the protected areas have no guarantee of survival. While many reserves are still not adequately protected unlike Kanha, Ranthambhore etc the populations in well managed parks has increased marginally. This does not ensure the animals survival. 

Large inviolate protected areas are need of the hour with adequate protection. This seems highly improbable in a populous country like India. For well managed parks like Kanha the problem stems from buffer zone which is not inviolate much disturbed by habitation and free movement. 

Tiger By John Matthai
A wise step has been taken to bring a large patch of forest in Khatia Zone under tourism thus assuring any further degradation. The buck stops here or does it? There are options to create more tourism areas using other blocks of forests in buffer - if any viable. 

Wilful relocation with adequate compensation for reclamation and expansion of existing forest land are a possibility.  Such efforts have been successfully made  at Laldang near Corbett Tiger Reserve. 

But this is impossible at many destinations due to immense complexities - social and political.             

There are large number of villages at Kanha buffer. Many have been trans located from the core zone.  The humanity is accompanied with overabundance of live stock and redundant agricultural land claimed from forest land. Usually single paddy crop takes place. 

The successful conservation in the reserve has populated tigers in all canopies. The animals have moved in or enlarged their territory in all viable tracts of buffer forests. Like lions in South Gujarat they have learned to be inconspicuous in human infested corridors. But unlike their cousin the Bengal tiger cannot inhabit open country - and degraded forests with no prey.  Hence widespread habitation by their expanding populations seems improbable.     

Hence tragedy occurs.     

An old man went into the forest and was killed by a tiger. This seems to be an accidental killing since no more such incident has taken place.  But the implications of this act of intrusion resulted killing does not augur a great future for the tiger in India. Human encroachment is rarely put to blame which is squarely transferred to the beleaguered predator.    

The big cats are still endangered. Reclamation of forests and creating i
intact ecosystems is one of the solution.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Man Eating Tigers

Yesterday I was watching a film on Sunderbans and the man eaters. The mystery has not yet been solved why this magnificent carnivore goes after humans only in these parts. The victims are usually fishermen, villagers, honey gatherers and such people who venture deep into the forest.  

People also venture into dense confines in other tiger reserves but no such incidence happen in these places. 

Why Sunderbans? 

Has rampant hunting elsewhere put the fear of man among the tigers which has been sent down the line. Such hunting has not taken place in the Sunderbans.  

Does this have something to do with absence of large prey like the sambar, rhino, swamp deer, bison. In recent times swamp deer, Javan rhino, one horned rhino, water buffalo, hog deer and barking deer have become locally extinct. Sambar and Bison have not been reported here.  .  

Tigers rely much on coarse grazers like bison, swamp deer and sambar for food. This accords them with sufficient amount of meat on low energy expenditure.During summers whence bison descend from hills to Kanha meadows the predation by tigers become frequent.

Tiger in Forest

Swamp Deer

Male Tiger
The second line of prey in most of our tiger reserves are the live stock especially the cattle and buffaloes. Perhaps this spares the live of humans around in the buffer zones as man eating seems unnecessary in these circumstances. 

Tigers are petrified in presence of humans, as I have often witnessed, hence leave them alone seems to be the motto of the predators. 

But not at the mangrove infested forest of Sunderbans it seems.  

Well one does not know.

Well not till some researcher discovers the reason that has bellied us so far. 
Sunderban tigers not only kill those who venture into deep confines but attack rural folks in the neighborhood as well.   

The film sent chill down my spine since as a naturalist I have frequent encounters with tigers and leopards. Well its a job and they all come with the negative. I would not let go with this adventure any way.   

Photo Credits: Dinesh Makhija - Motel Chandan Kanha