Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Tiger Conservation - Water Woes - Community Initiative

On safari at buffer zone in Kanha, we realised that there was hardly any source of water. The summer had peaked and most of the rivulets had dried down completely. Thus the trip was a partial success except sighting of four horned antelope pair, Nilgai female and few spotted deer we could see nothing. The jungle was dry and barren the sole reservoir was completely empty.  Bird life is always good here but not in late evening!  

Through many of the buffer zone roads local human traffic continues unchecked. Albeit this is the recourse accorded to the locals since they have always been using these pathways the problem of intrusion persists.

In most of the buffer areas previous human settlements, agriculture and small time commercial activity related to local needs is permitted by law. New laws have been inducted to prevent large scale commercialisation of this land. I think settlements by outsiders into buffer also needs to be checked.     

Tiger By Mukul Yadav 

While this is good, incidence of electrocution, poisoning and poaching does occur to some extent. This is correlated indirectly to water woes especially in the buffer. Creation of saucers and ponds and bunds is not easy at all since these can easily be poisoned using insecticides which are locally available.

Whereas in the core or the critical tiger habitat patrolling is intense...in buffer it is relatively less probably due to priority or lack of resources. 

Importance of Buffer

Why The Buffer? 

After heavy destruction of forests in India the habitat available for tigers is much less, and it is further compounded by commercial activities, presence of livestock, populous settlements and agriculture resulting in extreme biotic pressure.

The dependence on local wood and on minor forest produce creates more pressure than desired. The wood is used for energy as well as furniture. The availability of gas has to some extent mitigated the demand for wood but not all are implementing the generous availability of  CNG out of sheer habit or lack of purchasing power. Scattered felling of trees continues, and I have found many areas in or near the buffer to be incapable of holding other life forms. Perhaps greater awareness need to be created among the locals. The forest department does offer properly collected dead wood to locals at affordable price. 

Conservation in Buffer        

Why does tiger conservation takes into account the buffer area whence core offers complete sanctuary to the big cats? 

Well the answer is simple. In order to come out of endangerment the big cats and their prey have to multiply. The core area will not be sufficient to hold as many tigers as desired. Hence they have to spread into the buffer which they have already done in case of Kanha where conservation has been a big success. Tigers need large space to survive, this is one fact that all conservationist are aware of.     

While predator and prey movement into buffer helps reduce deadly conflicts between tigers inside the core to a good extent, it simultaneously augurs man animal conflict outside. During the scarcity of water big cats move into the core intensifying territorial conflicts due to disruption of population dynamics. There is tremendous stress on wildlife during the dry season from March onward. Wildlife from all areas facing shortage of water congregate in the core.     

Experts - Watershed Management 

In the core area many water sources remain though many dry out early hence water management is required. Though the management is earnest about preserving the water sources, I think inviting or taking assistance of  experts or watershed management should be thought of. One incidence I noticed a continuous trickle that supported a water hole was erroneously clogged whence efforts to enlarge by drilling proved failure. This may have been occurring elsewhere? 

In buffer areas most of the water bodies have been taken over by settlements - this is the case every where. Creating water holes or saucers is difficult as elucidated earlier in this article. Hence solutions have to be found by human intervention or by extended protection to source already existing.   

Perhaps forest communities and the tourism industry could be involved in some manner to offer extended hand in managing the buffer. 

At the moment tiger conservation in India at many places is succeeding thanks to committed management and sound policies. Macro solutions will spell success much faster. We should all assist in some manner to augur success. 

Community Initiatives   

Community initiative is the way forward, the tourism industry already provides jobs to the locals impressively and some partner in benefits as well through commerce and sharing. Little more contribution by all will do wonders      

This is where the industry and well wishers can contribute by helping the local institutions and empowering people (some may already be doing). A small contribution will create greater equity about wildlife and forests in minds of the locals, and about their inheritance. Well it is a good deed as well.    

Courtyard House Kanha - Community Initiative

As an example Courtyard House Kanha owned by Neelesh & Kirti Agarwal along with donors have adopted Patpara school. They have helped create a boundary wall (fence), painted the walls and equipped the school with much needed furniture and accessories. Since inception the resort has been donating paraphernalia useful on request from teachers.      

New Fence for Patpara School 

Student Interaction - Donation from Bishop Stratford School UK

Donors Visit George & Norah France