Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Tiger Conservation : Space Constraint

Tiger - Uday Patel
Recently whence it was opinionated in a conservation meet that tiger population in India would be contained within a limit this was no fanciful or extreme critical conjecture. The speaker Dr. Rajesh Gopal is an eminent tiger conservationist and erstwhile field director of Kanha and Bandhavgarh tiger reserves. He now heads as Director of Project Tiger under NTCA.  While lot many aspects of tiger conservation are in the know, little attention is paid towards spacing mechanism of this critically endangered species.   

Complacency has crept in with the creation of protected areas and we are subject to myopia that all will be well now. Though the creation of protected areas known as the tiger reserves has proven as boon for conservation of this species and the biodiversity as whole, it has also placed us in complacency and restricted our vision beyond the core of these realms.

The upcoming census figures yet to be released may provide us with an elated announcement but the axe on species is nowhere off. Due to better census methodologies and logistics and of course stringent conservation practices in the core of many tiger reserves the population is estimated to go up and perhaps touch a figure of three thousand adults. In 1910 the figure stood at dismal 1400 plus and in the year 1914 it was above two thousand two hundred. But in spite of this success  many questions remain unanswered.  

It is difficult to state whence and at what level population the tiger would come out of being endangered since the survival factors are far more complex than we realize, and the big cat population will always be subjected to attitude of the contemporary Governments, and their policies vis a vis environment and conservation. 

The crux of the statement was that tiger population growth in India would be constrained severely due to limited space. The availability of space is a crucial factor in the spread of the species with an individual need of several square kilometres. The space constraint also limits transmigration of the species as it is wont to do by  nature. The space factor is also bound consequently with the availability of a healthy prey base.   

In short the space constraint would prove as severe impediment to tiger conservation in India. This is ironical since we have plenty of forests out of the purview of the tiger reserve where the animal can move in but they are in a dismal state.

The reserve forests as they are classified lack an adequate prey base as well as good forest cover. They do not comprise of an ecosystem in a perfect state of preservation and are subject to misuse. They are subject to wood logging, cattle grazing to extreme, and poaching. Well at many places wildlife has already been hunted down by the people. Overflow of wild animals from protected area does not receive much protection since some locals are wont to hunt. This has been seen even in the buffer regions of the tiger reserves where wild animals are subjected to electrocution, snaring and hunting. The biotic pressures are not welcoming by any means either.    

In this dispensation or rather consequent one's little attention was and is paid towards the endangered species whence the development imperative arises. Strips of forests, wide of range of habitats and the crucial water bodies are subject to pressure without a second thought. Hence from where and how will the accrual of space take place? 

Until unless more forests are subject to intense regeneration and protection the very idea of large population of big cats surviving in the country seems chimerical. The tiger requires a specialised habitat with a perfect ecosystem in place.

Thankfully such spaces already present have been and are being brought under  protection in this country and that is the saving grace. But the buck should not stop here. A more proactive and concerned approach is required to fetch the National animal out of the quandary it presently is in. This should start right from the doorsteps of the ruling dispensation along with the involvement of the administration and the bureaucracy and yes the civil society meaning us.     
Uday Works as a Naturalist at Kanha National Park.