When caring less may actually help

K. Ullas Karanth

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PRECARIOUS FUTURE: When conflict between man and tiger escalates, crucial local support for tiger conservation gets undermined. Picture shows the Bandipur “maneater” which was eventually trapped. Photo: M.A. Sriram

The Hindu PRECARIOUS FUTURE: When conflict between man and tiger escalates, crucial local support for tiger conservation gets undermined. Picture shows the Bandipur “maneater” which was eventually trapped. Photo: M.A. Sriram
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Conservationists should be concerned about saving the species, rather than every individual tiger

The shooting of a man-eating tiger, as it happened recently in the Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu — barely two weeks after two other tigers preyed on four people in neighbouring Karnataka — invariably polarises public opinion. Locals, whose lives are at risk, want maneaters shot. Animal lovers, on the other hand, demand their “safe capture.” Caught in the middle, officials have to confront increasingly angry mobs, while authorities in Delhi insist on elaborate “operating procedures.” In Bandipur, Karnataka, after dozens of attempts at darting a tiger with a tranquillizing gun had failed, and after the big cat killed its third victim, angry locals burnt the forest office, forcing forest staff to abandon the scene. A posse of armed police had to control the situation, until the 12-year-old infirm male tiger was finally darted.

Science and practical experience clearly show that we cannot care for every individual wild tiger. Animal lovers and conservationists should therefore focus on saving the species as a whole, rather than worry about saving every individual. Conservation interventions must therefore be guided by scientific evidence and social practicality, rather than emotion.

Understanding tigers

My tiger research and conservation of three decades focusses on the central Western Ghats, which consists of forests in Karnataka and adjacent parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. This landscape now harbours the largest tiger population globally. However, the 400 or so big cats in my study area are restricted to reserves comprising less than 10 per cent of the total area. With the overall landscape populated by 15 million people, public support for conservation is critical to tiger survival in the long term.

Studies show that tiger populations in some well-protected reserves, such as Nagarahole and Bandipur, in Karnataka, have dramatically rebounded, with their numbers attaining near saturation densities of 10-15 tigers per 100 sq.km. A substantial part of the credit for this must go to the forest departments of these three States. With the control of hunting and cattle grazing, deer, gaur and wild pigs have attained optimum densities of 20 or more animals per square kilometre, which is crucial for a healthy tiger population.

Every wild tiger requires a prey base of 500 animals to sustain it. When prey becomes abundant, individual tiger territories shrink and breeding increases. A single female may produce 10-15 cubs in her lifetime, an average of one cub a year. Consequently, thriving tiger populations produce annual surpluses, pushing dispersing sub-adults and old tigers to the edges of reserves.

These are the animals that prey on livestock and, more rarely, on humans, becoming “problem tigers.”

Tiger-human conflict

On rare occasions, tigers may accidentally attack persons moving in dense cover, mistaking them for prey, or in self-defence, when surprised. Sometimes they may even consume the victim. But if they do not subsequently prey on humans, these tigers also cannot be called “maneaters.” However, attacks occur when uncontrollable mobs surround and harry “problem tigers” when they venture out of reserves. Such tigers are not “maneaters.”

True maneaters are individual animals that persistently stalk and hunt human beings, after losing their instinctive fear. They pose a serious risk to local people and must be swiftly removed. By my reckoning there have been less than half-a-dozen such cases in the last decade in this region, three instances in the last two months. In all these cases, the tigers were injured, aged or infirm. Even so, maneaters do not prey exclusively on humans. They also kill livestock or wild prey opportunistically. There is no evidence at all that tigers get “addicted” to human flesh as common lore has it.

The critical point is that recent cases of conflict in the Western Ghats, central India and the Terai are a consequence of rebounding tiger numbers. In some sense, these rare instances of conflict we are witnessing are the price of conservation successes. In contrast, in the extensive but overhunted forests of the tribal belts of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and the North Eastern Hill States, tigers have been either extirpated totally, or occur at low densities. In these regions, where tiger conservation has clearly failed, tiger-human conflict is virtually non-existent. This is not good news for tigers.

Research shows that in my study area, 20 per cent of the tiger population is lost every year due to several causes: fights between rivals, injuries, starvation, poaching and official removals by shooting or capture, following conflict incidents. I estimate that at least 50-75 tigers are being lost this way annually, although only a fraction of these mortalities are detected. However, such loss is not a cause for worry in itself as the birth of new tigers makes up for it.

To kill or not to kill?

Given this inevitable annual loss of 20 per cent in thriving populations, trying to “rescue” a few man-eating tigers is irrelevant to accomplishing the conservation objective of expanding and stabilising wild tiger populations. Tigers involved in conflict incidents are often seriously injured, infirm or old. If captured and removed to a zoo, they suffer a life of perpetual stress from years in captivity. Caring for these doomed tigers misdirects scarce resources that could be used for conserving their wild relatives. Sadly, for old and injured “conflict tigers,” a humane and quick death may be the best option.

Well-meaning animal lovers often do not understand that in high-pressure conflict situations, safe chemical capture of a free-ranging tiger is difficult or even impossible. Darting a stressed out animal playing hide-and-seek is an extremely difficult task. On the other hand, shooting the animal with a gun is often far easier, and saves human lives.

When precious days are spent in clumsy attempts to “rescue” maneaters, growing public anger seriously undermines the long-term support crucial for wild tigers, protected areas and the forest personnel who guard them. Overall, the future of wild tigers as a species is rendered more precarious when local public anxiety and anger are not quickly dealt with by eliminating the problem animal. By caring for individual wild tigers far too deeply, we may be dooming the species.

To save the tiger for posterity, we need to work on expanding protected area coverage, and reducing adverse human impacts. Both these require increased local support for tiger conservation. Yet, this is precisely what is undermined when human-tiger conflict escalates. While a few animal lovers may feel good if a maneater is “rescued” rather than killed, the cause of tiger conservation suffers.

In this overall context, the decision of the Tamil Nadu government to shoot the maneater in the Nilgiris, rather than persist in pointless rescue attempts, was the right thing to do.

(K. Ullas Karanth is director for Science-Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society).

Experts Critical of Tiger Census Methods Used by NTCA

By Meera Bhardwaj – BANGALORE

Published: 28th November 2013 08:35 AM

Last Updated: 28th November 2013 08:35 AM

One of the world’s largest exercise to enumerate the big cats is under way in India under the supervision of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). However, the methods of assessment have lately come in for criticism.

Wildlife biologists and experts say the methodology is weak and could have been improved.

Dr Ullas Karanth, a respected tiger biologist and presently the Director for Science-Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society and Centre for Wildlife Studies, says, “There are two things presently under way termed as Phases I, II and III to estimate the total number of tigers in the country. This methodology is poor and statistically unreliable, yet is being repeated a third time. There is also another more intensive camera-trapping survey effort under Phase IV which selectively targets key ‘source populations’ only.”

“The complicated, ‘double-sampling’ based regression model is somewhat flawed and obsolete approach. Further, the quality of estimates of tiger densities from individual sites that feed into this model vary. There are better ways of doing this. This is a problem with government monopoly on tiger monitoring and funding, with no periodic review and updating of methods in this fast-growing field of quantitative ecology,” Dr Karanth elaborated.

K M Chinnappa, who has worked as a forest officer, says, “Recording of scats, pug marks is unreliable. Working with these methods, we had seen failures as even experienced foresters could not differentiate between a male and female pug mark.”

Refusing to comment on the methodology, Karnataka Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) G S Prabhu said, “We follow the directions and guidelines given by the NTCA and Wildlife Institute of India. If Dr Karanth and others have any issues about the methodology, they have to take it up with the NTCA. We are ready to follow any changes, if we are directed to. Dr Karanth is an international authority, we are fortunate to have him in Karnataka and he has been our greatest supporter. In fact, we have signed a five-year MoU with him for providing his expertise and training our staff,” he added. The tiger count was put at 1,706 in the last census (2010) . Since then, the tiger landscape has seen huge change like decrease in habitat, increased poaching and smuggling of tiger parts.

RBS ‘Earth Heroes’ Award Winners 2013

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), a subsidiary of the RBS Group, announced the winners of the RBS ‘Earth Heroes’ Awards for 2013. Seven individuals/ institutions from the field of wildlife and conservation, who have demonstrated exemplary work on the ground, were chosen by an independent jury, for the RBS Earth Heroes Award. The jury panel, comprising active wildlife enthusiasts, environmentalists and conservationists, reviewed nominations received from across the country.

All the winners were awarded citations and a cash prize each at the RBS ‘Earth Heroes’ Awards 2013 ceremony held on 15 November, 2013 at Delhi IT Park, Shastri Park, New Delhi.
The categories of the 2013 RBS ‘Earth Heroes’ Awards included

1. ‘Earth Hero’ Award (Felicitation)
2. ‘Earth Guardian’ Award
3. ‘Protect the Tiger’ Award
4. ‘Inspire’ Award
5. ‘Green Warrior’ Award

1. The RBS ‘Earth Hero’ Award was conferred upon Mr. JJ Dutta for his untiring effort to secure and nurture wildlife in Madhya Pradesh over many decades. The state has also been given a name ‘Tiger State’ due to his 34 years of dedicated and distinguished service in the field of forestry and wildlife management in Madhya Pradesh Forest Department.

2. The RBS ‘Earth Guardian’ Awards was presented jointly to Similipal Tiger Reserve and The Indian Coast Guard Region (West).

The efforts made by the management of Simplipal to protect and conserve the biodiversity of the region are highly commendable especially in the face of severe challenges and constraints following the left wing extremist attack that had demoralized the staff; limited support and inadequate infrastructure at the park.

Indian Coast Guard’s devotion to nation, nature and seafarers is noteworthy. They have put in efforts for conservation of marine wildlife and ecosystem, protection of coastal environment including sensitive mangroves, conservation of human life and property at sea and massive environmental campaign awareness building in coastal villages.

3. The RBS ‘Protect the Tiger’ Award was conferred upon Mr. D.V Girish for his contribution towards wildlife conservation and environmental protection over the past 20 years. Mr. Girish has emerged as an influential community leader and steward of the biologically rich and ecologically important Bhadra-Kudremukh landscape. Girish received a certificate of appreciation in 1998 from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in New York. He also has received Carl Zeiss award (2002) and ‘Tiger Gold’ award of the Conway Foundation (2004) for his contributions to tigers in Bhadra.

4. The RBS ‘Inspire’ Award was presented to Mr. Nirmal Kulkarni for his contribution towards nature conservation. Recognized by Carl Zeiss, EcoBest Ecologist and Karmaveer Awards, Nirmal was also a part of the team that worked on conserving the Bhimgad forests in Karnataka. Their efforts ultimately led to the creation of Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary.
5. The RBS ‘Green Warrior’ Awards was presented jointly to Mr. Jigmet Takpa, Indian Forest Service Officer in the Forest and Wildlife department of Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir and Mr. Jadav Payeng, Environmental Activist and Forestry Worker, Jorhat, Assam.

Mr. Jigmet Takpa was awarded for his accomplishments in the field of biodiversity conservation, sustainable rural development and climate change mitigation. His involvement in the Greening Himalaya project was recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records. Mr. Takpa has pioneered the idea of protecting the entire Trans- Himalayas under an umbrella conservation project titled ‘Project Snow Leopard”.

Mr. Jadav Payeng, through his continuous effort over decades, succeeded in turning a sandbar of the river Brahmaputra in to a forest reserve by planting trees. The forest, called Molai forest after him is located near Kokilamukh of Jorhat, Assam, India, and encompasses an area of about 1,360 hectares.

A screenshot of the Conservation India website, which is campaigning to conserve the Great Indian Bustard. The giant bird is on the brink of extinction with just 250+ left in the wild as it is marked as critically endangered by IUCN. (Epoch Times)

With less than 200 left, will this magnificent bird be the first mega species to go extinct in India since the cheetah? Or can it be pulled back from the brink of extinction, like the California condor in America?

One of the world’s heaviest flying birds, the Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis Nigriceps), now unfortunately stands under the Threatened Bird–2013 list released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resource (IUCN).

The broad-winged, giant bird is marked as critically endangered, a status that counts as the highest level of threat as per IUCN.

“The Great Indian Bustard (GIB) was common during the pre-independence era. It used to be in 11 states, now it is limited to 6 Indian states,” said Dr. Pramod Patil, an advocacy officer for GIB at Bombay Natural History Society of India (BNHS).

Patil says that the bird population estimate in 1980s was around 1,500, during 2003-04 was 500, while currently in 2011 it is around 250-300 birds.

Hunting, habitat destruction, unprotected breeding sites, mismanagement of protected areas, lack of community support to conservation efforts, and lack of integration among different stakeholders and policies have contributed to create the present threat situation for the bird.

To add to this list, Patil mentioned in one of his conservation research papers that stray dogs count as another level of danger to GIB in Bustard sanctuary in Maharashtra state. In Maharashtra, the bird that was seen across the state a few years ago is now reduced to only three districts. At present the bird is seen only at Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh, according to Patil.

The flying giant can be easily distinguished by its black crown, well placed to contrast with the pale neck and head. The body is brownish and the wings marked with black-brown-grey hues. It breeds mostly during the monsoon season when females lay a single egg in nests situated on grounds. Bustards are omnivorous and feed on insects, lizards, frogs, herbs, wild berries, oil seeds, and legume pods.

Patil said that the BNHS has done most of research on this bird and has proposed for conservation policies since last couple of years. “The BNHS is key organization in developing species recovery plan. This is first ever effort in the conservation history of species in India,” he added.

Despite, the existing conservation law in the Indian statute of Wildlife (protection) Act 1972, there has not been any earnest effort to protect these species.

However, the state of Rajasthan, home to the largest global population of the bird, has the largest stronghold of the GIB, is the first Indian state to announce to recover this critically endangered bird by initiating a package of approximately rupees 12 million (around $1.9 million) under the campaign of Conservation India—a non-profit portal that aims to facilitate wildlife and nature conservation.

“With less than 200 left, will this magnificent bird be the first mega species to go extinct in India since the cheetah? Or can it be pulled back from the brink of extinction, like the California condor in America?” highlights the Conservation India website.

Mouse deer population likely to go up to 40 in next three years

TNN | Nov 24, 2013, 03.22 AM IST

HYDERABAD: Mouse deer, the smallest ungulate in the country that is on the list of most endangered animals, is being bred in captivity at Nehru Zoological Park with a view to increase its population.

No enumeration has been carried out on mouse deer ever in the state but observation over a long period of time has revealed that its population is on the decline, said Ajay Kumar Naik, director Project Tiger.

With alarming decline of the mouse deer, the forest department has decided to breed it in the captivity at Nehru Zoological Park. The conservation programme was launched in March 2010 with the support from Central Zoo Authority. “Though breeding centre is at the zoo, we have kept it away from the prying eyes of the visitors. Our efforts have succeeded and in a little more than three years we have about 50 mouse deer with us,” Nehru zoo curator A Shankaran said.

According to sources a typical mouse deer is only 30 cm from hoof to shoulder and 50 cm from nose to tail. A fully grown mouse deer weighs around 4 kg. The shy nocturnal ungulate gives birth to one to two kids in a year.

In AP, it is sparsely found in Nagarjuna-Srisailam Tiger Reserve, Gundla Brahmeswaram Wildlife Sanctuary, Sri Venkateswara National Park, Visakhapatnam, Prakasam and Kurnool districts.

The mouse deer breeding started in Nehru zoo with only six animals but within a year two ungulates that had been rescued from the wild were added to the flock to make the breeding genetically heterogeneous.

Naik said that there are plans to establish more breeding centres in the other zoological parks of the state. “The ultimate goal of this project is to establish a sustainable population in breeding centres and release them into wild after conducting studies on their habitat and populations in that area,” he added.

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Eye on the tiger

  • Tiger conservationist Valmik Thapar.
    Special Arrangement Tiger conservationist Valmik Thapar.
  • Tiger Fire by Valmik Thapar, published by Aleph book Company
    Special Arrangement Tiger Fire by Valmik Thapar, published by Aleph book Company

Valmik Thapar, whose new book will be out on December 3, talks about how he got involved with the big cat.

Valmik Thapar has spent several decades serving the wild tigers of India. During this time, he has written more than 20 books and made or presented nearly a dozen films for the BBC and several other television networks on the tiger and Indian flora and fauna. He has also established the Ranthambhore Foundation, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to conserving wildlife. Despite having served on government panels and committees relating to nature conservation, he is today a fierce critic of government policy and continues to campaign and fight for new ways to save wild tigers and nature in India. This, he feels, requires partnerships with civil society in villages, towns and cities and a change in the mindset of governments. His latest book, Tiger Fire, brings together the best non-fiction writing, photography and art on the Indian tiger and is also the first time he writes on the tiger from a historical perspective. Excerpts from an interview:

How did you fall in love with tigers?

That is not easily explained, as the power of that emotion is beyond words. In 1976, I was probably open to such an experience but could never have imagined that my love for the tiger would have continued over my lifetime. Basically watching tigers, fighting for them, and looking at their history fills up my senses like nothing else… it has a power over me. This book has been a labour of love and just over three years in the making.

Tiger Fire details your experience in the Ranthambore Park. What unusual facts about tigers have you discovered in the many years of observing them?

In nearly 38 years of a life spent with tigers, I believe that the tigers of Ranthambore rewrote their natural history for the world to read, see and record. The first records of kin links among tigers were established here as were the first records of the male tiger in the role of a father and looking after cubs. This has also been established by Kim Sullivan’s recording of the baby sitter in Bandhavgarh and, more recently, Balendu Singh’s record of the male tiger bringing up cubs after the tigress died. Earlier most believed that the male killed the cubs. Ranthambore also gave us the first pictures of tigers killing in water, fighting crocodiles, eating pythons and porcupines, of a bear attacking a tiger, of the secret life of mother and cubs in the first six months of the cubs’ existence…

Towards the end of Tiger Fire,  you sound disappointed by the government’s efforts made to save the tiger. What are the current initiatives (nationally and globally) to help save the tiger?

So far as current initiatives are concerned, I find them pathetic and encouraging of lip service rather than of field action. I advocate that the bureaucracies of the world — especially in India where 50 per cent of the world’s population of tigers live — should share power and decision making with committed people in villages, towns, and cities, with scientists, NGOs and conservationists.

In Africa, countries like Kenya, South Africa and Botswana allow all kinds of models from local people managing the conserved area to resort hotels managing it to partnerships between resorts, locals and the government. As a result, large and new areas have been added to wildlifescapes. In the Masai Mara, the locals get more than $100 million a year from revenues generated from tourism. In some areas, only locals manage both the area and tourism.

In India, the government takes on this role and it is least talented. We need to reform our levels of governance, change our rules and accommodate the young and the talented in the effort to save the tiger.We need a landscape approach with innovative tourism models. (Landscape means all categories of land: government, private, revenue and includes local people who may choose to live within it.) Our government must also partner with locals in villages to create a mindset change if the tiger is to survive.

In saving the tiger, what are the other animals that are also being saved from extinction? 

With the tiger, you save leopards, bears, rhinos and elephants and all the deer and grass eaters right down to the birds and insects. If you fail, it strikes them all. There should be special schemes for snow leopards, wolves, brown bears, sharks, whales… all of which represent their ecosystems. This requires immense political will and action.

The section “Tiger in Time” brings together the finest writing on the tiger by a variety of writers from the 16th to the early 20th centuries.  But most are foreigners. Are there no accounts in Indian languages?

I could not find any with the kind of detail that the foreign travellers brought to the table. May be from the 16th to the 19th centuries, India’s forests were so thick and inaccessible that, till the British entered to plunder them, there were written records by locals who lived outside. It was the tribals who lived in the forests and I could not find their written narratives. I think there were two worlds in those times — the tame one outside the forest where the kings and emperors ruled and the wild forest where the tribals ruled. Very few ventured into each other’s worlds till the British came in. There is a lot of visual material on paper and stone and a rich folklore. I have given a short summary of it in the section “The Cult of the Tiger”. A book of the same name and The Tiger: Soul of India, both published earlier by Oxford University Press, also deal with that aspect.

After the Ranthambore National Park was created, it meant that villagers — whose ancestors had for centuries lived within the environs of the Park — had to lose their homes and all access to wood, water and traditional farming lands. An initiative to support these villagers was taken when the Ranthambore Foundation was created with the objective of acting as a catalyst in resettling the displaced communities. The Ranthambore Foundation was created to help resettle the villagers displaced when the Ranthambore National Park was created. Presumably this model helped the people to look for alternate sources of income and livelihood and thus help conserve the natural habitat of the tiger. Do you think such a model has been successful? Would you advocate it for other sanctuaries? 

Personally, I see the model as a failure because it did not do enough. In the 1990s, we had a rigid and uninterested forest bureaucracy who did not know how to partner and hold hands. Many believed that Ranthambore would have been in a mess without the creation of the foundation. There should be site-specific models in every tiger forest but the forest bureaucracy has to change their mindset and start working with locals first.

Excerpt from Tiger Fire —

“The Secret Life of the Tiger”

Strange as it may seem, it was on my last night that I had the encounter I always longed for. After dinner that night, I slipped into the jeep with the two trackers, Laddu and Badyaya, and the driver, Prahlad Singh. … The sky was pitch black with a brilliant array of stars. Our first job was to check two live baits that had been put out to attract the tiger …. The first bait that we went to check was tied to a large banyan tree at Singh Dwar. It had been killed. My heart missed a beat, but I could see nothing around the dead animal. As I flashed my torch around, I spotted a leopard curled up in the banyan tree watching the carcass.

Other than the crickets playing their orchestra, there were no other sounds. Suddenly, the booming alarm call of a sambar deer rent the air. I knew instinctively that a tiger had killed and the sound of our jeep had forced it to flee. … I waited for a while but the tiger was not coming. Our presence discouraged it. I did not realize it then but it would be years before the Ranthambhore tigers would lose their fear of man.

I quickly drove off to the second bait. Gone. Not a sign of it anywhere. I tried to search the area thoroughly but an old ruined wall hampered my visibility. I was sure the tiger feasted behind it. I was desperate to see it and the only person I could think of who might help was Fateh Singh Rathore. I raced out of the park to Sawai Madhopur where he lived. It was nearly 11 p.m. when I arrived at his house. On banging on the door, I found Fateh a little groggy but awake. When I explained the situation to him, I caught a glint in his eyes. He picked up his Stetson hat and jacket and we raced back into the park. With Fateh at the wheel, we reached the old wall at the edge of the lake close to midnight. He drove all around the wall, cramming the jeep into every crevice and corner. We directed our searchlights into every conceivable place we could think of. I was sure that the elusive tiger of Ranthambhore would have fled the scene because of all the pandemonium.

As I had suspected, we found nothing, but as Fateh reversed I saw the rear wheels of the jeep entering the water and soon the back of the vehicle was in danger of being submerged. I shouted to Fateh that we would soon be afloat and all he said was to keep the torch trained on the wall. And that is how I saw my first tiger in Ranthambhore— from a floating jeep while I flashed the searchlight around. There was a sudden sharp cough and snarl. Framed in front of me and watching the commotion with its huge head above the wall was the tiger. …

Excerpted with permission from Aleph Book Company

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Human intervention hindering tiger movement in country

Hemmed in: Human intervention in the forests hinders the tiger's instinct to wander far.

Hemmed in: Human intervention in the forests hinders the tiger’s instinct to wander far.

Study finds that connectivity between protected areas is affected by urban expansion

Even as efforts are being made to protect, conserve, and augment the wild tiger population of the country, a study report that appeared in the open-access journal ‘Plos One’ earlier this month says that human intervention, even in the form of roads through tiger habitats, hinders the instinctive quality of the tiger to wander far in search of connectivity with distant populations.

The study ‘Connectivity of Tiger (Panthera tigris) Populations in the Human-Influenced Forest Mosaic of Central India’ conducted in six protected forest areas of Central India with appreciable tiger population shows that tigers can wander even 650 km between protected areas for connectivity.

The study was conducted by Aditya Joshi, Samrat Mondol, and Uma Ramakrishnan from the National Centre for Biological Sciences attached to the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore, Srinivas Vaidyanathan from the Foundation for Ecological Research, Puducherry, and Advait Edgaonkar from the Indian Institute of Forest Management.

The study was carried out in the protected areas of Melghat Tiger Reserve, Pench Tiger Reserve, Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary, and Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra; Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh; and Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve in Andhra Pradesh.

The study says that many tigers currently live in small protected areas in India, and their survival depends on increasing the connectivity between these areas through tiger corridors.

Further, geo-spatial analyses revealed that tiger connectivity was affected by landscape elements such as human settlements, road density, and host-population tiger density, but not by distance between populations.

Landscape crucial

“Our results elucidate the importance of landscape and habitat viability outside and between protected areas and provide a quantitative approach to test functionality of tiger corridors. We suggest future management strategies aim to minimise urban expansion between protected areas to maximise tiger connectivity,” the authors said in their report.

“Achieving this goal in the context of ongoing urbanisation and need to sustain current economic growth exerts enormous pressure on the remaining tiger habitats and emerges as a big challenge to conserve wild tigers in the Indian subcontinent.”

Adult tigers live cramped in the country now within less that 7 per cent of their historical range.

The authors based their studies on genetic approaches combined with landscape ecology to study tiger dispersals between the six protected areas chosen for the study.

The study focussed on whether there was connectivity between tiger populations in Central India over long distances and which geographical features hindered this connectivity.

By sampling tiger scat for DNA, the authors found evidence of long-range tiger dispersal over 650 km between protected areas, which is much farther than previously found.

Forest corridors crucial for tiger conservation

N. Gopal Raj

DNA extracted from faecal, hair and claw samples of 273 animals were studied. Photo: Nagara Gopal
DNA extracted from faecal, hair and claw samples of 273 animals were studied. Photo: Nagara Gopal
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Corridors help avoid low genetic diversity

Forest corridors that allowed India’s tiger populations to breed with one another are vital for the conservation of these magnificent animals, according to research that has been just been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Where once these animals roamed across much of the subcontinent, they now survive in India in small populations of just 20 to 120 individuals, mostly in tiger reserves. The country holds over half of the world’s tigers, and an official assessment carried out in 2010 estimated that there were about 1,700 of these animals in 39 tiger reserves.

Genetic intermingling

Sandeep Sharma of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in the U.S. and his colleagues studied the extent of genetic intermingling between tiger populations in five tiger reserves in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

To do so, they analysed the DNA extracted from faecal, hair and claw samples of 273 animals.

When an animal moved and bred with an individual from a different population, its genes propagated in the latter group. Maintaining such gene flow between isolated tiger populations was important in order to avoid the deleterious effects of low genetic diversity and inbreeding, said Dr. Sharma in an email.

The tiger reserves were embedded in a landscape composed of agricultural land and fragmented forest patches, with numerous small villages and town. The scientists found that “there is a drastic reduction in gene flow” between reserves that had lost forest connectivity.

These forest corridors played “an important role in maintaining genetic variation and persistence of tigers in this landscape,” they observed in their paper.

Legal status needed

Such corridors should be given legal status, said Dr. Sharma in his email. Tiger corridors in central India faced imminent threats from activities like road widening, construction of railway lines and coal mining.

Corridor-mediated gene flow was important for India’s leopard populations too.

The necessity of maintaining the genetic diversity of Indian tigers was highlighted in another paper published in the same journal a few months back. In that paper, Uma Ramakrishnan of the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore and her colleagues noted that a large number of historic genetic variants were not found in modern tiger populations in the country.

As it was, current Indian tiger populations were quite small, she told this correspondent. With further fragmentation of their habitat, these populations could lose connectivity and become isolated.

The resulting loss of genetic variation and greater inbreeding could then make such groups more vulnerable to environmental changes.

Maintaining connectivity between tiger populations was crucial for the conservation of these animals, she emphasised.

Synchronised data collection will begin simultaneously in four Southern States

The synchronised phase one data collection for tiger census will begin simultaneously in the four Southern States – Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnata – on November 17.

K. Sankar, Senior Scientist and Research Coordinator, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), who conducted the regional training workshop for the officials of the four southern states told The Hindu that the work has to be completed before March next year. Dr. Sankar said information on prey-base encounter rate, dung or pellet abundance, carnivore sign survey, habitat quality assessment and evaluation of anthropogenic pressure have to be collected in the first phase, all of which have to be sent to the WII.

The institute would analyse the data collected by the Forest department in the first phase. The works would be taken up in the second phase, he said.

The third phase would include actual density estimation of the tiger’s prey base and population estimation of tigers by using mark-recapture technique.

The WII conducted regional training workshops in Thekkadi for capacity building for forest staff from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra.

The data of the tiger census would be released by December 2014.

The population of tigers in the country increased from 1,411 in 2006 to 1,706 in 2010.

In the corresponding period, the tiger-occupied area in the country had shrunk from 93,697 sqkm in 2006 to 81,881 sqkm in 2010.

Out of 20 tiger-occupied States in the country, its population increased only in six States, including Tamil Nadu. Dr. Sankar said Sathyamangalam, recently declared as a tiger reserve in the State, showed remarkable habitat recovery due to increased protection. The big cat population in the State is expected to increase this time also, he added.

Tribals hack forest ranger to death in Andhra

TNN Sep 16, 2013, 04.02AM IST
(A relative wails near the…)

NIZAMABAD: In an act of horrific violence, a group of tribals who had allegedly encroached on forest land, hacked a forest ranger to death at K K Tanda, a tribal village, in Andhra Pradesh’s Nizamabad district late on Saturday night, apart from maiming seven forest officials who are now being treated in a hospital.

Police said the villagers in the tribal area attacked the staff when they went to arrest those who had illegally occupied forest land and started tilling it with tractors. Gangaiah had gone to the village around Saturday midnight along with a nine-member team, including five beat officers. They were acting on information that mechanized tilling of forest land was taking place illegally at K K Tanda (a tribal village) under Nallavelli gram panchayat in Nizamabad.

Tragically, the forest staff’s vehicle got stuck in mud outside the village. The tribals surrounded their vehicle and threw chilli powder into their eyes before attacking them with boulders and axes. Gangaiah, who was attached to the Dichpally forest range, was surrounded and set upon. He lost a lot of blood due to his wounds and died on the spot. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

Forest department sources said some villagers had plans to eliminate Gangaiah and lured him to the spot by giving fake information about tilling of forest land and smuggling of teakwood. They said the attack was pre-planned since the assailants were armed with chilli powder and axes. Although the assailants caught hold of four forest officials, they killed only Gangaiah.

Sources said the villagers targeted Gangaiah because he had registered cases against some of them for occupying forest land. The assailants were believed to be people who had secured bail recently.

Forest officials suspect the role of villagers Ramulu, Sailu, Jamuna, Bhaskar and Gopi in the attack. On Sunday the officials staged a dharna demanding their arrest. Police registered a case and has launched a search mission. Sub-divisional police officer S Anil Kumar said they would arrest the accused soon. Divisional forest officer D Bheema Naik said lower-level forest officials were facing threats from Left leaders.

Red sanders worth over Rs. 1 crore seized in Tirupati

The Anti-Poaching Squad attached to the Tirupati Wildlife Division on Thursday seized over 160 logs of red sanders worth over Rs.1 crore in the international market, a tipper and a car near Pachhikapallam village in Vedurukuppam mandal of the district.The seizure preceded a hot chase by the squad members after the smugglers from Kuppam Badhuru village to Pachhikapallam.

The smugglers, suspecting that they would be caught at the forest check-posts towards Karveti Nagaram and Puttur, abandoned their vehicles and fled into the nearby thickets.

The Divisional Forest Officer (East) confirmed the seizures, which were shifted to the area godown at Tirupati.

This happens to be considerably a big seizure of the contraband in Vedurukuppam mandal, which of late has witnessed frequent incidents of red sanders smuggling activity on the rural roads connecting Puttur-Chennai highway at various points.

The rural roads are said to be preferred by the smugglers for safe passage and escape in case of being detected.

Forest officials seize 5,000 tortoises in AP

Rajulapudi Srinivas, The Hindu June 18

The Krishna District Forest Department authorities (of Wildlife Management) seized about 5,000 tortoises being transported illegally on Tuesday.

On a tip-off, the team led by Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife) G. Anand conducted a raid in Kalidindi mandal in the wee hours and recovered the tortoises packed in 70 gunny bags. The tortoises were being smuggled to Odisha State, said the DFO.

“About 100 tortoises were packed in each gunny bag. The accused managed to escape into the dark when the forest officials’ team visited the spot. We are trying to find out from where and who were shifting the tortoises”, said Mr. Anand.

State mulling translocation of surplus big cats from Tadoba

, TNN | May 6, 2013, 05.39AM IST

Chandrapur: With population of tigers and leopards soaring high in Tadoba landscape often leading to conflict situation, forest department has decided to take up the challenging task of translocation of surplus big cats in the forests devoid of them. Having received a nod from NTCA, principal secretary (forest) Praveen Pardeshi has directed chief wildlife warden SWH Naqvi to prepare a proposal for the translocation project.

“Good conservation measures have helped in the rise of population of carnivores in Tadoba landscape. Government of India is keen to give permission for translocation of tigers in the forests devoid of them. States like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have shown interest in taking these predators,” said Pardeshi in a workshop on man-animal conflict in Tadoba landscape held in Moharli on Sunday.

Translocation is transport and release of wild animals from one location in forest area to another with emphasis on conflict control. With human-leopard conflict raging high in Moharli range in buffer zone and adjoining forests, translocation of surplus population of leopards would come as long term solution to the problem.

Pardeshi claimed that there are surplus tigers in the Tadoba landscape. The population of leopards too has soared. These surplus predators can be translocated to other forest areas. “But, the project will be implemented through strategic planning and scientific approach after seeking proper permission. Chief wildlife warden will prepare a proposal for the project, which will be forwarded to the government for approval,” Pardeshi said.

Forest officers and senior wildlife experts discussed the reasons for rising human-leopard conflict and measures to mitigate the problem in the workshop. Deputy director, TATR (buffer), P Kalyankumar highlighted the problem faced during handling the angry crowd during conflict situation. Expert in leopard ecology Dr Vidya Atre and scientist from Wildlife Institute of India ( WII), Dr Habib Bilal gave important inputs in dealing with conflict situation and handling the problem leopards.

CCF, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Sunil Limaye and CCF, Nasik, G Saiprakash also gave presentation on human-leopard conflict in their respective areas. Gram panchayat sarpanches and eco development committee representatives also expressed their woes during the interaction session.

Officers agreed on preparing a technical manual with the help of available experience in dealing with conflict situation. Pardeshi assured to push the proposal at least two full time veterinary doctors for forest department in Chandrapur. He also assured to expedite the process for construction of wildlife rescue centre in Nagpur.

Forest officials also decided to make focused approach in providing employment opportunities to forest dwellers under MREGS. They also agreed to further expand the reach of LPG connection scheme, construction of cattle sheds and latrine construction in forest villages.

CCF and field director of TATR Virendra Tiwari claimed that Rs 1.07 crore was earned through tourism in the park in last fiscal. This year the target has been set at Rs 2 crore. Entire earning will go to TATR tiger foundation and 30% of it will be spent for development of buffer villages.

CCF, Chandrapur, BSK Reddy claimed that the menace of man-eater will be termed as disaster situation and district administration will be involved for disaster management. Every captured carnivore will be implanted with microchip for its identification on recapturing. Forest department will create awareness about threat of carnivores during tendu collection season, he said.

The Hindu : NATIONAL / ANDHRA PRADESH :

NTCA to create database for tigers

K. Venkateshwarlu
Today’s Paper» NATIONAL» ANDHRA PRADESH

HYDERABAD,October 19, 2012

  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority has developed a live animal tracking system.
    The National Tiger Conservation Authority has developed a live animal tracking system.

Each one of the big cats will have a unique identification number and code

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) will soon create a national database for tigers, the flagship species of India, and each one of the big cats will have a unique identification number and code. This was announced by Rajesh Gopal, member secretary of NTCA, during a side event on “Have we turned the corner in tiger conservation?” at the Eleventh Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity here. The UID will be one of the new initiatives of the NTCA taken up as part of better bio-monitoring of tigers.

Exact estimate

Experts say this will not only help in enhanced monitoring but give the exact estimate of the tiger population in the country. Camera trap will be used to photograph the tigers from both sides to avoid variation in stripes and a UID allotted to each of them. Another initiative being piloted in Corbett National Park is live electronic surveillance by providing cameras with video recording facility on towers that will help in tracking the movement of animals, human interference and checking poaching, he said.

“E-eye” project encompassing short range infra-red night vision and long range thermal camera stations, remotely operated cameras and wi-max devices, will enable sounding of alerts not only at the local park level but to the NTCA headquarters whenever there is destructive activity. S. P. Yadav of the NTCA demonstrated live tracking of the animals in the park.

This will apart from the Monitoring System for Tigers Intensive Patrolling and Ecological Status (MSTriPes), the software developed by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), to boost tiger conservation efforts through patrolling intensity and spatial coverage, Dr. Gopal said.

‘No development’ zones

At the same session, Joseph Vattakaven, senior coordinator, tiger conservation, WWF-India, surprised the audience by demonstrating through photographs that there was a higher density of tigers per 100 square kilometres outside some of the tiger reserves such as the Nilgiris-Western Ghats stretch where there were 120. Constant monitoring through camera traps could be a good tool in declaring new areas as tiger reserves.

Y. V. Jhala of WII, argued in favour of extending legal status to the existing tiger corridors such as Shivalik-Terai, Central India and Western Ghats, by making them ‘no development’ zones.

This had the potential of raising the tiger population and areas from the existing 1,700 spread over 82,000 square kilometres to 2,400 spanning 1,37,000 square kilometres. In the process the forest area too could also go up to 25 per cent of the geographical area.


  • UID system will not only help in enhanced monitoring but give exact estimate of the tiger population in country
  • Live electronic surveillance to be piloted in Corbett Park by providing cameras with video recording facility

 Return to frontpage

JAIPUR, October 17, 2012

Buffer zones planned in Ranthambore, Sariska

Mohammed Iqbal

Ranthambore and Sariska national parks in Rajasthan were thrown open to tourists on October 17, a day after the Supreme Court lifted the interim ban on tourist activities in the core areas of tiger reserve forests. File photo
The Hindu Ranthambore and Sariska national parks in Rajasthan were thrown open to tourists on October 17, a day after the Supreme Court lifted the interim ban on tourist activities in the core areas of tiger reserve forests. File photo

The famous Ranthambore and Sariska national parks in Rajasthan were thrown open to tourists on October 17, a day after the Supreme Court lifted the interim ban on tourist activities in the core areas of tiger reserve forests in the country, following the notification of revised comprehensive guidelines for tourism in these zones.

The resumption of tourism activities brought cheer to hoteliers and tour operators, whose business had been hit hard by the cancellation of tiger safaris and bookings, following the impasse after the apex court’s July 24 order, which halted all tourism-related activities in the tiger reserve areas. Both the national parks were to be opened on October 1.

Nature guides, hotel and showroom owners, and vehicle owners, who were most affected by the ban, expressed satisfaction on the green signal given to the tourists, with the modification of the Supreme Court order. Local hoteliers lit fireworks to celebrate the lifting of the ban.

State Forest and Environment Minister Bina Kak said the tourism activities in the two national parks would be conducted strictly in accordance with the guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

“In compliance with the new orders, we will develop buffer zones in the two national parks for habitation of [wild] animals. The local residents may render help in this work to facilitate expansion of the tiger habitat and promote eco-tourism activities,” said Ms. Kak.

Tour operators expressed their gratitude to the Forest Department for actively pursuing the matter with the Union government and bringing it to a proper conclusion at the earliest. Ms. Kak pointed out that the construction of new infrastructure would not be allowed in the core and critical tiger habitat areas. However, tourists have been permitted to enter into the core areas as per the new guidelines.

Ranthambore and Sariska national parks are already following the eco-tourism guidelines by restricting the tourism activities to less than 20 per cent of the core areas falling in Sawai Madhopur and Alwar districts.

According to the tour operators, tourism at the two tiger reserves would pick up by this month-end, as the word on the ban being lifted would spread among the foreign tourists through travel agents. Tourist season in the desert State starts in October every year, when both foreign and domestic tourists start arriving here in the pleasant post-monsoon atmosphere.

New Delhi, October 16, 2012

Ban on tourism in tiger reserves’ core areas goes

J. Venkatesan

  • A file picture of ST 6, a male tiger at Sariska Tiger reserve in Rajasthan. The photo has been taken by Rajasthan Minister for Environment and Forests Bina Kak.
    The Hindu A file picture of ST 6, a male tiger at Sariska Tiger reserve in Rajasthan. The photo has been taken by Rajasthan Minister for Environment and Forests Bina Kak.
  • A file picture of B2, one of the most photographed tiger in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in MP.
    PTI A file picture of B2, one of the most photographed tiger in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in MP.

Strictly adhere to National Tourism Conservation Authority guidelines, says court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday lifted the ban on tourist activities in core areas of tiger reserve forests.

This follows Additional Solicitor-General Indira Jaising’s submission that on October 15 the government notified the revised guidelines for the 41 tiger reserves to be followed by States.

A Bench of Justices A.K. Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar said: “This court passed an order on July 24 that till final guidelines are issued, core areas won’t be used for tourism. Now that the National Tourism Conservation Authority [NTCA] has notified the comprehensive guidelines under the Wildlife Act for tourism in and around tiger reserves, we modify the interim order and direct that henceforth tourism activities will be strictly in accordance with the guidelines.”

The court said, “All concerned authorities will ensure that the guidelines shall be strictly in accordance with notification and requirements of guidelines are complied with before commencing tourism.” The Bench directed the States to prepare a tiger conservation plan within six months from today (Tuesday) and submit it to the NTCA.

Fresh guidelines

After the ban, several States and other stake holders urged the Centre to revisit the guidelines and sought the lifting of the ban. Accordingly, the Centre filed an application seeking modification of the order. Subsequently, the court asked the Centre to hold consultations with the States and others and come out with fresh guidelines. Accordingly, the NTCA formulated fresh guidelines.

The Comprehensive Guidelines on Strategy, Tiger Conservation and Tourism in and around Tiger Reserves envisaged that 20 per cent of the core reserve area should be permitted for tourism. Shifting the focus from wildlife tourism to eco-tourism, the NTCA had recommended that a maximum of 20 per cent of the core/critical tiger habitat usage (not exceeding the present usage) for regulated, low-impact tourist visitation might be permitted by the court. It said, “In case the current usage exceeds 20 per cent, the Local Area Committee may decide on a time frame for bringing down the usage to 20 per cent. Such area may be demarcated as tourism zone and there should be strict adherence to site-specific carrying capacity.”

Other suggestions are: “The States should enact law to regulate tiger tourism — tourist facilities; tour operators should not cause disturbance to animals; tourism infrastructure must be environment-friendly like usage of solar energy, waste recycling and rainwater harvesting etc; permanent tourist facilities located inside the core areas should be phased out in a time frame and 10 per cent of the revenue generated from pilgrim centres located in tiger reserves must be used for development of local communities.”

Supreme Court likely to decide today on whether to allow tourism in core areas of tiger reserves

Edited by Samira Shaikh | Updated: October 16, 2012 08:41 IST

Supreme Court likely to decide today on whether to allow tourism in core areas of tiger reserves

File photo

New Delhi: The Supreme Court is likely to decide today on the Centre’s request to allow tourism in at least 20 per cent of the core areas of tiger sanctuaries. The Supreme Court had last week said that the ban on tourists, in core areas of tiger sanctuaries, will continue.

“They have asked us to notify the guidelines. I’m sure they will again review the matter,” Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said.

In July, the Supreme Court had banned tourism in core areas of all 41 tiger reserves in the country based on an existing policy of the Centre. The ban was imposed after states failed to comply with the Centre’s notification that tourism in these core areas be phased out.

Under pressure from various state governments, the Centre had approached the Supreme Court for lifting the ban partially.

States like Kerala and Madhya Pradesh want temples in core areas be exempted from the guidelines.

Allow tourism in core areas to save tigers, says conservation body

TNN Sep 27, 2012, 04.58AM IST
(The govt’s expert body…)

NEW DELHI: Faced with the Supreme Court’s two-month-old interim ban on tourism in core areas of tiger reserves, the Union government’s expert body on tiger conservation told the apex court that public participation was critical to tiger conservation and that regulated tourism should be permitted in core/critical tiger habitats.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) on Wednesday submitted new guidelines to the SC stating that at present, tourists were permitted to visit only 20% of the core areas of tiger reserves and it was well within the ecologically permissible levels. Taking into account the court’s concern for tiger conservation, the NTCA, functioning under the ministry of environment and forests, said that conservation efforts must have public participation and regulated tourism was an effective and invaluable tool to harness community support for this purpose.

The NTCA submitted the new guidelines to the court. which said, “With the importance of tourism in tiger conservation in mind, it is recommended that a maximum of 20% of the core/critical tiger habitat usage (not exceeding the present usage) for regulated, low-impact tourist visitation may be permitted.”

The new guidelines said, “Any core area in a tiger reserve from which relocation has been carried out will not be used for tourism infrastructure.” This means that the guidelines permit continuance of existing lodging facilities put up by the government and private people in core areas but no future construction would be allowed.

The guidelines also kept in mind the rehabilitation of forest dwellers.”Tourism infrastructure must conform to environment-friendly, low-impact aesthetic architecture, including solar energy, waste recycling, rainwater harvesting, natural cross-ventilation, proper sewage disposal and merging with surroundings. All tourist facilities in core areas must conform to these specifications,” it added. It also recommended phasing out of permanent tourist facilities in core/critical areas.

Taking into account the court’s concern for tiger conservation, the NTCA said that conservation efforts must have public participation and regulated tourism was an effective and invaluable tool to harness community support for this purpose.

Times View

Some environmentalists might be outraged by the suggestion that tourism should be allowed in the core areas of tiger reserves, but we believe it is the sensible thing to do with safeguards. Creating a situation in which local populations and tourists have no stake in the core areas does not help protect tigers. On the contrary, it leaves poachers and those willing to collude with them as the dominant stakeholders in these areas if not the only ones. That would be a recipe for disaster. It is much better to allow tourist activity within well-defined and strictly monitored restrictions.

Centre asks Supreme Court to lift ban on tourism in core tiger areas

Edited by Samira Shaikh | Updated: September 26, 2012 14:41 IST

Centre asks Supreme Court to lift ban on tourism in core tiger areas
New Delhi: The Centre today filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court asking for the ban to be lifted on tourism in core areas of tiger reserves. In the affidavit, the Centre has outlined the revised guidelines to protect the tiger population.The Centre has asked the Supreme Court to permit tourism activities in 20 per cent of the core tiger habitat. The guidelines also seek the phasing out of permanent tourist facilities located inside the core areas of the reserve in a specified time frame.The states will be required to enact a law to regulate tiger tourism so that tourist facilities and tour operators do not disturb the animals, the affidavit said.The Centre also wants 10 per cent of the revenue generated from the pilgrim centres located in the tiger reserve to be used for development of local communities.In July, the top court had banned tourism in core areas of all tiger reserves in the country based on an existing policy of the Centre. The ban was imposed after states failed to comply with the Centre’s notification that tourism in these core areas be phased out.Facing pressure from the states, the Centre had moved the Supreme Court seeking permission to revise the guidelines and the court gave permission. The Supreme Court will take up the issue tomorrow.

New panel to ready tiger tourismnorms in 10 days

Nitin Sethi, TNN Sep 13, 2012, 06.15AMIST
NEW DELHI: Another panel has been set up by the ministry of environment and forests to decide eco-tourism guidelines in core areas and peripheral buffer zones of tiger reserves, and submit a report within 10 days. The panel’s creation comes on the back of ministry’s commitment to the Supreme Court that it would review its proposed norms on eco-tourism and get back to the SC with a final version by September 29.

The new panel includes two wildlife scientists K Ullas Karanth and Wildlife Institute of India’s Y V Jhala. Also, there are Brijendra Singh, considered close to the Gandhi family and a member of the National Board of Wildlife, Raghu Chundawat, a tiger expert and a resortowner in Madhya Pradesh, Shekhar Dattari a wildlife filmmaker, Swathi Sheshadri of Equations, an NGO that works on tourism, Tushar Das of NGO Vasundhra, which works on tribal rights, and Arun Bhatnagar, a retired bureaucrat. In addition, the committee will have representatives from tribal affairs, tourism and panchayati raj ministries, besides chief wildlife
wardens of MP, UP, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Assam. The member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority will serve as convener on the committee.

The committee been tasked to “prepare a comprehensive set of guidelines for tiger conservation and tourism as provided in section 38 (c) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972”. It has been asked to keep all existing laws in mind, including the Forest Rights Act, while drawing up the guidelines.
While the apex court had put a complete but interim ban on tourism in the core of tiger reserves, the ministry had earlier recommended only partial tourism in the core run by communities. The ministry’s suggestions had a rider. It sought to put stringent conditions including a cess on revenues of the resorts around tiger reserves to fund conservation. Several tour operators and resort owners had opposed both the court’s interim order and government guidelines. Several states, too, had opposed a complete ban.

Link is here, New committee to ready tiger tourism norms, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/flora-fauna/New-panel-to-ready-tiger-tourism-norms-in-10-days/articleshow/163

Published: September 8, 2012 19:51 IST | Updated: September 8, 2012 19:51 IST Chennai, September 8, 2012

The story of the other one per cent

Divya Vasudev

Multiple-use buffer land promotes a mode of conservation that includes human needs. If they work as intended, there’s no need to bemoan the ban of tourism in core areas, says Divya Vasudev

In late July this year, the Supreme Court temporarily banned tourism in core regions of tiger reserves. This brought up two important issues. One, the effect of tourism on tiger populations, positive or negative, has been much discussed in the news. But the very vociferousness of the response of tourism advocates to the Supreme Court ban raises another issue, which is that of the buffer. The Supreme Court allows tourism in the buffer zones of tiger reserves and it does not restrict tourism in regions that are not tiger reserves. Yet, tourist operators seem to have treated the developments of the Court as a blanket ban on all their activities. Which begs the question: Are the buffers of our Tiger Reserves so devoid of wildlife to be of no use whatsoever to eco-tourism?

The basic premise of demarcating buffers is self-explanatory. Buffers serve to filter pressures existing outside of conservation lands from affecting core regions. Buffers are essentially meant to be multiple-use areas that allow for human activities while ensuring benefits for the inviolate core. This happens via the presence of wildlife, flora and fauna, in the buffer regions itself. These multiple-use regions also promote a mode of conservation that is inclusive of humans. People live and work on these lands, co-existing with wild animals.

Incomplete implementation

India initiated the formation of cores and buffers decades ago, along with the formulation of Project Tiger. But like many other innovative ideas in our country, the actual demarcation process was not followed through in most parks. The distinction between National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries or core and buffer means little to most people. Speaking statistics, the Project Tiger website lists the area covered by core regions of Tiger Reserves to be 32,137 sq. km. This amounts to around one per cent of the geographic area of our country. Going by claims that protected areas occupy 4-5 per cent of our land, this is 20-25 per cent of the protected areas in our country. So why has the prevention of tourism in this one per cent of land caused wide-scale panic in the tourism community?

Perhaps the answer lies in a quote. Tourist operators in Ranthambore spoke to The Guardian about their woes. Land earmarked for buffer in their region has “very little flora or fauna” and is “littered with gravel mines”, so far away from the core that they believe tigers would have to walk 35 miles to reach these regions. The buffer in their region, they say, is “not anywhere tourists would want to visit – let alone tigers”. A figment of truth seeps out from these statements; buffers in these tourist spots are far from what they are intended to be: lands shared by humans and wildlife. They are either wastelands available at no cost for bureaucratic paperwork, or a hard-liner argument that multiple-use landscapes are for idealists.

Perfect balance

I made a recent trip to that wildlifer’s paradise, Masai Mara. The landscape was amazing and the fauna of the region a must-watch, but the Masai tribesmen living at the park boundaries are hardly well-off. This made me do a little internet research and I came across a place adjacent to the protected region called the Naibosho Conservancy. The conservancy is the result of a business agreement between the Mara tribesmen who own the land and a tourist-cum-businessman. Eco-tourism in this region is outside the ‘core’ of the park, the benefits feed directly into the local communities and the wildlife, from being rare, now flourish in the region. This is a buffer in its true sense. An area that serves livelihood purposes for its human residents while being habitat, albeit a secondary one, for its faunal residents.

Some states in India have had fewer problems with the Supreme Court ban. Assam is an example. Tourism, operators have said, is not in core regions and the ban, therefore, is irrelevant in their tiger reserves. But I have been to Manas as well as Kaziranga. Manas has three ranges, and tourism runs straight through the middle of the central and best protected range in the park. Jeep trails within Kaziranga traverse each of its four ranges purportedly within a tourism zone, whose demarcation is a state-kept secret.

The core of Kaziranga might become more transparent however, with the pressure of the Supreme Court on the one hand and the tourist lobby on the other. As NTCA member and Assam conservationist Firoz Ahmed stated to The Telegraph, the government “will have to work on a strategy so that the core area of Kaziranga National Park is restricted to only a certain portion, allowing tourists to visit areas that are outside…” A statement that defies logic, when we consider that the fundamental premise behind demarcating core zones was to set aside the best tiger habitat for the tiger. An unintended consequence of the Court order could easily be governments declaring regions of high faunal density, and thus, of high tourism value, as buffers and the remaining regions, perhaps the degraded ‘gravel mines’ that tourists do not want to visit, as cores.

Necessary control

The issue here is not really one of the impacts of eco-tourism on wildlife. Most people agree that tourism has its benefits but needs stringent controls. The Court did not ban tourism in buffer regions, nor did it restrict activities in forests not declared as Tiger Reserves. Their actions were relevant to one per cent of India’s lands. To call this a devastating blow to tourism is to state that the remaining 99 per cent of lands in India are of no value whatsoever in terms of eco-tourism. In other words, 99 per cent of our lands are empty or near-empty of wildlife. Given that most tourists in India alight on safaris just for that glimpse of a tiger, this still doesn’t sit right.

When the Wildlife Institute of India released estimates of tiger populations we rejoiced that tigers still roamed outside of our protected areas; but now, suddenly, they do not? The Centre has claimed that “the common citizen would be deprived of an opportunity to appreciate our natural heritage” with this ban. To decry a violation of rights is to admit that our natural heritage lies solely within one per cent of our lands. And this, more than any debate on the pros and cons of tourism, is shocking. Which of these perspectives of reality is the truth? Is the tourism industry crying wolf? Or are we truly pocketing our wildlife to a measly one per cent of our lands?

Dhritiman Mukherjee
Exclusion of budget tourists can hit support for conservation
opinion
The Tourist Isn’t An Endangered Animal
Tourism can increase its natural capital by converting farms to wildlife viewing land, with shared profits
K. Ullas Karanth

The media splash—exemplified by a hyper-ventilating Guardian report following the Supreme Court’s July 2012 interim order suspending tourism in some tiger reserves—has convinced the public that all wildlife tourism activity in India stands permanently abolished. Following the August 22 ruling on a review petition by the SC, in which it extended its ban on tourism in the ‘core areas’ of tiger reserves, people might think such a shutdown portends a disastrous collapse of public support to tiger conservation. These are exaggerations arising out of a flawed reading.

Wildlife tourism has been temporarily halted only in tiger reserves, that too only in states that have not notified ‘buffer zones’ mandated by law. Tourism is going on unhindered at all other wildlife reserves, including tiger reserves where buffer zones have been notified. The intent of the court’s order appears to be to compel remaining states to create buffers around already notified core areas or ‘critical tiger habitats’, with the suspension of tourism as a threat. The issue, as it has been framed by the court, will hopefully renew focus on the flawed boundaries of some of these critical tiger habitats, for both scientific and practical reasons.

Broadly, there are two kinds of wildlife tourism being practised in the country. The first is ‘budget tourism’, affordable to the non-affluent. My career as a naturalist was nurtured decades ago as one such tourist who paid 16 rupees for a van ride to watch wildlife rebound from the brink in Nagarahole, Karnataka. Budget wildlife tourism emerged in 1970s, when wildlife began to recover after a pioneer generation of foresters implemented Indira Gandhi’s tough new laws.

The high-end version of tiger tourism, kicking up so much dust now, came later when wildlife got habituated to tourists and could be easily watched. It typically features luxury accommodation and fine food (often with swimming pools, saunas, therapeutic massage thrown in). The ‘boutique tourism’ we see at reserves like Bandhavgarh, Kanha and Ranthambhore can be enjoyed only by the well-off.

The rise of boutique tourism is a consequence of India’s economic growth, which generated large disposable incomes that could be tapped. Its concern is profit, not conservation education. This is not a crime, as some appear to believe—but nor is it a great virtue. Although high-end tourism generates some local jobs and benefits, unlike in Africa these are not at all significant when scaled to the size of local economies, let alone state or national ones. Wildlife reserves cannot be India’s ‘engines of economic growth’. Their primary value is for educating the public about our threatened wildlife, generating support and enabling conservation action.

High-end tourism necessarily targets spectacular animals like tigers, lions, rhinos and elephants that attract top dollars. It has spread rapidly across the country, with even the public sector joining in. As a result, in most good wildlife reserves, the prices charged for entry, vehicle rides and accommodation have all skyrocketed beyond the reach of average citizens. However, because the size of these reserves or their carrying capacity has not expanded, richer tourists are steadily squeezing out budget tourists.

This sad consequence of spreading high-end tourism has gone unnoticed in the present debate. Exclusion of the budget tourists is far more likely to undermine long-term public support for wildlife conservation in India than the court’s suspension of tourism in a few high-profile tiger reserves. To ignore this reality and to portray all wildlife tourism as one homogeneous, benevolent entity is highly misleading.

Publicly owned wildlife reserves must be accessible to budget tourists. If they are excluded, it will undermine long-term public support for wildlife conservation here.

The arguments that the tourism industry’s watchful eyes are necessary to protect wildlife and its ‘ban’ will lead to collapse of wildlife protection are also facetious. The high-end tourism boom, in fact, followed years after wildlife populations had rebounded: to claim that it recovered wildlife is to mistake the effect for the cause. What is particularly muddying this logical stream in the present debate is the fact that a handful of genuine conservationists are loudly pleading the industry’s case. However, in my view, they do not represent a reasonable sample of general industry behaviour or practices by any stretch of imagination.On the other hand, it would also be wrong to portray ‘tiger tourism’ as the most important threat to wild tigers. It is not. Direct killing by criminal gangs, poaching of prey animals, livestock grazing, the collection of forest produce by locals, development of infrastructure such as mines and dams in ecologically sensitive areas, as well as the misapplication of the Forest Rights Act, pose much bigger threats. Ill-conceived and over-funded ‘habitat improvement’ practised by reserve managers is also emerging as a potent threat.

However, it cannot also be denied that increasing tourism pressure, ‘more of vehicles, riding elephants, fuel-wood consumption and water diversion, as well as broader scale habitat fragmentation’ are of increasing concern. This is particularly true because much of the high-end tourism pressure is targeted at a few major reserves that cover less than 1/1000th of our land.

Clearly, the present model of wildlife tourism is unsustainable in a country with over a billion people with an annual economic growth rate of 6-8 per cent. Drastic regulation is urgently needed and more sustainable tourism models must be built. Preferably, these should emerge from shared conservation concerns rather than mere government diktat or court orders. I urge that the promotion of the economic self-interest of farmers living in close proximity to wildlife should also be a key component of any new model of wildlife tourism.

If the economic force manifested as boutique wildlife tourism is to genuinely serve conservation, it must urgently reinvent itself. How can it do so?

Essentially the land-base for wildlife viewing must expand outward from our tiny nature reserves, creating additional wildlife habitat as economic growth and demand increase. Pragmatically, the only possibility for such expansion has to rely on private lands stretching outwards from our wildlife reserves in all directions. Therefore, instead of deploying its political clout to seek more concessions inside existing wildlife reserves, or even pleading for allotment of publicly owned lands outside, the high-end tourism industry would be wiser in partnering commercially with farmers around major reserves that shelter tigers, lions, rhinos or elephants that its clients will pay to watch.

Only by converting farms to land for wildlife viewing, by means of reasonable profit-sharing mechanisms, can this industry hope to increase its true ‘natural capital’—wildlife and wild lands. Unfortunately, the loss of this natural capital is now not even a part of the industry’s business models. Furthermore, such profit-sharing will undoubtedly lessen the hostility that locals feel towards wildlife reserves as playgrounds reserved for the rich. It will also reduce the industry’s crippling dependence on fickle government policies or unpredictable litigation for its very survival.

The success of the ‘wildlife habitat expansion model’ I propose will depend on the underlying economics being robust. It will not depend merely on pious conservation concerns but on pursuit of economic self-interest by both industry and farmers. It may not meet the gold standards of North Korean socialism, but I believe it can offer a pragmatic long-term solution framed within the overall model of development followed by every elected government for the past two decades.

What then of the ordinary budget tourists? It’s imperative that publicly owned wildlife reserves be accessible to them at reasonable costs, even as commercial tourism expands outwards in ever widening circles. What I have proposed is indeed closer to the South African model of wildlife tourism, which industry advocates now demand in India. That model includes well-run, properly zoned national parks like Kruger that benefit large numbers of less-affluent tourists. These are surrounded and buffered by an expanding network of private reserves catering to visitors with deeper pockets. In the process hundreds of square kilometres of marginal farmland, cattle ranches and Biltong (game meat) ranches have turned into additional well-managed wildlife tourism reserves. This case comes as a warning bell for India’s wildlife tourism industry: if it does not confront the economic issue of its own dwindling natural capital, soon it will have no place to go.


(Karanth is director for Science-Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society)

Supreme Court says ban on tiger tourism to continue

Reported by A Vaidyanathan, Edited by Janaki Fernandes | Updated: August 22, 2012 17:03 IST

Supreme Court says ban on tiger tourism to continue

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ordered that the ban on tourism in core areas  of tiger reserves, in place since July, will continue.The Centre had sought the court’s permission to review its policy on tiger tourism, saying it has received representations from states that the ban will affect employment opportunities.The top court slammed the Centre for seeking a review of the apex court order. “Now you want us to review this ban. We want to know on what basis did you recommend the ban initially,” the judge told lawyers representing the central government. It also posted the next hearing in the case for August 29.

New snake species found in AP

Staff Reporter

The rare snake which was found by the Forest Department in Seshachalam biosphere of Tirumala-Tirupati recently. Photo: Special Arrangement
The rare snake which was found by the Forest Department in Seshachalam biosphere of Tirumala-Tirupati recently. Photo: Special Arrangement

Spotted in Seshachalam hill ranges, it is found to be of colubridae family, but has strikingly different features from its nearest species ‘coluber gracilis’

Forest Department officials have stumbled upon at least four varieties of snakes in the Seshachalam hill ranges that have never been sighted or reported here in the past.

Of the four, the latest one sighted on July 16 at Kapila Theertham forest abutting the city flabbergasted the researchers and officials. It is found to be of colubridae family and ‘coluber’ genera, but has strikingly different features from its nearest species ‘coluber gracilis’, which too was sighted last in Pune district of Maharashtra and Asirgarh of Madhya Pradesh, but never in southern India.

The declaration of Seshachalam as a biosphere reserve has paved the way for enumeration of rare and endemic flora and fauna, before initiating steps for their conservation.

Species identified

So far, the Forest Department has identified 27 species of snakes, 12 types of lizards and 13 amphibians. In the last two months alone, slender coral snake (calliophis melanurus) of the elapidae family, brown vine snake (ahaetulla puverulenta) of colubridae family and Eliot’s shieldtail (uropeltis elliot) of the uropeltidae family were sighted.

Famed researchers Romulus Whitaker and Ashok Captain, in their work ‘Snakes of India’, have described the slender coral snake as endemic to all southern States except Andhra Pradesh, besides Maharashtra, West Bengal and Gujarat. The brown viper is reported to be endemic to the Western Ghats, but the latest find in Seshachalam is the first to be reported in the Eastern Ghats. Similarly, the Eliot’s shieldtail is also found in the Western Ghats (from Goa to Tirunelveli), Madhya Pradesh and in Andhra-Orissa border. The first sighting in Andhra Pradesh was in Araku valley long back and the latest in Seshachalam is only the second. – Staff Reporter

Mudumalai, Anamalai reserves buck global trend of declining biodiversity

GOOD NEWS: A pair of tiger cubs seen at Mudumalai Tiger Reserve last year. File photo
The Hindu GOOD NEWS: A pair of tiger cubs seen at Mudumalai Tiger Reserve last year. File photo

Poaching, exploitation of non-timber forest produce, grazing significantly curbed: study

Even as biodiversity decline is being reported from national parks worldwide, Mudumalai and Anamalai tiger reserves in Tamil Nadu have shown positive trends in sustaining its rich variety of flora and fauna.

This is the conclusion of a study taken up in 60 reserves in various parts of the world by a team of biodiversity researchers numbering more than 200.

Raman Sukumar of the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (IISc), who was part of the team of researchers, told The Hindu that the mammalian fauna of Mudumalai was intact and, in fact, increasing.

Citing the example of both tiger and the elephant population in this dry, deciduous forest, Prof. Sukumar said: “The tiger is always considered as being at the apex of the food chain and also representing the health of the ecosystem. Similarly, the research has also showed that forest cover in both the reserves was largely intact for the past several decades.”

“Protected areas are often thought of as the last bastions of plant and animal species in a world that is experiencing rapid erosion in biodiversity as a consequence of developmental pressure. This belief has never been explicitly tested worldwide to see how effectively protected areas are performing in the biodiversity rich tropical regions,” he said.

The analysis published last month in the international journal Nature by a global consortium of conservation scientists examined the issue through data on biodiversity trends, developments and other environmental pressures over the last three decades at 60 protected areas across Asia-Pacific, African and American tropics, he said.

The study found that 50 per cent of the tropical reserves were experiencing serious declines in biodiversity, across many plant and animal groups. The ecological health of these protected areas was influenced not only by the levels of disturbance within the reserve but also the ecological pressures in the surrounding habitats.

Three important aspects mainly contributed to the biodiversity decline at the global level — habitat disruption, hunting and exploitation of forest produces. These parameters are under control in both Mudumalai and Anamalai Tiger Reserves. “In both the reserves, the forests are contiguous. Similarly, poaching and exploitation of non-timber forest produce have been significantly curbed over the past decade. Livestock grazing has also declined sharply in Mudumalai and its surrounding Sigur plateau,” he points out.

Other side

However, there is a need for monitoring the impacts of invasive species such as Lantana camara, which has expanded its growth over a period of time. Similarly, the pollution level of the Moyar, the major river flowing through the Mudumalai reserve, from its catchment in The Nilgiris, needs to be curtailed, he emphasises.

Supreme Court bans tourism in core areas of            tiger reserves     J. Venkatesan

http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/article3678263.ece?homepage=true

The image of a tiger captured in the monitoring cameras installed in Sathyamangalam forests in Erode district. File photo

  • The Hindu The image of a tiger captured in the monitoring cameras installed in Sathyamangalam forests in Erode district. File photo

To protect tigers, the Supreme Court on Tuesday banned all tourism activities in the core areas of the tiger reserve forests.

A Bench of Justices Swatanter Kumar and Ibrahim Kalifullah passed the order on a petition filed by conservationist Ajay Dubey that sought a directive to the States to notify the buffer and peripheral areas of the tiger reserves, under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, to prevent tourism in the core areas.

In April, the court heard senior counsel and amicus curie Raj Panjwani and asked Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Karnataka and Maharashtra to issue the notification. On Tuesday, the court was told that except Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Arunachal Pradesh, the other States had not filed affidavits and were yet to notify the core areas.

Wasim A. Qadri, counsel for the National Tiger Conservation Authority, which works under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, submitted the guidelines framed for ecotourism in and around the protected areas.

After hearing counsel for the States, the Bench said: “Why should tourism be allowed in core areas? Tigers are practically on the verge of extinction, whatever the statistics is.”

In its order, the Bench said: “Despite this court’s order on April 3, several States have not issued notification for buffer and core areas … During the course of the hearing, Jharkhand and Arunachal Pradesh have said they are ready with the notification, while the other States said they are attempting to do so.” (Rajasthan has already issued the notification.)

Giving three weeks — as the last opportunity — to those States that have not yet notified the core areas and filed affidavits, the Bench imposed Rs. 10,000 in costs on them.

“If affidavits are not filed by these States [by then], this court will initiate contempt action and impose costs [on them] up to Rs. 50,000. Affidavits will have to be filed within three weeks. No further time will be given. The [National] Tiger Conservation Authority has placed its recommendation of guidelines.”

“We will take up the guidelines for final hearing, so that the Centre can issue a notification for fixing [the] area and utilisation of [the] buffer and core area.”

The Bench said: “We make it clear that till final directions of this court with reference to the … guidelines, the core areas … will not be used for tourism.” The court directed the matter to be listed for further hearing on August 22.

Tadoba’s Corridors

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/environment/flora-fauna/unsafe-corridors-pose-threat-to-tadoba-tigers/articleshow/14573506.cms

CHANDRAPUR: Even as the state government has shown positive signs towards conservation of tiger corridors of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) by declaring a new Umred-Karangla wildlife sanctuary, a lot is needed to done to pave the way for safe passage for tigers migrating out of Tadoba. Mapping and digitization of the tiger corridors leading out of Tadoba is one of the key demands of wildlife activist Bandu Dhotre, who will launch his indefinite hunger strike in Nagpur for safety of tigers here from Monday.
Tadoba is one of the best tiger habitats in country that is connected with Andhra Pradesh in South, Gadchiroli in east and Nagpur in North through the corridors. The corridor in the North passes through Chimur range, leading to Central Nagpur forest division and further connecting to Melghat and Pench tiger reserves. Similarly, the southern corridor leads out through Lohara, Junona, Kothari, Dhaba jungles to Chaprala sanctuary and ahead to Indrawati tiger reserve Chhattisgarh. The same corridor branches towards Kawal Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh. The eastern corridor leads through Mul, Saoli and ahead into Wadsa forests of Gadchiroli.
The spillover population of tigers from Tadoba and jungles around it, moves through these corridors to safer locations to make new territories. However, these tiger corridors are under severe threat due to mining and irrigation projects, expanding human habitation and negligence of forest department. “At present, there are about 36 tiger cubs in TATR. Out of these, 18 will attain adulthood during this year and move out of Tadoba. Their migration out of Tadoba can only be tenable when the corridors are safe,” said Dhotre. He said that the forest department does not have exact mapping and digitization of these corridors. And for the same reason, the department does not know exactly where the tigers have gone after migration, he claimed.
Dhotre said that there is total loss of monitoring in Gadchiroli and hence the department has no knowledge about the direction of movement of tigers there. Similarly, corridors have been bottlenecked and at many places completely severed due to deforestation, human habitation and even irrigation canals. “Forest department is aware of this problem, but has never bothered to map their corridors and identify the threats to it. Hence, we have voiced the demand of mapping and digitization of the corridors through Wildlife Institute of India, identifying the threats to corridors and enlisting the remedial measures to neutralize the threats to corridors,” he said.
Dhotre claimed that the other major threat to tigers and their corridors is from FDCM. This commercial set-up of forest department has its areas all around the TATR. There are several compartments of FDCM in every corridor and lack of protection and conservation in them present a severe threat to the resident and transitional tigers in them. “Tiger poaching through electrocution in FDCM Jharan range and failure in detection of dead tigers’ carcasses in FDCM Jharan and Junona for a week clearly indicates lack of wildlife management and protection. FDCM is purely a commercial set-up and has least concern about wildlife protection and conservation,” he alleged.
He claimed that FDCM’s work is to take up commercial forestation in degraded forest areas and sell the same wood after felling. However, FDCM acquired dense mixed forests in Vidarbha, particularly Chandrapur and destroyed the bio-diversity by taking up clear felling in their areas since 1978. FDCM acquired dense forests in Jharan, Kanhargaon, Dhaba and Devai having rich wildlife density and were identified as shooting blocks in British regime. Clear felling and plantation of commercial trees destroyed the habitat and disturbed the food chain leading to loss of herbivores and consequently carnivores. “Hence, we have also voiced the demand of merger of FDCM areas in Chandrapur forest circle for effective protection of tigers here,” Dhotre said

Suspected poacher’s gang intrudes into tadoba Andheri Tiger Reserve

CHANDRAPUR: Search operations have been stepped up in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) after a gang of suspected poachers intruded into tiger reserve on Sunday night. Three forest labourers posted at Wamangaon protection hut saw the gang but couldn’t take them on fearing for their life. Immediately a high alert was sounded in the reserve and buffer area.

Since the Gondmohadi poaching incident the TATR and all tiger bearing territories in Chandrapur are on high alert. Everybody on patrol in and around TATR were alerted on Sunday night and all patrolling vehicles in TATR and buffer areas along Palasgaon and Chimur range were diverted to Alizanja area of the reserve to look for the gang which entered the reserve from Wamangaon side during midnight, sources said.

Kawal Sanctuary notified as Tiger Reserve

IBN Live

HYDERABAD: Much to the delight of animal-lovers and environmentalists, the state government on Tuesday notified the Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary in Adilabad district as Tiger Reserve. About 893 sqkm of the wildlife sanctuary has been notified as core area, while another 1,123 sqkm area has been declared buffer zone for the tiger reserve.

Each tiger reserve has a core area where no development activity is allowed and the buffer zone also has restrictions on the developmental works. Though the Centre gave its nod for the tiger reserve in June last year, it was delayed due to various reasons.

Kawal is the 42nd tiger reserve in the country. By declaring Kawal a tiger reserve, the government expects an increase in the number of tigers, especially in central Indian landscape.

Currently, the wildlife sanctuary has about 20 tigers as per an unofficial count. India’s tiger population has increased from 1,411 in 2006 to 1,706 in 2010 but their habitat area shrunk by about 22 per cent.

With the earning of ‘Tiger reserve’ tag, the Kawal Sanctuary will be provided more funds through the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to help Kawal grow as a tiger habitat. Better security will be provided to bring down poaching and felling of trees that would help in improving herbivorous population leading to better tiger breeding. The main objective for the declaration of Kawal Tiger Reserve is ”to protect, restore, manage and maintain representative biodiversity of Deccan plateau of Sahyadri Mountain Ranges along with ecological processes and conservation of wild gene pool with a focus on Tiger.”

Kawal Tiger Reserve represents the typical floral and fauna of the Deccan Plateau. The reserve with dense Teak (Tectona grandis) and bamboo (Dendrocalmus strictus) forests is enriched with 673 other species of plants. It is also abode for a variety of wild animals including 23 insect species, 10 species of amphibians, 34 reptile species, 267 bird species and 75 species of mammals like Royal Bengal Tiger, Gaur, wild dog and Sloth bear.

A critical analysis of Bhooparatam(Forest felling) in Adilabad district 2007-2008.

A note by Hyticos

Abstract: Bhooparatam new buzz word introduced by Left Parties. This in forest perspective is felling of forest and acquiring land. Forest lands are tainted to be a story of forceful eviction of Tribals by forest departments. People oriented NGOs and Politicians pretend to be fighting a huge cause and openly declare war on standing forests. Axe and Plough is ruling the forests of Adilabad to whatever places people can reach and lands are cultivable.

Brief History of Tribals in Adilabad.

Adilabad was one of the most forested district in Andhra Pradesh with 7,232 Sqkms of Reserved forest. Adilabads major population was Tribals. Kollams being the most primitive tribes known in Adilabad. Till independence also more than 80% of population in Adilabad was tribals. Gonds was the largest majority of them. Before the rise of Muslim rulers then the Maratha rajas, Gond chieftains ruled Adilabad. With construction of roads and awards of lands for clearing forest, lot of non-tribals from all sides poured in Adilabad.

Shifting agriculture practiced by Gonds and Niakapodus paved way for non-tribals to grab the lands that have been cleared by tribals and kept for future use.

Tribals lost land to these non-tribals by early 40’s. But in 1944 a bold tribal rehabitation by the then Nizam government restored lands. 85% of tribal families got lands and the land conflict was largely resolved. In words of Haimendorf a great anthropologist in his book “Tribes of India” writes, “There appears to be at present no acute land-problem, and as far as I could see there has been no serious encroachment on the tribals’ land. The position will have to be watched, however, when the road-link Utnur-Kerimeri-Asifabad is completed, for the most isolated part of the highlands will then become more easily accessible to outsiders.”

 

This proves that claim of land alienation by forest department and tribals losing land to forest is false.—-1

 

On other hand the de facto ownership of Tribals over forests for Wood and Forest produce fell in hands of State government. This led to exploitation of forest wealth until 90’s by the state. Bamboo, Timber, forest produce, Mining of forest were all legalized as states income. Later silviculture was stopped, Mining in Tribal lands was regularized(With samatha Judgement), Forest produce was treated as Tribal property.

 

This proves that the rights were conferred to the Tribals though it was late.—-2

 

The developments that took place from 1961-1971 opened up the Scheduled Areas of the state through communication facilities, which resulted in an influx of non-tribal population, which increased by 111% in Utnoor agency area. The second Gond rebellion was triggered off by the recognition of the forward tribe Lambadas as Scheduled Tribes in Telangana area against an earlier advice of Haimendorf.

Chronological list of events that affected forest in Adilabad.

1944: Nizam government recognizes tribal rights and distributes land

1945: a total of 45,417 acres of land had been granted to 3,144 tribals,

1949: the amount of land assigned on patta to tribals had risen to 160,000 acres and

the number of beneficiaries to 11,198.

1959:AP Land Transfer Regulation (1959) was passed providing lot of protection to the right

1960’s: Roads and other amenities were improved causing lot of migration to adilabad.

1965: Kawal Decalred as sanctuary under name Kawal Game reserve.

1970’s: Hameindrof observes that Marathas, Hatkars, Mahars, members of various merchant castes, and many Muslims, mainly from the districts of Nander, Osmanabad, and Parbhani, as well as newly arrived Banjaras from Berar. This caused for major clearance of forest.

1977: Lambadas notified as ST resulting in huge influx of Lambadas from neighbouring maharashtra’s districts.

1980’s: Hundreds of Lambada settlements called Tanda’s mushroomed in Adilabad.

1993: JFM Launched in Andhra Pradesh. This brought a little relief to forest.

1996: World banks infamous Ecodevelopment project launched in Kawal WLS.

1999: Final notification of settlement of all the rights in Kawal WLS was issued.

2002: JFM converted to CFM where all rights were given to Tribals in AP.

2007 Aug

2007 Sep: Left Wrecks Kawal WLS with Bhooparatam. Atleast 1,500 acres of forest felled. Reference a

2008 Jan: Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 enacted jeopardizing all the reserve forest in District.

2008 April: Fresh Fellings were noted in Jannaram and Tadlapet divisions in wake of STFR, 2006. People started believing that encroachment is their birth right.

2008 July: Bhooparatam 3rd Phase started with indiscriminate fellings by tribals and non-tribals. Reference c

 

 

Felling and encroachments in and around Kawals:

There are three dimensions to the present felling and past encroachments in and around Kawal WLS.

Lambada’s and other settlers take over forest lands. This kind of intrusion in Adilabad formed the basic genesis for indiscriminate forest destruction. Huge amount of forest were cleared while encroached got backing from subsequent governments. Each family at an average encroached 10 acres from forest. 

 

Tribals encroachments: Tribals expanded villages and resulting in further encroachments. This can be divided into two parts.

Local tribals encroaching forest lands.

These are the extension of existing villages in reserve forest. Tribals from far off places encroach RF areas.Tribals from distant villages who may still have lands or have no lands had come to pristine areas within RF. Initially left wing supported such a thing.

Non-Tribal encroachments.

As the population grew non-tribals also got into act of encroachments and cleared substantial amount of forest.

Illegal Bamboo extraction and timber smuggling.

Where ever bamboo flourishes so does extraction by local people for household and commercial use. Timber smuggling with the help of locals Tribals and non-tribal continues to haunt Forest of Adilabad. Bullockcarts, Cycles, Autos, Cars, Vans, Lorries etc. are being used on daily basis which goes uncontrolled.

CPI, CPIMs threatens forest for ever:

When forest department officials wanted to deal with Land problem in a soft manner in early 2007, they began to entertain the claims that CPI-M was making over forest land. This led to first Bhoopartam in Kadam mandal’s RF area bordering Kawal WLS with grant of 30 acres of forest land to landless.

This opened an new Pandora box which lead for bhooparatam in September 2007.Left parties now became so intrepid that they openly take responsibility for forest degradation.

The Lambada Menace:

Enjoying the tribal status in AP. Lambadas exploited all the available resources for tribals further pushing back Gonds, Naikapodus, Kolams, Andhs etc. Who are the real tribals of Adilabad District. Lambadas rose to power with hundreds of key position in government, Political parties, panchayats, ITDA etc. This led to second gond rebellion in 1980’s and now Gond Tribals claim categorization of tribals based on their primitive status.(Ref 7)

Bhooparatam Phase I:

Aug-Sep 2007: This was started under leadership of State secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Mr. B.V. Raghavulu. It gained lot of attention of media, NGOs and government. In September 2007 it was halted with atleast 500 cases booked against the poor villagers.

Bhooparatam Phase II: Large scale forest felling was announced by left parties announced in Dec 2007. Thanks to vigilant forest department and support of district administration no Bhooparatam was allowed.

Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006:

STFR was enacted from Jan 2008. This caused a major disruption in Adilabad’s forest. Huge amount of forest felling resulting in clear felling and further tilling of land was absorbed in Adilabad.

Felling started in April, then in May it was more intensive. This was always supported by local leaders.

Bhooparatam Phase III: With onset of monsoon in June end Bhooparatam was announced. It is being continuous since July 10th. Group of villagers numbering from 100 to 500 people enter forest and start felling. Later they want to claim it as their right. Tribals and Non-tribals are equally involved in these felling, it has spread in eastern part of district like Wildfire, destructing hundreds of acres on daily basis. Jannaram and Nirmal Division are most affected with immeasurable amount of destruction.

 Why Forest Department fails to protect forest.

Forest department is feeling as impossible to stop these indiscriminate felling for following reasons.

District administration doesn’t support forest department. With police department claiming that they have orders from government not to intervene in stopping people from felling forest.

Forest department is largely outnumbered by the offenders. Mobs of 200-500 are routine.

Forest department doesn’t have authority make a FIR and take the offenders in remand.

Magistrates are not cooperating with forest department and normally leaving offenders on personal bail and warnings.

Forest department doesn’t have weapons and training to tackle large mobs.

Government is unsupportive to forest department.

Forest department has lost all the morale after seeing this destruction and their inability to tackle the situation.

 

How to curb these fresh felling? how protect the forest in future?

 

Here are few suggestions.

Go to court for immediate order to put hold on all the forest rights recognition activities and a serious action on people involved in fresh fellings.

  • Involve national media in big way to bring out the real face of events in field.
  • Involve Communist party into a dialogue and ask the top leadership to take a firm stand on these mindless destruction.
  •                 Organize a rally and city based campaign.
  •                 Boast morale of forest department and help them.
  •                Work with Local VSS committees and Jungle bacho committee.

              Under leadership of Soyam Bapu Rao, MLA of Boath, support the categorization of forest tribals and work for removing ST status of Lambadas. Reference f

 Fresh Felling in 2008 July.

Area Name

Range

Area felled

Cases booked

Other details

Mohdabad beat

Tadlapet

126 Ha

80

 

Bilkulguda

Tadlapet

60 Ha

96

 

Kothurpalli

Jannaram

50 Ha

30

Lambadas.

Islampur beat

Indanpally

20 Ha

10

Gonds

 

References:

a. Left wrecks sanctuary for land

Mir Ayoob Ali Khan | Times of India/ TNN

27-September-07

Adilabad:

Demonstrating scant regard for the Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary which is the second biggest

home to tigers and other endangered animals in the state, participants of the Left parties

sponsored Bhooporatam are recklessly destroying the forest to make way for illegal

cultivation of land. This is the second assault on Kawal in about 30 years. In an earlier

episode, tribals brought in by naxalites from Maharashtra wrecked havoc on the nearly 6000-

hectare forest where 23 villages were established illegally.

Worried over the worsening situation a team of forest officials led by their minister, S

Vijayarama Rao met with Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy on Tuesday to seek his

help. The officials urged the chief minister to provide armed policemen for the protection of

the vulnerable forests. “The chief minister has promised us immediate help and asked us to

submit a proposal for police help to the director general of police,” principal chief

conservator of forests S K Das told TOI.

Sources said like in the past, the government seemed to have been paralysed in the face of

action by the Bhooporatam agitators for the last three months in Adilabad district where the

Kawal sanctuary is located. The participants of the struggle have been indulging in

indiscriminate felling of thousands of trees as there is hardly any resistance from the police

who after the Mudigonda firing incident are maintaining hands-off approach.

According to informed sources, since the beginning of the movement in Adilabad district in

July last the agitators have destroyed 700 acre of thick reserved forest under the sanctuary at

ten different locations. The area that was destroyed most is near Dostnagar machan on the

bank of Pedda Vagu. It is here that the tigers are spotted, particularly during the summer,

Jannaram divisional forest officer A Kishan told TOI over phone.

Adilabad’s conservator of forests Yousuf Shareef said that the other areas that have been

badly affected are Kadam and Pembi ranges in Nirmal division. Other than tigers, other

wildlife found in this area include wild buffaloes,panthers, sloth bear and Indian python.

The picturesque sanctuary is spread over 893 square km and is located about 270 km from

Hyderabad. It was managed as a game reserve until 1965 when it was declared a anctuary

but the actual notification came seven years later. Other than Bhooporatam agitators, the

sanctuary is also under “attack” from thousands of cattle that graze there and hundreds of

trucks, which take away tonnes of sand from its rivers and rivulets. The two activities are not

only destroying the habitat but also disturbing the animals.

 

 

b. Tree felling: State to act tough

The Hindu 3rd, July 2008

N. Rahul

                                                                                  Ruining forest: A felled tree near Tapalpur in Kawal wildlife sanctuary of Adilabad district.

250 teak trees felled in forest near Tapalpur Forest staff find it difficult to check felling without help of stakeholders

HYDERABAD: The State government has decided to act tough against felling of trees by villagers who believe they can lay claim to land by clearing forest under provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006.

Though the legislation which is commonly known as Tribal Rights Act is clear about tribals in possession of forest land till December 13, 2005, being conferred rights to the land, village communities have resorted to felling of trees in a big way in the hope of claiming the land. The felling has assumed alarming proportions since forest rights committees surveyed the land for distribution.

Devastated

About 250 trees, mostly teak, were felled in thick forest near Tapalpur village of Kawal wildlife sanctuary in Adilabad district in the early hours of June 19. An area of 93.5 hectares near Tapalpur and five adjoining villages was constantly devastated by villagers in the last one year. As many as 2,310 trees were felled during the period, said the local Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife) A. Kishan.

Forest officials maintained that attempts to encroach forest land by cutting trees took place in over 1,100 hectares across Adilabad district in a single year.

About 900 persons were arrested in 180 cases. They said, the villagers were instigated by the Left parties which have launched land struggles. After the incident, the government held a series of meetings at Tapalpur involving students from schools and colleges.Mr. Kishan noted in his minutes, after another meeting at Tapalpur the next day, that the situation was “very alarming” and it was not possible for forest staff to check felling of trees in Kawal wildlife sanctuary without the help of stakeholders. It was against this background that Special Chief Secretary (Forest) Janaki R. Kondapi met Principal Chief Conservator of Forest K.S. Rao and Tribal Welfare Secretary V. Nagi Reddy on Monday to devise means to send a strong message to people living in forest areas that rights on land did not accrue for fresh encroachments.

© Copyright 2000 – 2008 The Hindu

 

c. ‘Grant pattas to tribals cultivating forest lands’

The Hindu 27/09/2007

Staff Reporter

Government for trying to crush Bhoo Poratam: CPI(M)

B.V. Raghavulu

ADILABAD: State secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) B.V. Raghavulu on demanded scrapping of Section 4 of the Forest Act alleging that it deprives tribals of their lands.

He said so long as this section remainsno tribal will get pattas to the lands under cultivation.

Talking to reporters at Mancherial town while on a day’s visit to Jannaram mandal, Mr. Raghavulu also demanded Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy to grant pattas to tribals who are cultivating forest lands for the past one year.

He pointed out that the Chief Minister promised to giving pattas to such lands.

In Adilabad alone, tribals are cultivating over 2.5 lakh acres of forest and Government lands for which pattas should be given immediately, he said.

Later addressing a plenum of the party’s district unit and a public meeting, the CPI (M) leader criticised the Government for trying to crush ‘Bhoo Poratam’ programme. He said not repression but grant of lands to the landless poor will solve the problem.

d. Raghavulu leads 1,000 landless poor as part of ‘Bhoo Poratam’

The Hindu, 30/08/2007

Asks State to conduct proper survey of its lands that can be distributed



For a cause: CPI(M) State secretary B.V. Raghavulu ploughing a piece of land at Dasturabad Gram Panchayat limits in Kadem mandal of Adilabad district on Wednesday as part of ‘Bhoo Poratam’.

AMBARIPET (ADILABAD DT.): Communist Party of India (Marxist) State secretary B.V. Raghavulu on Wednesday led a batch of 1,000 landless poor from Kadem mandal in occupying 30 acres of reserve forestland on the borders of Dasturabad and Ambaripet gram panchayats in Kadem mandal of Adilabad district.

He claimed that 400 acres on the same stretch was under dispute between Revenue and Forest departments for the last 40 years and demanded that such land to be given to landless poor. Mr. Raghavulu, accompanied by party leaders — Saibaba and Lanka Raghavulu (State committee members) and Bandi Dattatri (district secretary) — ploughed the open land for some time. Policemen, revenue and forest officials were present.

Delay criticised

Later addressing a meeting, Mr. Raghavulu criticised the Government for delaying distribution of land. He asked the Government to conduct a proper survey of its lands that could be disbursed. He warned of a prolonged and intensified agitation in case the Government dithered on the issue any further.

Talking about the different types of Government land that could be disbursed, the CPI (M) leader said there was about 4.5 lakh acres in the State that was under boundary dispute between Revenue and Forest departments. Of this, about 1 lakh acres was in Adilabad district alone. Similarly, five lakh acres was under cultivation by tribals that should be given to them, he added. Revenue and Forest authorities identified the occupied site as falling under survey number 198 and compartment number 723 under Dasturabad gram panchayat on its border with Ambaripet. However, Mr. Raghavulu identified it as falling under survey number 470 in Ambaripet.

 

e. Tree-felling continues at Kawal sanctuary

19th July 2008. Deccan Chronicle report.
Not only the farm ers, but the forest officials of the Kawal wildlife sanctuary are praying to the rain gods to stop the tribals from the felling of trees as part of the ongoing second phase of the Bhoo poratam led by left parties.

It is alleged that tribals in some parts of the Jannaram division (wildlife management) are felling trees and encroaching upon forest land in anticipation that they may acquire these plots if they begin cultivation.

The tribals are indiscriminately felling trees including priceless teak in largescale in nearly 200 hectors and in some places they have also cleared bushes and ploughed on the land for the past three years.

Despite being booked, the tribals are on a tree-felling spree. some have even been remanded.

The tribals felled trees in 20 hectares in Islampur in Indhanpalli range, 50 hectares in Kotturpalli in Jannaram range in Kawalwildlife sanctuary.

Mr. Kanakarao, who felled trees as part of encroaching reserved forest lands in Mohammedabad said they will engage in such activities as they did not have any full-time profession.

The forest officials, it seems, have virtually given up and are seeking the divine blessings of the rain gods to come to their rescue so that the tribals can begin cultivation and stop the indiscriminate felling.

Mr. G. Appalakonda, forest ranger of the Thallapet , said “most of the agitating tribals are land less labourers and small farmers belonging to ST, SC and Backward communities.

 

 

f. Tribals for categorisation

The hindu, 28th April 2008

Staff Reporter

ADILABAD: Primitive tribal groups from Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra on Sunday once again raised the demand for categorisation of Scheduled Tribes. They demanded that tribals be given A,B,C and D categories based on their population and backwardness in order to stop the cornering of benefits by some ‘developed’ tribes.

At a convention organised at Ichoda mandal headquarters by the State Adivasula Hakkula Porata Samiti also known as the Tudum Debba, Madhukar Rao Pichad, president of the Adivasi Vikas Parishad demanded institution of a Commission at Union and State levels to go into the issue of categorisation. He said such Commission should be announced before next elections.

Boath MLA Soyam Bapu Rao exhorted tribals not to allow politicians in their villages unless they committed themselves to the cause of primitive tribals like Gonds. He said the rights of tribals were being cornered by members of a migrant tribe. Tudum Debba State president Vattam Narayana and others also attended.