Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bandhavgarh Villages

Since time immemorial humans have been settling in forest tracts of Central India. Consequently large contiguous tract of forests have been cleared for agriculture and settlement. Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in Vindhya Range was once part of Central Indian Highlands connected with the Maikal Hills of Satpura Range. This is the meeting point of two ranges at Amarkantak Hills.   

With the sharp decline in forested area and destruction of grassland habitats. Due to reducing habitats major species inhabiting these pristine ecosystem began to decline sharply. One such example is the Swamp Deer or Barasingha whose population has declined sharply all over India. The animal is not found anymore in most of its historical range.   

The gaur and the tiger have suffered a similar fate along with many other life forms. The expanding human population have ruthlessly usurped the homes of less fortunate living forms. The initiation of protected areas was to preserve the last remaining shreds of the forests in Central India. The policy much welcomes by nature lovers and the only recourse did not find approval with the locals. 

The protected area concept created core zones and made them inviolable for humans. This was an exercise to provide beleaguered wildlife and nature a living space undisturbed by human interference and resource utilization. This was a timely step and there augured a remarkable recovery in the protected space. 

A substantial number of settlements were relocated but many remained. The presence of large number of human population with livestock and poor agricultural practice has emerged as an insurmountable problem in time to come.    

The man animal conflict:

With constant growth in human population in the villages in the buffer the conflict began to increase. The animals depending upon the periphery of the core zone found the settlements as stumbling blocks. The livestock population and land clearance for agriculture brought about a severe competition between the wild denizens and people. The ingress upon agriculture fields which were once natural grasslands and livestock lifting by big cats initiated revenge killing and encouraged poaching. The inherent corruption in the system makes compensation for livestock kill ineffective. Not every inhabitant labels tiger and others as evil, many worship them.

In absence of proper implantation of  relocation schemes the problem remains in its destructive form. This is further compounded by political interference and administrative lethargy. The constant takeover natural lands augurs severe biotic pressure in the periphery. The dependance of livestock upon forest vitiate the problem further as it invites illegal ingress into the protected area.      

There needs a paradigm shift in conceptualizing the buffer which should now accommodate spill over population if the tiger has to be saved. This calls for urgent relocation of populations with the National Park.

The poor infrastructure, inferior health care facility, poor education and lack of irrigation facilities will continue to hamper the quality of living of populations well below the poverty line. The dependance on minor forest produce does not yield enough and in turn exerts biotic pressure on the ecosystem. The tourism at Bandhavgarh has provided livelihood to the locals but more needs to be done. Proper relocation is the answer that will deliver the beleaguered population in the core and the buffer.    

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The Last Wilderness


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cheetah Relocation in India

Since the announcement of relocation of Cheetah in India there has been lot of expectancy amongst the crusaders of the wild. The recent news confirms that the exercise is intent to be carried out. The TOI mentions relocation of thirteen Cheetahs from Namibia in West Africa.

The paper cites relocation site as Palpur Kuno in MP and does not mention Noradehi WLS.   The formalities still required to be fulfilled permission from Director General Foreign Trade and clearance from CITES. This animal had become extinct in India  and no stray animal had ever been seen in  the wild since 1947. 

The government of Madhya Pradesh will import 20 animals from Namibia. Palpur Kuno was originally slated to harbor Asiatic Lion from Gujarat but the project is in doldrums as Gujarat Government is unwilling to cooperate.

Palpur Kuno has an area of 344 sq km and has been found as suitable for Cheetah as habitat. It would be interesting to see how the project goes since the exotic cat has to settle down and breed if the project has to succeed.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Panther on loose

The poor animal succumbed to stress and injuries sustained from the cage. It was not the leopard that was intended to be caged, the animal a vanishing hyena was the victim of this fallacy.

The jungles of Dumna were once pristine wildlife habitats with ample wild and bird species. These badly fragmented reserve forests are under constant pressure from development lobby. A forest belt containing a large reservoir has been brought under the umbrella of protected area about 500 hectare. It is known as Dumna Nature Reserve and is excellent place to watch wintering birds like Gray Lag Geese, Eurasian Wigeon, Lesser Whistling Teal, Northern Pintail, Tufted Duck, Red Crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall and Ruddy Shelduck.  The rest of the forests are entirely dependent upon the man. The airport is situated in this area and a IIIT institute has been set recently. The MPT is planning to bring up a five star hotel here and some defense establishment are in offing.

The leopard has been sighted in this region for decades and finds sanctuary in cordoned and protected nearby. The prey base is reasonably good but depleting thanks to reducing forest cover.  I had seen a leopard with three cubs few year back at Imzhar Ghati some distance away though two of her cubs were killed one survived perhaps.  

The big cat at Dumna Road is often seen by motorists in the evening times. Recently the leopard is being seen as a menace an animal that has been living here for ages. This is a fine example of habitat takeover by humans and then labeling the animal as vermin. The presence has all a sudden become a threat thanks to greater traffic and hence higher visibility. These animals are no longer ignored by the intruding humans albeit no man eating or killing case has occurred. 

There are reports of cubs being present hence of the female is relocated or sent to the zoo the cubs may not survive. Ill conceived ill planned  exercise results from paranoia once people feel insecure in wildlife habitats. These trends augur further depletion of big cat population in India.