My Big Paws
Once you sign up for a tiger safari, your fervent prayer is that the rare big cat obliges with a darshan. And if you are in Maharashtra, your chances just got a little brighter. A tiger count conducted in 2012 in four reserves in the state shows an addition of nearly 40 tigers in less than two years, says an internal report. The tiger census, using the camera trapping method, was conducted in the Tadoba, Pench, Melghat and Sahyadri tiger reserves. The figure does not include tigers from other reserves such as Nagzira, Navegao and parts of Gadchiroli.
“The survey of the four main reserves shows actual pictures of 159 tigers including 11 cubs (tigers aged less than 18 months). Even if we assume the figures from other areas will be the same as in 2010, we are easily looking at 200-plus tigers in Maharashtra,” says Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary, revenue and forest department. But 40 more tigers in just two years? “Yes, absolutely. I am not disputing the estimates at all. Improvement occurs when individuals apply themselves. However, an increase of 30, 35 tigers can go up or down in no time, like a seesaw,” says tiger expert and wildlife author Valmik Thapar. “But I don’t think it is because of the department of forests. I believe it is a defunct institution. I’m sure this flash must be because of specific individuals involved,” he adds.
However, it’s been far from easy. Officials have been working at several levels, from rehabilitation of people living in the core areas, additional forest guards to counter poaching, sharing tourist revenue with the locals to boost their participation as well as awareness programmes. Mansingh Deo, a new 183 sq km sanctuary, has also helped create a bigger corridor for the big cat. Forest officials claim that over 500 sq km of forest has been added to various reserves in the state in the past few years. “You cannot expect people to simply start cooperating. We have provided biogas, subsidised LPG and smokeless chulhas (stoves) to reduce dependence on wood fuel as also jobs to provide them a livelihood,” says Pardeshi.
Over 1,200 forest guards and frontline posts have been filled in the past one year, with another 800 to go. A rehabilitation package of Rs 10 lakh was offered to villagers to move out of the sanctuary zone. The exact number of relocated families, though, is unavailable. Total revenue from tourists in the tiger reserves was Rs 45 lakh last year. Of this, Rs 51,000 was given to all 53 buffer zone villages. Initiatives such as village eco- development committees and the Special Tiger Protection Force have also helped the conservation efforts.
Many activists and wildlife experts are still being cautious about the steep increase in numbers though. Some say the addition of certain sanctuary areas and exclusion of those in previous surveys may have led to the increase. “There is no evidence to show that countrywide tiger numbers have increased in recent years because national-level estimates from the official surveys in ’06 and in ’11 are both flawed,” says K. Ullas Karanth, director, Science-Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society. However, he added that their “rigorous data” showed that tigers were doing well in Karnataka and adjoining areas of TN and Kerala.
The situation could be similar in the landscape around Tadoba-Andhari in Maharashtra, says Karanth. “The success of new efforts will be reflected only in the next national census. It is essential that efforts mentioned by government officials should continue as a long-term measure of tiger conservation,” says Tito Joseph, programme manager, Wildlife Protection Society of India. Also, warn wildlife activists, a rise in tiger numbers makes the animal more vulnerable. “Even after all this, last year 14 tiger deaths were reported from Maharashtra and most of these occurred in the Tadoba landscape. A periodic evaluation of efforts is necessary to find any lacunae,” says Joseph. “As the numbers increase, the tiger moves around and may get out of core areas into the buffer or unprotected areas. It makes them vulnerable to poaching where the monitoring may not be strict,” adds Vidya Athreya, who has extensively studied man-animal conflict.
Thapar says the government still does not have a foolproof long-term plan for tiger conservation. “Certain individuals in reserves like Tadoba, Ranthambore and Kanha are responsible for their sanctuaries showing better results. But when they get transferred, very often, people with no training replace them, resulting in increased cases of poaching and conflict,” he says. According to estimates, over 50,000 families still reside in core areas. With the average age of forest guards being 45, chasing down poachers may not always work. Local involvement is crucial here. The previous national census itself underlined this threat. It pointed out an “increase in tiger populations in high human use areas”—e.g. surroundings of Corbett, Ranthambore, Tadoba, Bandhavgarh, Bor—have heightened human-tiger conflict. Even Pardeshi admits poaching chain links that go right up to China are hard to crack. “Monitoring of protected and unprotected areas is an important issue. Strengthening of buffer zones will be the key to tiger protection in the future. Even today, if you ask the people who live on the periphery or inside the core areas they may not ‘want’ the tiger because of a perceived threat to their lives and crops,” says Sanjay Karkare, education officer, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). “These are complex issues where they seem to be choosing between livelihood and tigers and then deciding if the magnificent animal is their friend or enemy,” he says. But despite the complexities and ongoing challenges, the tiger seems to warming up to the efforts. For now, in Maharashtra at least, the tiger is burning bright.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Good news among all the routine bad news...
If tigers are thriving in Tadoba then a lot of credit should go to immense efforts of people like Sanjay Karkare who have dedicated their life towards conservation of places like Tadoba - looks a very well protected reserve by the way and well administered too. Had the good fortune to interact with Sanjay last year and had a glimpse of the huge amount of work that he and his colleagues are puting in to educate villagers on tiger conservation, implementation of rehab schemes, promoting sustainable ecotourism, afforestation and man-animal conflict.
If we Indians are going to succeed in protecting our tigers then everybody who can contribute something towards conservation needs to pitch in - the situation is grim and while things are definately looking up, the battle is far from over.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT