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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Tiger Conservation: It is a matter of space & protection


Although the tiger population has risen marginally in recent times, the animal is still in danger. Danger of extinction that is. The animal survives in National Parks and Tiger Reserves, these are protected areas. The survival can at best be described as precarious in some of the protected areas.

The core or the critical tiger habitat provides sanctuary to these big cats and a reasonable protection. This is where the animals breed the most. In protected areas, where human and livestock disturbance is minimal along with adequate protection measures the population growth is substantial.         

With the expanding population, the predators have to move out of the core into buffer in order to find space and avoid insurmountable competition from dominant tigers. The buffer zone contains human habitations with plethora of livestock contributing to grazing pressure and depletion of resources. The buffer zone which at many places has completely lost whatever reasonable crown cover was there earlier, also contains fields converted from forests during the era whence there was free for all. The road intersections, burgeoning and urbanization of settlements are all contributing to ever reducing buffer. 
Image By Doornik


In well protected ecosystems like Corbett, Ranthabhore, Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench National Parks there is significant movement of tigers in the buffer. The constriction of good habitat is creating terrible territorial conflicts with fatalities. The matter is compounded by reduced breeding, and reduction in prey base.  As the population increases the space availability would be a major issue..it already is at reserves mentioned.    

The human population pressure is constant as there are very little restrictions. The viability of the buffer zone is limited, hence the big cats are entirely dependent upon the core of which there is no scope of enlargement since the dense crown cover is limited, thanks to indiscriminate felling in the yesteryear {s}.        

Image By Doornik

The matter is further compounded by poaching which is limited locally but more vicious whence organized gangs descend unto the protected area. The well known poaching strategy is using hunter gatherer communities like pardhis, bawarias and behlias and perhaps more. The innervated communities are easily subject to enticement by the network operating locally on the behest of major gangs in India and outside. Being hunters since yore, these are expert at their jobs and many an instances go unnoticed, hence the mystery of missing tigers...  

The demand is fueled by China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan and to some extent other Asian countries. The  pelts, crafts, cosmetics and medicines are commercially available all over the World. 

The demand as mentioned will never be reduced let alone come to a naught. These countries are never going to mend their ways, hence no time or effort should be wasted on convincing them otherwise.

Strictly controlling poaching and penury is an option that cannot be otherwise.          

Greater impetus has to be accorded to what is already being done in the core. It seems highly improbable that human settlements could be reduced in the buffer zone hence more efforts should be spent on afforestation, development of habitat by creating water bodies and preserving whatever is there already. 

The crux if this article is that in spite of human settlements, livestock and agriculture significant pockets of forests should be protected and conserved in the same manner as core. This can be done by integrating the protection mechanism with that of the critical habitat. The burgeoning of industrial or commercial activity has already been restricted by the law but more vigilance is required in order to plug the loopholes.

Veterinary practices should be enhanced in order to control disease and treat ailments amidst the wild animals and the livestock. 

Until unless more is done in the buffer the viability of tiger surviving would be limited to the core area.