Revival of the tiger: A joint effort, a cultural renaissance

GS Paper III

News Excerpt:

Tiger’s near extinction in 1973 was pivotal in India’s conservation history. Now, Corbett has the highest density of wild tigers in the world.

About Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR):

  • At Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR), core and buffer zones span large swathes of land, covering three districts of Uttarakhand.
    • According to the 2022 report, the reserve now records the highest density of wild tigers globally, with a figure of 260 tigers.

Steps taken to conserve tigers:

  • Patrolling the forest:
    • An adequate number of field staff is crucial to protect and manage the forest. Their safety and security are paramount.
    • In this regard, the steps taken include timely payment of wages, regular rations, weapons for defense, and emergency medical help.
    • Engaging with senior forest officials allows for experience-sharing, discussions on human-wildlife conflicts, challenges, and problems, and reshaping management practices and policy in a productive and meaningful manner.
  • Ecosystem management:
    • Forest ecology requires a balance between flora and fauna, with Tigers breeding only when their habitat is protected.
    • At CTR, 27 grasslands are managed to support cheetal, sambhar, and other ungulates, the chief prey for the apex predator.
    • A multi-pronged approach is used, including developing and restoring palatable grasses for wildlife consumption, eradicating invasive weed species, and strategically placing solar-pump-fed interlinked water holes to meet wild animal water requirements.
  • Wildlife corridors:
    • Strategic wildlife corridors are crucial for the gene pool exchange of tigers and elephants, as per the Tiger Conservation Plan.
      • These corridors help manage forest patches sustainably and reduce inbreeding among these long-ranging animals.
    • Therefore, underpasses, overbridges, elevated roads and corridors, and proper urban planning are key to ensuring an unhindered movement of these wild animals.
  • Anti-poaching measures:
    • Poaching activities have been completely obliterated, especially in the highly sensitive southern boundary of the reserve.
    • Intensive patrolling is carried out by foot soldiers.
      • Digital patrolling has been instituted in the form of the electronic-eye under the aegis of the project E-eye.
  • Community involvement:
    • Hundreds of resorts and local homestays cater to ecotourism around the tiger’s habitat and generate employment for villagers as nature-guides-cum-naturalists, Gypsy guides, cooks, hotel staff, etc.
      • Paradoxically, their lives are risked and crops raided by wild animals.
    • Forest department, attempted to garner “willing cooperation” from villagers, acting not only as advisory, managerial and regulatory, but also collaborative, engaging, and socio-culturally-sensitive.
    • Beehive-fencing project involves the strategic placing of beehives along the interface of village-forest border areas, to guard crops against wild elephants.
      • “Corbee Honey”, managed by local Eco Development Committees (EDCs), aimed at creating an economic hook based on cooptation and cooperation by and for local stakeholders.
    • “Living with Tigers” initiative in villages and schools around the peripheral area of the reserve.
      • This involves activism around behavioral and response awareness amongst school children and villagers around human-wildlife conflict issues and the patterns of behavior they must cultivate, practice and propagate to stay safe.

Challenges in the conservation of Tigers:

  • Habitat fragmentation:
    • As habitat fragmentation leads to a lack of corridors, tigers are moving to fringe forest areas near villages, causing a shift from buffer zones to fringe forest areas.
  • Human-Wildlife conflict:
    • Milch and domestic animals from villages and fringe forest areas tend to stray into forest areas and become “easy prey” for the tiger, whose population is rising.
    • This behavioral conditioning of the tiger towards “easy prey” often snowballs into tiger attacks on unsuspecting village women, who may, on occasion, forage too deep into the buffer forest area for their everyday material needs.

Conclusion:

  • The tiger in India holds significant religious and mythological importance and historical significance, as woven into stories by Jim Corbett, a hunter-turned-conservationist.
  • The tiger's near-extinction in 1973 marked a pivotal moment in India's conservation history. Today, CTR is part of India's spatial imaginary, spanning historical, cultural, political, anthropological, sociological, legal, and democratic discourses.

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