Tiger relocation plan at Rajaji to be reality soon

DEHRADUN: The 2010 Wildlife Institute of India Rajaji Tiger Relocation Plan may finally see the light of the day with the recent visit of Rajaji Tiger Reserve officials to the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, signalling the first signs of start of the ambitious tiger relocation programme at the Rajaji Tiger Reserve.

Jotirmay Thapliyal

Tribune News Service

Dehradun, May 26

The 2010 Wildlife Institute of India Rajaji Tiger Relocation Plan may finally see the light of the day with the recent visit of Rajaji Tiger Reserve officials to the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, signalling the first signs of start of the ambitious tiger relocation programme at the Rajaji Tiger Reserve. Panna has seen a success in tiger translocation in the country.

A team of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve had gone on an exposure visit to the Panna Tiger Reserve. At the initiative of the WWF-India and in partnership with Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh State Forest departments, a 12-member team comprising the Assistant Conservator of Forest, rangers, wildlife veterinarian, foresters and forest guards from different ranges of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve visited Panna for four days and got the training.

The Rajaji Tiger Relocation Plan was mooted by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, for the tigerless western sector of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve in 2010. The initiative came at a time when there were reports of the western sector of Rajaji virtually being almost tigerless for the past many years.

The Panna Tiger Reserve, where the tiger relocation exercise was undertaken in 2009, has been a creditable choice for translocation training and preparation. According to a WII census, Panna was tigerless in 2009.

Now, the tiger population has gone up to 35 after tiger relocation exercises that began the same year in Panna.

A WII study in 2010 from Abhishek Harihar – Population Viability of Tiger in their North Western Range Limit, Terai Arc Landscape - has suggested tiger translocation as means to revive tiger population in the western sector of the Rajaji National Park. The study had suggested initiation of translocation to prevent imminent local extinction of tiger.

“Given that population in the west Rajaji is extremely vulnerable to poaching pressures, translocations can be carried out in the first 10 years and is only means to tiger recovery,” Abhishek Harihar had said in his study.

Significantly, the Wildlife Institute of India is also credited with first tiger relocation in the country when on June 2008, its team of scientists for the first time did the first successful tiger relocation exercise in the entire tiger range countries of the world. A tiger from Ranthambore was shifted in a chopper to Sariska that had gone tigerless due to rampant poaching and other anthropogenic pressures. This was followed by another tiger relocation exercise in Panna.

Rajaji forest officials were taken to all 10 ranges of the Panna Tiger Reserve, tracing the movement of each of 10 radio-collared tigers in the reserve. Emphasis was laid on exhaustive 24-hour surveillance of each tiger, choice of appropriate vehicles and equipment, and involvement of every single forest guard and watcher.

The Rajaji team also learned about measures undertaken by the Panna Tiger Reserve staff to avoid any human-tiger conflict situations in neighbouring village hamlets. The reserve has been successful in avoiding human fatalities since the introduction of the first collared tiger. In addition to tiger monitoring, the team also learned about the protection regime of the Panna Tiger Reserve and experienced examples of engagement of locals in tiger conservation.

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