In defense of the tigers

By Dr. Suhas Kumar

A debate has started on tigers about which the tigers are totally unaware. The debaters belong to two schools of thoughts – there is one group that believes tigers have the same rights as a human being has – unless it is a persona non-grata or one that is drifting on the high sea. And then there is the other group that considers only human life precious and therefore they firmly believe a tiger that has killed or injured a human being as expendable without even a fair trial.

Tiger as a race is an oppressed lot, its home has been destroyed, natural prey has been usurped, and its pathways have been blocked. Lately with the government doled reservations the tiger is bouncing back, but it is not the right time for it to bounce back as outside the reservations ( that are very small in size) it finds itself in the company of humans, who over the years have become extremely insensitive and intolerant to tiger’s presence around them.

Centuries of persecution by humans has ingrained a natural fear of man in tigers – especially those that restrict themselves within the safe confines of the reserves but situation has changed now. The protection afforded to them in the reserves has forced the surplus population out in the open. Tigers now inhabit scrubs and crop fields, and now they are even breeding there. The young ones born near human habitations are no more fearful of the humans. This situation often brings them face to face with men and women and accidents happen. The small-sized and weirdly designed CTH ( e.g., Bor Nawegaon- Nagzira TR) offer no space for tigers – the tigers walk three kms and they are out in the danger zone. Such tiger too may cause injury and death of human beings if threatened or harassed or if someone comes between the tiger and its prey – the village cattle. Means, one should expect tiger-human face-off on a daily basis, especially in those states where hard working foresters have toiled tirelessly to revive the tiger populations.

The scenario of intolerance against tigers clearly depicts a stark truth, India needs no more tigers and may be even those within the Tiger reserve needs to be restrained by erecting fences all along the periphery of tiger reserves and other forested area harbouring tigers. Don’t waste your time on reviving corridors. Your thoughts, please.

Tourism and the Tiger Reserve

By Dr. Suhas Kumar

My study –”An Assessment of Ecotourism Strategies and Practices in Tiger Reserves of Madhya Pradesh” – is an attempt to explore the ongoing tourism development and practices in the tiger reserves. This study is about understanding the place, role and objectives of tourism within the goals of management of the tiger reserves and analyzing the policies, and the legal framework that allows visitation within them. The study strives to look into the current planning process for managing tourism in tiger reserves and assess the ongoing tourism management practices in these protected areas about the major goals of conserving tiger and its habitats, supporting local communities and creating awareness among the public at large.

The primary data collected in the field covered a range of all possible stakeholders involved in development and management of tourism as well as those who are supposed to be impacted – both positively and negatively – by tourism development in and around Kanha and Pench tiger reserves. The stake holders covered are – hoteliers, Dhaba (eatery) owners, field directors of the tiger reserves and management staff, visitors, guides, taxi drivers, and local people including those who have sold their lands to hoteliers – The secondary data was collected from all five tiger reserves as well as the revenue department. Primary and secondary data was collected on tourism management practices, regulations, policy, staff deployment, dependence of local people on tiger reserves’ resources, conflicts and relationships, ecodevelopment inputs in villages, park development fund and its utilization, status of prey base, populations estimates of endangered and important prey species, tiger mortality data, offences committed by tourists taxi- drivers and guides, forest and wildlife crime data, corridors and dispersal area, threats to tiger reserves and management constraints, relationship with private and other public sectors involved in tourism and land transaction data.

Analysis of existing policies indicate that content wise they largely conform to the basic principles of ecotourism, but most lack clarity on the issues of providing directions for fostering feasible and practical strategies for facilitating participation of local people in ecotourism ventures and flow of benefits of ecotourism to host communities, conservation of natural resources including wildlife and their habitats, sharing of benefits among stakeholders and sustainable partnerships. The current laws, rules and statutory instructions also don’t cover these critical aspects of ecotourism and their effective implementation.

Analysis of current management practices revealed high density tourist visitation within core areas of the reserves – in Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench tiger reserves. Increase in number of management staff is not commensurate with the rapid growth in visitation in Kanha, Pench, and Bandhavgarh. No comprehensive tourism management plan existed in either of the tiger reserves studied. Carrying capacity limits are arbitrary and unscientific. There were no well set and prescribed mechanisms to monitor of possible impacts of tourism on tiger reserves. Most of the staff is untrained and aged. Protection and management staff is diverted to manage tourism. There is no control over land use around the peripheral areas of the tiger reserve, and most of the development is incompatible with the goals of the buffer zone management. Visitors’ feedback is neither gathered nor used for planning and improvement. Efforts and strategy to involve and benefit local people in tourism enterprise are absent. Interpretation programme is not coherent enough to become useful. Staff lacks the understanding of the significance of awareness programme. The study also revealed that there is no outreach programme for villagers.

As a part of the study, the relation between villager and park was also studied. All the tourism-related fees and tariff levied by the tiger reserves are deposited in the fund called Vikas Nidhi or Development Fund created for each protected area. An analysis was done using the data on development fund generation since its inception in the year1996-97 to find out the extent of share of this resource has reached the local people who pay the price of conserving wildlife everyday in terms of denial of access to forest resources, crop loss, cattle kills and injury and death of villagers caused by wild animals. The analysis revealed that Kanha tiger reserve was better than all other reserves in sharing the financial benefits of ecotourism with local people as it has spent 16.35 % of the development fund on ecodevelopment works and 4.03 % as yearly payments to ecodevelopment committees, Bandhavgarh spent 9.63 % on ecodevelopment works and 3.97 % on making yearly payments to the EDCs. Pench, Panna, and Satpura have contributed nothing out of the revenue generated from tourism towards village development or as a monetary contribution to the ecodevelopment committees.

This study reveals that the ongoing practices and management of tourism in the reserves, especially Kanha, Bandhavgarh, and Pench make tourism incompatible and detrimental to the primary objective conserving tiger. At present tourism in tiger reserves doesn’t follow the principles or show the characteristics of Ecotourism. In the absence of unambiguous policies and regulations to protect environment, land, natural resources and interests of local people the tourism-related development in the buffer zone of the tiger reserves has exploded into ‘Mass tourism.’ It is also evident that the benefits, as this study reveals, are small for the local people as well as for the tiger reserves and have been offset by the losses from tourism that accrue to the local people and the tiger reserves.

tigerThis study confirms that rapid growth in visitor numbers in Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench tiger reserves and the resultant crowd, noise, and litter is eroding the very sense of wilderness that visitors long to experience. On the other hand, unplanned large scale construction of luxury resorts, hotels, and dhabas along the periphery of the core zones hamper free movement of tigers by blocking open spaces thus adversely impacting the corridor functions of buffer forests. The hotels continue to pollute the local environs with waste, deplete groundwater resources and the buffer zone forests to meet their energy demands. Benefits of tourism that accrue to local people are hardly discernible as only a trickle of the visitors’ spending gets into the local economy, and the direct employment that a handful of locals could eke out in a flourishing tourism business doesn’t seem to provide them any long-term economic security. The positive signs are that there is still enough scope for redeeming the situation and bring prosperity to the locals and enforce some discipline in the ongoing haywire tourism development in fragile and sensitive tiger reserves. A large number of hoteliers have expressed willingness to contribute to the development of local villages and share profits with village institutions.

The study further reveals that there is an urgent need to come up with a comprehensive National and state policy for Ecotourism as there is nothing worthwhile at present to lean on to ensure effective implementation of ecotourism. To be effective, an Ecotourism Policy must clearly outline the roles of all stakeholders, opportunities and options that may be available to locals to participate in tourism, suggest the legislations that may be invoked to safeguard the environment, and the ecology in and around the tiger reserves, indicate actions to regulate land use in dispersal areas and corridors, The policy must also enunciate criteria and standards that may be used in or around tiger reserves for selection of sites for tourism infrastructure and also for design of buildings, use of ground water, energy conservation, water harvesting and recycling, waste minimization and disposal, which should, in the course of time, become the basis for accreditation/certification of tour operators and hoteliers.

This study has given good insights into the tourism management issues and the type and extent of the problems that the tiger reserves are facing and would face in future. On the basis of this knowledge, an attempt is being made to suggest a framework for managing tourism in the tiger reserves. The model that has emerged from this study explains the interventions and linkages that must be developed to streamline tourism in a way that it infuses sustainability into the unsustainable mass tourism development in the surrounds of the tiger reserve to become responsible and sustainable nature-based enterprise and also suggests modifications in the wildlife tourism practices within the tiger reserves to assimilate the characteristics of ecotourism.

How legitimate is tourism in Tiger Reserves?

A tiger reserve has mainly two management units – the core and the buffer and both has different sets of goals and objectives. The objective of managing the core is to conserve the species and areas of crucial conservation importance, while the buffer is managed to reconcile the conflicting interests of resource use by forest dependent local people and wildlife conservation. The purpose of the buffer is to act as a cushion to absorb shocks emanating from outside to protect and retain the sanctity of the core. The buffer, thus, must be managed in a manner that it effectively accommodates the needs of the local people and the wildlife dispersing out from the natal area – the core (Compendium of Guidelines and Circulars issued by the Project Tiger Directorate, Ministry of Environment & Forests, and November 2004)
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Here a question arises – where does ‘tourism’ fit in the management objectives of the tiger reserve?

The policies and the management objectives lay down that tourism in tiger reserve is to be used as a conservation tool to educate visitors and elicit the public support of conservation rather than as a commercial, resource degrading mass tourism operation. The First Tiger Task Force set up in 1972 initiated project tiger in India. One of the goals of tiger reserves mentioned in the original Task Force report was: “To preserve for all times, area of such biological importance as a national heritage for the benefit, education, and enjoyment of people.”

The Task Force Report, 1972, also visualized recreational use with a specific caveat:

” Provide long-term conservation of biotopes of which the tiger is an integral part…….Creation of tiger reserves must not be regarded as a cause to sterilize the areas as far as human use is concerned. Regulated scientific and educational use of the area should be made. Recreational use will be permitted provided it is controlled and complementary to the principal object of management…. In the case of doubt conservation of the biotope shall take priority…. Other forms of human disturbance, however, such as commercial felling, collection of minor forest produce, mining, excessive traffic, heavy grazing by domestic livestock are clearly detrimental and must be phased out for complete elimination.”

Later, the only comprehensive policy on wildlife conservation in the country – the National Wildlife Action Plan, 1983 ( revised 2002-16) provided definite objectives and direction to tourism happening in all categories of protected areas and the Action Plan empasizes the following –

Regulated, low-impact tourism has the potential to be a vital conservation tool as it helps win public support for wildlife conservation.
In case of any conflict between tourism and conservation interests of a PA, the paradigm for decision must be that tourism exists for the parks and not parks for tourism and that
Tourism demands must be subservient to and in consonance with the conservation interests of PA and all wildlife.
While revenues earned from tourism can help the management of the PA, maximization of income must never become the main goal of tourism, which should remain essentially to impart education and respect for nature.”

It is, therefore, natural and legitimate for the tiger reserves in India to permit recreational use in a strictly controlled manner.

It is noteworthy that when tiger reserves were first constituted in 1973 till the amendment of the Wildlife (Protection Act) in 2006 , a tiger reserve was a recognition given to either national park or sanctuary as an area essential for conservation of tiger which was adjudged eligible for receiving financial and technical support from Project Tiger ( now NTCA) , GoI. After 2006 amendment the tiger reserves have received legal recognition with two distinct management units– a core and a buffer. Apparently, when the task force reports came, any reference to tourism in those reports meant tourism within the national park or sanctuary (now designated as core under 38 V of the amended Wildlife (Protection) Act.

Unfortunately, in last one decade or so, unplanned and unregulated growth of tourism infrastructure around tiger reserves has become an emergent threat to tiger as its dispersal areas and corridors; these areas, already choked with present and expanding villages, roads and canals, mines and industries, are now threatened by the proliferation of new hotels and large resorts with their enormous fenced premises that not only occupy critical movement corridors but are also a constant source of disturbance, pollution and depletion of the forests and groundwater resources that belong to the local people. Inside, in tourism zones lack of appropriate planning that includes – setting desired ecological and social conditions that should be maintained as a goal of management of the reserve, determining indicators to monitor changes, and poor law enforcement impact tiger and its habitat and prey.

The National Wildlife Action Plan 2002-16 prescribes implementation of ‘Ecotourism’ in protected areas. The National Tiger Conservation Authority also advocates the same, but as tourism, in the Tiger Reserves of today, has a history older than the concepts like sustainable tourism and ecotourism, most PAs suffer from the ills of traditional mass tourism that hardly cares for the environment, the ecology or the interests of local people. Implementation of ecotourism in its truest spirit can still save these precious areas from certain doom.

There is a globally emerging consensus that ecotourism seeks to combine conservation, communities, and sustainable travel into one workable whole. This happens when those who wish to implement and participate in ecotourism activities adhere to the following ecotourism principles:

1. minimize negative impacts of tourism linked development and activities of visitors on the environment, ecology, and local cultures
2. build awareness and respect for environment and culture ensure that both visitors and hosts receive positive experiences
3. develop methods and mechanisms to direct sustainable financial benefits to local people and local economy
4. provide financial benefits for conservation of natural resources on which tourism depends.
5. raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climate.

tigerUnplanned development of tourism always results in attrition of the resources, adversely impacts wildlife habitats and finally leads to dissatisfaction of visitors and earns a bad name for the protected area and the government. Increasing and unrestricted use of local resources such as land, groundwater, and firewood has both social repercussions and adverse ecological impacts. The escalation of prices of land and commodities owing to tourism growth in a region may bring about serious hardships to local people, for example, the in many East African parks poor sanitation results in the disposal of campsite sewage in rivers, contaminating the water that is used by wildlife, livestock, and people. The failure to manage impacts at Mount Kilimanjaro national park (Tanzania) of a large number of tourists has resulted in extensive erosion and degradation of trails, overflow of sewage from huts, accumulation of garbage, use of fuel wood for cooking, and overbooking resulting in the use of natural caves for shelter. Harcourt and Stewart (1993) observed that impacts include amongst other things, damage to endemic plants, lowering of water quality, and loss of aesthetic value Besides, the irresponsible dumping of kitchen waste transforms wild animals into scavengers; in 1993, two visitors counted nearly 4500 pieces of rubbish, comprising wrappers, cigarette packets, toilet papers and plastic items, along a 10 km stretch of trail, or 450 items per km. This estimate did not include rubbish hidden under bushes. The same situation exists in several protected areas in India.(in Madhya Pradesh the worst hit location is Delawadi, Bharkatunda in Madhav National Park and various tourist attractions on Pachmarhi plateau in Satpura national park, The Shesh sayya to Fort temple trail in Bandhavgarh, that remains littered with water bottle and pouches, is a glaring example of starting certain visitor activities without planning and safeguards.

The threat from tourism has aggravated in recent years as hotels and their fenced premises around tiger reserves, have cut off corridors and potential dispersal areas. Around well-known tiger reserves, many hotels are already operating, and several new hotels are in the pipeline. A large number of hotels and eateries in remote locations also exert demands on already burdened buffer forests for the supply of firewood further degrading the buffer forests. The lands on which these hotels are built mostly belong to the poor forest side tribal people, who attracted by the lure of money sell these lands and become landless labourers. Most of these lands are fallow scrub land that provided cover for the passage to the tigers through the villages unnoticed into the corridor. Such development is in nobody’s (hoteliers, tour operators, locals and the protected area) interest and unsustainable.

Though, today Ecotourism is considered the most rapidly expanding sectors of the travel industry. And it is being promoted by many as a way to achieve environmental conservation objectives, and as a tool for sustainable development of remotely situated host communities, little effort is visible in the Tiger reserves towards involving and benefiting forest dependent local people who are not well disposed towards protected area owing to resource use conflicts.

Tourism Management capacity in most PA is sub-optimal. Protection staff gets diverted to tourism management. As tourism management requires different skills, the quality of output by forest functionaries does not always lead to visitor satisfaction. Though the management plans exist, there is hardly any detailed planning for visitor management and visitor use of the area.

Unfortunately, despite the policies that advocate implementation of Ecotourism for managing tourism in tiger reserves, the rapid commercialization has raised serious concerns.

Tigers need tourists to breed?

By Dr. Suhas Kumar

In November 2015, I received an email from my friend –Sh. R.Sreenivas Murthy. He had sent a comment made by some hotel owner that needed a reply urgently. The comment was in fact a statement that emphasized the importance of tourism for tiger conservation. In a way it propounded a theory that tiger breed prolifically when tourists are around, otherwise they simply vanish. Here is the letter from Murthy sahib –

“R/Sirs and dear all,
Namaste. I am here with reproducing the comment of Mr…. of B’;gargh if correct must be cause of concern, because I have seen 3 tigresses with total no of 9 cubs in the same area around the year 2000 and I consider and mention everywhere that Chakradhara is the best tiger nursery that can happen on the earth. Hence this fact need to be checked and a course correction need to be taken up immediately. I wonder why this issue never came up/brought up by the local forest officers in many a review meetings for which I was a witness both at Bhopal and NTCA meetings.’’

The comment:
“Now can any of these experts will answer this question that since you put 20% regulations and restrictions on road then why Chakradhara meadow of Bandhavgarh do not have a resident Tigress since last three years? Experts Prove your worth here.”
In a way this comment, besides challenging the experts, hides a management theory- i.e. – “The Chakradhara area, which has been a primary breeding ground for tigers for so many decades when hordes of tourists were around, has become tigerless suddenly and not a single resident (breeding) female resides here? It may be because the restrictions placed on the movement of tourists. As in the absence of tourists the tigers suffered from a gnawing sense of loneliness and left Chakradhra. ’’
As I had never come across such an amusing theory, I decided to answer it in the modest way possible. Those of you who know Bandhavgarh intimately or have worked there are urged to offer your expert comments, too .

I replied to Murthy sahib, as follows-
“Bandhavgarh National Park was first notified under the erstwhile Madhya Pradesh National Park Act 1955 (No VII of 1955) covering an area of 105 sq. km. of Tala Reserved Forest Block on 23-03-1968. The area, though, declared a national park was then administered by the territorial division till 1981-82 and was no better than a normal territorial division reeling under adverse impact of grazing by a large number of livestock, MFP collection, frequent fires in the summer, drunkards and merrymakers and a good number of good and hopeless shikaris who used to rampage the park. A semblance of proper management began to emerge with the second notification of the National park in May 1982 under the Wildlife (protection) Act, 1972- covering a large area of 448.842 sq. km. The fresh notification added an area of 343.842 sq. km. to the existing National park.Unfortunately, for many more years that followed, only the original park area (105 sq. km) got the attention of the park managers while rest of the park continued to reel under severe biotic pressure. The restrictions put on grazing and entry into national park, augmentation of water sources, eradication of weed, patrolling by staff gradually helped the prey base to improve in Tala range and tigers started to occupy this area as in those times the connection with other natal areas were not so vitiated as it is now. Today, the connections between Kanha a and Bandhavgarh, Bandhav garh and Panna, Bandghavgarh and Sanjay are tenuous as huge dams, a cement factory and expanding townships and villages have created formidable barriers and fragmented the tiger habitat.
In Bandhavgarh, tourism in the earlier days was a free for all affair without any control -when Mr. Hasan took over as director of this in 1984, he decided to clean up the Seshsayya tank. The cleaning operation threw up a cartload of beer and liquor bottles . Till 1984, the tiger show was a planned activity as tigers were lured to Chkradhara maidan by tethering baits for them. This habituation made chakradhra as a favourite residence and breeding ground for tigers for a long time to come (i.e. till recently) . Later, tourism and tourist activities came under a scanner and the free for all situation was controlled to some extent but unlike Kanha tiger reserve, some politically cocooned owners of the hotels and lodges managed to take advantage of their clout, and the persecution of tiger by surrounding it by elephants and vehicles and holding it at one place against its will continued.

It was only after 2005 that the rest of the park began receiving adequate protection and a little management inputs.
The recent noteworthy change that has persuaded tigresses to find new breeding areas within the park is the availability of new undisturbed habitats within the park As several villages (Mili, Magadhi, Kalwaha, Kumarwaha) have been relocated, huge grasslands have come up, prey has dispersed and occupied these new habitats, some feral cattle left by villagers now form a part of the prey base – all these factors have given an opportunity to the tigers to occupy new areas and tigresses to breed in there. Tiger number has gone up in Bandhagarh national park is a known fact. Tigers of Badhavgarh find it difficult to survive in a situation of severe intraspecific competition and therefore they are occupying new areas within the core as well as outside the core. The Tigers of Bandhavgah travel far and wide – a good number of tigers have taken residence in the forests of the buffer zone and some others are roaming around in Katni division (and even dying there) besides some others have dispersed to Sanjay and became resident as the drastically improved management now ensures a safe habitat for a small number of tigers (Relocation of villages in coming years from Sanjay-Dubri TR will create more conducive habitats for chital to grow and increase the prey base for accommodating more tigers).

I hope the above narration explains why Chakradhara is no more the only preferred breeding ground for tigers. It is very foolish to propound a theory that ‘tourism’ in any way helps tiger to breed. A recent genetic study of DNA retrieved from tiger scats in Kanha and Bandhavgarh by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) indicates that in areas heavily visited by tourists the production of the stress hormone (cortoisol) increases. A tiger in stress has impaired reproductive abilities, hence the study reveals that continuous disturbance in tiger habitat is not good for tigers.The increase in tiger number and improvement of habitat and prey base is a result of hard labour of officers and staff and not at all because of tourism as some businessmen falsely claim. ‘’

A Walk in the Jungle

By Dr. Suhas Kumar

A walk is the best way to start your day in the jungle for it takes you through so many twist and turns and spy work on the way revealing what the animals were up to last night or where they are and what they might be doing at present, for the dirt tracks and the sandy beds around pools and rivers in the jungle record those signs and evidences that usher you gently into the realm of the wild and uncovers a world so far unknown to you. Let’s go for a walk in the jungle.

Karmajhiri, December 2006, at 6.00 AM, I am up and about. The sun is peeping from the east to light up the horizon, the morning breeze  is cold, crisp and piercing – I feel it on my already numb cheek – and the ground is still wet with dew. A herd of chital has just finished grazing in the meadow in front of the log huts and on seeing me emerge they move unhurriedly towards a patch of forests beyond the fire line. One of the stag suddenly stands on its hind legs and rubs his face against the leaves of a drooping branch of an Indian laburnum tree – he is marking his domain with the scent of his facial glands placed below each eye – scent is a strong means of communication in deer world.

jungleNow, I am on to the foot path that, after a short walk, brings me to the forest road to Alikatta (an erstwhile forest village that was resettled outside the park ) and which now has developed into an impressive grassland touching the mid-east bank of the Totaladoh reservoir that submerged about 75 square kilometers of forest area that was once lush with stately teak trees. The felling of trees from such a huge area created a much needed edge habitat which was almost absent within Pench national park. This artificially developed edge helped chital to thrive more than any other species for chital is an animal of such transitional habitat. The edge also becomes a congregation ground for almost all animals of the park during the summer season when food and water become limited elsewhere. And in winter the apparently seamless reservoir attracts flocks of migratory birds, transforming it into a paradise for bird-watchers.

As I approach the causeway that leads to the old rest house, towards the left, I see a pair of Malabar pied hornbill busy devouring juicy fruits on the fig tree. These birds love fig fruits and make so much noise with their rattling piercing gibberish. Here, near the newly built machan house (a house built on high pillars) – from here you can watch animals, birds and butterflies without alarming them – here, I wait for Soni. We have planned a morning trek into the nooks and corners of Pench.

Soni is a fine forester, deeply interested in wildlife and loves his job. I recall how some 24 years ago he had applied to the post of wildlife guard and missed it by a few marks, but as he was young and smart the ranger hired him as a barrier help at Turia –the gateway to the Pench National Park. I, then the director of this park often met this boy at the barrier and every time he impressed me by displaying a rare understanding of the ways of the wild and his eagerness to learn – he deserved better. And soon came an opportunity to give him his due, and I appointed him as a regular wildlife guard, when a vacancy arose.

My walk down the memory lane is interrupted for I hear whirring of a motorcycle – Soni has arrived from Alikatta. Alighting from the bike, he gives me a customary salute and smartly unpacks his haver sack, takes out two pairs of binoculars and a bird book; we begin our walk towards Gurshal ghat. Grasses under the trees are yellow and coarse and the seeds all shed by this time; the deer like chital and barking deer that mainly eat grass go through a tough time in winter as forage gets scarce, but in the park they have some respite as there is a felt of soft green grass along both side of the forest road. The green grass has come up as the staff has burned the roadside strips of dry grass recently – this is a strategy to control forest fires and as a bonus the deer get green grass – for the night dew has caressed the growing tissues and aided production of fresh sprouts on this burned strip that now acts as a fire break and a favourite grazing ground for deer.

We leave the main road and take a right turn into thick lantana bush, as Soni finds an animal track, we plunge into it, my tall frame is not suitable for such dashes into a tangle of thorny bushes but this is a jungle walk and Soni is a hard task master, I bend and bow, turn and twist and wriggle my way through this thorny jungle and while doing so see the footprints of chital and sambar on the dirt track and two bulbul’s nests in the bushes- bulbul loves to eat lantana berries for lantana -an alien from central and south America – is now naturalised in our country and many indigenous birds and animals love its juicy berries and the shelter it offers to them for resting, ambush and breeding.

Out of the bush we are now on the fire-line which runs from north to south and ends up on Bodanala road, where we shall be going soon after climbing up the Khairvan matta – matta is the local name for a plateau – for we hope to see bears or their signs here. Trudging up the murram – road to the plateau we find fresh tracks of a leopard and then a day old droppings of a hyena, – you may ask how we know for sure that the pug of the leopard is fresh and the droppings of hyena a day old – good question, for questioning is a precursor to learning. The pug is clear on the fine gravel its edges intact and the hollow made by its pad and toes have no litter ( twigs, dry leaves) in it, and the lines which are impressed on the  pad is intact, if the print were old you would have found worn out edges, no lines within the pad and some  litter inside the trough of the pad, one more thing that these lines or their absence within the hollow tell you is that whether the animal is young or old- a young animal will have a smooth pad which would leave a smooth impression on the soil, the lines are  seen if the animal is old – as the animal grows old its pad wears out over time  due to friction with the ground and then the pad leaves these marks on soil; as for hyena’s droppings – a fresh dropping is moist and some times in winter you may see vapours rising from it and a very old dropping would be brittle or already disintegrated, the one we see today is intact and still slightly moist which tells me  clearly  that the dropping is a day old and it is of a hyena for the whiteness comes from its ability to crush and eat bones of its prey.

On the flats of Khairvan matta we finally come across the foot prints of a bear and this bear has feasted on the bel fruits is obvious for we see bear droppings at several places, quite slushy and full of bel seeds. We begin to go down at the other side of plateau towards the natural spring which the locals have named Pandri aier (white water) for its water is turbid with some dissolved mineral that makes it look like diluted milk. This spring was embanked to store water for earlier water from this spring tricked down the slope without being availed by the wild animals except bees – after containing the water with a mud wall a pipeline was installed to siphon water down to the meadow in the valley below. This improvisation worked well – the sambar and wild pig got their wallows and other animals and birds a watering hole.

While coming down we spend some time at the spring, Soni cleans up the debris (pebbles and leaf litter) heaped at the mouth of the pipe to restore smooth flow of water, and then we walk down into the valley – a herd of five sambar (one stag and four does), two tree pies and a troop of langur are around the water hole. The stag is in the wallow for in this part this is the time of the year when sambar stag become raffish and to impress the does with its scent, and to gain doe’s favor it wallows in the mud leaving its strong scent (pheromones) that its  glands under the eyes and between the hooves produce in ample amount. Coming back to the scene at the water hole -one female langur is busy disciplining a young one whose puerile antics have become intolerable and another one is busy suckling its newborn. One boss male struts through its realm supervising the troop members.

jungleFrom the valley we return to the Karmajhiri road. As we move along, our eyes scan the gravely road for footprints, the trees for birds and the woodlands for animals. Though it is difficult to find clear footprints on a road strewn with pebbles but a regular flow of vehicles on this one has created spots on the road where the soil has become fine grained and perfect to record the movement of the forest denizens, besides the staff have laid impression pads (a 2mx2m strip of fine soil) at several places on the road to record the foot prints of animals. While going uphill to Gurshal ghat, in the fine dirt we see tiny footprints which is overlaid by a trail of parallel furrows – a porcupine had used the road in the night – and a few yards ahead on the flat portion of the ghat we see a deep brown beaded string, its droppings.

As we descend from the ghat a sambar bells and then a doe and two young sambar in velvety winter coats dart across the road and clear a ditch on the other side in graceful bounds; sambar of Pench are so handsome. At this place the jungle reverberates with all kinds of sounds – continuous clamour from the seven sisters ( jungle babblers), distant and monotonous kutroo-kutroo of the brown headed barbet, a piercing ascending pea-kahaan – pea kahaan of the brain fever bird and occasional wake up calls from the jungle fowl and high pitched meow-meow of the peacock – that reminds us we are not alone -and then suddenly from our right, about 200 yards away, a langur sitting in the tendu tree begins to holler, – this is no ordinary call – it is a typical signal to all denizens of the forest that a predator is on the move. But soon afterwards we hear the sawing sound and know that it is a leopard going back to rest after night’s work and he doesn’t mind if his fellow beings know of his
presence – for last night he had a hearty meal.

The sawing goes feeble and fades, as we move on and reach the Sajajhori pond. We tip-toe up the embankment and we are lucky for seven gaur are drinking on the south most tip of the pond bordering the forests and a sounder of twenty pigs are raking over the mud not far from us. This group includes some newborn piglets – adorned in shiny pale yellow coats covered with dark brown stripes- they look adorable and nothing like their abominable seniors in their black mud smeared coats. A common kingfisher is perched on a snag in the middle of the pond, he takes off like a rocket and plunges into water and next second he is on the snag again – a small fish neatly wedged in its tiny bill. A racket tailed drongo dashes above flashing his beautiful shiny black feathers and two stout wires projecting from its tail, each wire ends up in a club like feather. Racket tailed drongos are master mimics, they copy the calls of a variety of birds and sometimes animals also, this one we see here keeps to himself.

We leave the pond and are back on the road, after about a kilometre we turn into Mannu talab road; here, on the left is a teak plantation – a favourite spot for gaur. We see several young teak trees debarked; this is handiwork of a herd of starving gaur. Soni stops and examines the road, he has noticed something interesting – he has found a colony consisting of numerous inverted funnels in the dirt – the homes of ant-lion larvae. The tiny ant lion is a great schemer – the inverted funnel it makes in the sand acts as trap to catch unsuspecting insects – as ants or other small insects move on to the rim the sand shifts downwards toppling the insect into the funnel. Once the poor prey slips into the funnel, ant lion sitting hidden at the bottom of the funnel flicks more sand on to it burying the prey completely and then grabs it in one swift dash and pulls it deep inside the den. Another amusing fact about the ant lion lies in its habit as an adult –the insect that emerges after pupation of ant lion larva is an all and all vegetarian, it looks like a dragon fly or damsel fly and feeds on pollen and nectar. In America, people call it ‘doodle bug’ – what an inept name for an intelligent predator. In my childhood, I enjoyed playing games with this bug – the ant lion bug keeps its home clear of all rubbish by flicking trash up and away from the funnel – I would gather my friends, find some ant lion dens and then we all took turn to put grass seeds or small pieces of twigs into their funnels and watch them flick these items, one after the other, out of its hearth and we would thoroughly enjoy ant lion’s gimmick.

After spending sometime with the ant lions we walk further and enter Bans nala – a damp, moist place overgrown with bamboo, here on the wet ground we see the spoor of a tiger – we examine it closely, the tiger came from the direction from which we are coming, in the depressions of the pugs there are no leaf litter or twigs- means pug impressions are fresh – and then we see the shape and size – it is almost a square, to be precise Soni pulls out a tape measure from his sack and we measure the size of the hind pug, it is – Length 15.4 x Breadth 15.6 cms; we, then measure the stride from the tip of the left hind pug to the tip of the left front pug – it measures 207.26 cms (6.8 feet). We conclude it is a grown up male tiger (about 9.8 feet), and perhaps not very far from us. And then we hear a low growl coming from a dark bower – about 20 yards away – created by drooping bamboo culms . We have been duly warned and so, remembering a good advice from childhood, ‘there is only a thin line that separates adventure from foolishness’, we retreat to the main road taking care not to disturb his highness, and decide to walk back to Karmajhiri. As we reach gursal ghat, we see my jeep coming towards us, Bhaiyalal has a message to deliver – I am needed at Bhopal – the wildlife HQ – urgently.
Saying thanks to Soni, I hop into the jeep and drive towards NH7. Good bye my dear Pench.

Such forays into the jungle are great teachers and I learn something new every time I tread on the dirt roads, schlep up the ridges and jostle through bush. Though, reading this jungle book demands keeping my eyes sharp as a scanner, ears tuned to slightest sound, and nostrils clear to discern different aromas that the jungle emanates at various places and more importantly my brain alert to act smartly in the face of danger lest an aberrant tiger catches me unaware and decides to send me to Arcadia. I will end this story with the beautiful thought by Foss that captures the essence of jungle and its seekers.

The woods were made for the hunters of dreams,
The brooks for the fishers of song;
To the hunters who hunt for the gunless game
The streams and the woods belong.
 ~Sam Walter Foss

Let us build a lodge – whatever it takes

By Dr. Suhas Kumar

Those who wish a free-ride into Indian protected areas and misuse them should know that there is a basic difference between India’s conservation goals and that of the ‘other countries’ like Africa and United states.
In Africa, the Parks were set up basically to earn money from tourism and hunting. In south Africa, the National Parks Act was proclaimed in May 1926 and with it the Kruger National Park was founded by merging the Sabie and Shingwedzi Game Reserves.

In the USA the first park –the Yellowstone was established much earlier in 1872. In USA creation of the parks had an entirely different motivation and purpose; the purpose was to set aside huge areas of unique natural beauty and splendour for recreation, enjoyment and benefit of the public at large. These parks came into existence at a time when the concepts of sustainable development (1972) and biodiversity conservation (1992) were not even conceived, obviously, conservation of wildlife was not the motivation at all. These parks were totally people centric. The madness to please public in the Yellowstone national park by showing them the huge herds of Elk, predators like wolves and coyote were systematically shot, trapped and poisoned. Weavers were killed in hundreds so that their dams wouldn’t let loose a flood in the tourism areas (National Geographic Magzine,page 63, May 2016).

wild

On the other hand, in India, the parks and sanctuaries began springing up everywhere only after the notification of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The Act came into existence in response to the realization that Indian wildlands and wildlife are under severe threat and many species would vanish unless drastic measures are taken to safeguard our natural heritage. Unlike USA and Africa, the government of India visualized conservation of wild lands and wild animals as a duty of the government and the citizens and allocated funds for this purpose without expecting financial returns from these areas. While in Africa and the USA parks are largely funded by the money they generate from tourism-related activities, the government of India is spending public money on conservation as a strategy to ensure the ecological well-being of the country. The Constitution of India recognizes the right of other life-forms to live and flourish and, therefore, enjoins the citizens and the government to ensure protection and well-being of the flora and the fauna. The National Wildlife Action Plan in 1983 is the only comprehensive policy document on the wildlife conservation strategy for the country. The National Wildlife Action Plan was prepared by the Central government in 1983 and later revised in 2002. It assigns apt guidelines for tourism in protected areas and emphasizes that the principles of ecotourism must be practiced. It states as follow:

  1. “Regulated, low-impact tourism has the potential to be a vital conservation tool as it helps win public support for wildlife conservation. However, in recent years the mushrooming of tourist visitation and tourist facilities have led to overuse, disturbance and serious management problems for PA managers.
  2. In case of any conflict between tourism and conservation interests of a PA, the paradigm for decision must be that tourism exists for the parks and not parks for tourism, and that
  3. Tourism demands must be subservient to and in consonance with the conservation interests of PA and all wildlife.
  4. While revenues earned from tourism can help the management of the PA, maximisation of income must never become the main goal of tourism, which should remain essentially to impart education and respect for nature.
  5. The objective of wildlife tourism should be to inculcate amongst the visitors empathy for nature, both animate and inanimate and to provide a communion with nature, rather than to merely ensure sightings of a maximum number of animal populations and species. Students of all levels must be encouraged to visit PAs and to participate in conservation action therein, and concessions and park interpretations must facilitate these educative processes.
  6. Ecotourism must primarily involve and benefit local communities and the first benefits of tourism activities should flow to the local people. This should be in the form of employment opportunities and support for panchayat programmes such as watershed restoration, afforestation, health schemes, etc.
  7. Strict energy and water conservation and waste disposal guidelines need to be laid down and implemented for existing and new tourist facilities. Any new tourist residential facilities and eateries must be established outside PAs and all efforts should be made to relocate the existing ones inside PAs to suitable spots outside of them, to the extent possible.
  8. Regular monitoring of direct and negative impacts of tourism is needed. The parameters for such an evaluation should include ecological effects on the habitat, animal behaviour as well as secondary effects caused by changes in lifestyles and cultures of local populations. Representatives from local communities, local NGOs and field personnel should be a part of eco-tourism advisory boards that monitor and regulate tourism activities in the area. These boards should help develop tourism and conservation plans or strategies.”

The NWAP (2002-2016) favours Ecotourism development with the basic aim of educating visitors and eliciting their support for conservation; it also emphasizes that the benefits of ecotourism should reach the local communities. The law governing tourism can be found in Section 28 of the Wildlife (P) Act, which permits entry into PAs for the purpose of tourism. Section 33 (a) empowers CWLW to carry out any construction work which is necessary for the PA except commercial tourist hotels, lodges, safari, zoos. These too may be constructed after obtaining prior approval of the National Board. But the recent directions of the Supreme court makes it mandatory that any intervention for management of PAs must flow from the approved management plan – and those activities that are prima facie detrimental to wildlife cannot be permitted even if they are included in the management plan and approved by competent authority (CWLW of the state).

Any tourism venture entails development of accommodation, roads- culverts, bridges, electric and water supply, eateries, information and interpretation centres, hides, watch-towers and so on. Such development that requires breaking up of forest land attracts the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. This legal requirement is seen as a serious malfunction in the way of ecotourism development by many – especially by those who wish to attract the private sector to establish ecotourism operations on forest lands. This perceived malfunction results from undefined priorities; if the goal is to pursue “ecotourism” then the Environmental Impact assessment or Social Impact assessment should be a part of the project hence nobody should grudge EIA.
Some experts quote examples from Africa and lament why India, too, couldn’t emulate the African model, but they forget to understand that in Kruger and other National parks of Africa, the concessions to build lodges within reserves is governed by rigorous regulations including Environmental Impact assessment (EIA) and the license is only for a limited duration. If any concessioner is found to have violated the conditions, he/she is made to leave and return the area in its original state. Are Indian hoteliers ready for such regulations? In India, there are no concessioners but hotel owners whose land tenure is secured for eternity whether they follow the laws and the regulations or not.

There is also an effort on to convince the central government to consider Ecotourism as a Forestry activity so that the hassles of getting EIA done are over. Good for everyone but only if the ecotourism is a small-scale venture that doesn’t entail building of luxury lodges, helipad, tarred roads and all the other adjuncts like casino, swimming pool, golf course and so on – in the later case the use of forest land would be for creating less impacting small lodges and unobtrusive trekking routes, nature trails, hides, watch towers, interpretation centres, toilets, eateries, camping sites. One can argue forcefully to include ecotourism as a forestry activity only if its development is planned according to the principles of this useful concept. Big development ventures may become a part of Ecotourism and may come up on forest land but only after obtaining mandatory clearance under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA). In fact, such mega projects must be subjected to both EIA and SIA and forced to ensure their contribution to the protection of the environment, local culture and local economy.
Our tiger reserves and other categories of protected areas are very small in size compared to the protected areas of Africa and Americas that are large enough or contiguous with other protected areas so that ecological boundaries of long-ranging species largely fall within a protected area or a protected landscape – Kruger national park is spread over 19000 sq kms and receives around 14 lakhs visitors annually (i.e. 74 visitors/sq.km), while Kanha tiger reserve’s core is only 900 sq km and receives 1.3 lakhs visitors per annum(around 144 visitors/sq,km).

As the wildlife managers have no control over land-use on non-forest revenue and private lands outside the notified national park, the lodges were and still are being established in an unplanned fashion and there is evidence to prove that the laws were subverted by a nexus between the officials and hoteliers to facilitate sale of lands of the poor tribal people to non-tribals illegally and at arbitrary prices. Only a few sellers of the land could benefit from such sale, some invested the money in purchasing taxis but they couldn’t earn enough to buy a new one; several of those land sellers earn their livelihood as daily wage workers. Some experts argue that as so many agencies are responsible for disruption of corridors blaming hotel owners alone is unjustified. But they fail to see that critical portions of the buffer zone that have been used by the tigers to reach the corridor connecting it with other habitats are now almost choked by hotels that have rapidly mushroomed over last 10 years around Kanha tiger reserve.

Would it not be in the interest of every one to keep the links to the corridors intact so that the tiger continue to flourish and the tour runners have their business intact as once the tiger vanishes there would be no tourist to cater to. Therefore, there is a need is to identify areas in the buffer that is not critical to the wildlife and don’t break the connectivity; hotels and lodges must only be built in these areas.

The problem is – in this country, we love short-cuts, ad-hoc arrangements and Jugaad technology; we are not ready to follow the long and legally correct process to achieve our goals. We, generally, are in a habit of drawing conclusions, bypassing the long route, without even attempting to streamline the issues that plague wildlife conservation and tourism in India

The Owl on the Wire

By Dr. Suhas Kumar

He was a barn owl. A cute innocent barn owl. He slept all day in a hollow of the old banyan tree that stood like a huge jellyfish with a hundred tentacles dangling to the ground at the car park near 10 number stop, but as the sun settled in the west, Barny woke up – fully alert and ready – for his round. He knew the bandicoot rats- his favourite repast- will be out from their underground burrows soon and the insects would begin hovering around the lamppost. This was meal time and Barny would never miss it.

owlBarny has been discreet, he never devoured more than his tummy’s demand and he was careful to avoid the crows in the evening. But he didn’t know the ways of man. He helped the bipeds by eating rats and mice and though, the bipeds never bothered him even when he used to sleep in a recess of a decrepit building under a rotten roof, he was always wary of humans. Barny was a good owl, except for a few screeches and hoots to call his mate he never disturbed them.

But the ways of man are strange, for his own benefit he has erected electricity lines- open live wire – carrying 440 volts capable of killing an elephant instantly. Barny usually avoided these deadly wires, but last night he was lured by a swarm of insect circling under the powerful lamp of the streetlight. He had seen crows, babblers, mynas and bulbuls perched on these wires several times but as his mom always taught him to avoid the electric wires, he was hesitant. Hunger soon eclipsed his thoughts and from his perch on the tree he glided down to the lamppost and landed on the top most wire – nothing happened – he was unharmed. And then his ears picked up a rustle in the bushes below – food, he thought – and losing his guard spread his wings…

The night guard at the workshop around the corner, who had just dozed off, suddenly woke up to the hiss and sizzle and saw bright blue sparks flying off in all directions from the lamppost. It all ended in seconds and Barny became ‘was’ in an instant. His talons that clasped the topmost wire and his one wing that touched another wire had completed the circuit of his life. His owl days were over and he was recalled by the Almighty to rest in Arcadia- no more rats and mice for him.

Barny’s painful demise was discovered by several feathered bipeds early next morning. The place was abuzz, about 50 house crows, 8 jungle babblers, 3 mynas were present to pay tribute to the departed soul. The crows and the babblers were truly concerned, their constant wailing and crowing was really touching. Crows were restless, while some perched and wailed many others circled over Barny’s dead body and crowed non-stop. I waited to see what would be their next move. The show went on and on. I had to complete my morning walk so I decided to come back later with my camera.

I returned to Barny, 3 hours later. The crows and the other colleagues have already left. Barny’s body hung by its talons from the electric wire in the manner I had seen it in the morning -unharmed. I took some photographs and drove back home. Now, I had some photographs of a dead Barny and a few questions with me. Why the birds were restless and noisy – was it sympathy, or happiness and excitement after discovering a dead body (food). If the later was true why then the body remained untouched even after three hours?
Though the emotional man inside me went after the first thought the rational man rejected it completely. The crows and babblers were looking for food in Barny but their instinct warned them to stay away. Otherwise, I would have had to photograph a few electrocuted crows and babblers, too.

A sequel to the story

Not many days later, during one of my foot forays, I discovered – I was wrong. I was wrong about inferring the circumstances in which Barny got electrocuted. That morning, not very far from the electric pole on which Barny met his end, I witnessed a similar scene – several crows and mynas were creating a ruckus, some were flying and other were perched on electric wire but all seemed excited. And then I located the cause of their consternation – a myna was frantically struggling to extricate one of its toes trapped in a loop of electric wire. I have seen these wires on most of the electric lines, these are the wires that run perpendicular to the line and are placed at long intervals tied to the lower pair of two parallel wires to keep them apart. The knots of these wires are loose leaving holes which acts like a trap for the birds that accidentally perch on that particular point. So this myna was trapped in one of these loops and was struggling frantically to wriggle its toe out, this continued for about a minute and then in one flash it was free and flying again, The cacophony of birds waned and all was quite once again.

Now, coming back to Barny, I began reconstructing the scene of its struggle and got a clear picture of how the poor Barny was shocked to death. Here is what happened- As Barny flew from his perch on the tree and landed on the electric wire one of Barny’s toes got entangled in the loop and while he struggled desperately to extricate himself one of its wing touched the other wire completing the circuit and killing it instantly. Myna was lucky for its small size saved its life – while it struggled to get out of the trap its wings never came in contact with other live wires.

No Land for tigers in Bhopal

By Dr. Suhas Kumar
A hapless young male tiger strayed away from its already depleted and deeply fragmented original habitat, which once allowed tigers of Malwa to travel far and wide in search of new home and mate, into the outskirts of a rapidly expanding Bhopal city. The tiger entered a fenced compound probably in the night, and when the first rays of the sun struck, he was at its wit’s end when he found himself on totally unfamiliar grounds. He couldn’t gather the courage to move away and find his way back home as the clamour of the city and activities of humans had already begun, and soon he was surrounded by a huge crowd and a team of rescue personnel. He knew he was in grave danger, he tried to escape – jumped on to an asbestos roof but his huge frame was too heavy for the sheets – a sheet broke, and he fell into an empty room – trapped.

The rescue team climbed onto the roof and immobilized it. The tiger was then safely transported the tiger to Van Vihar for a health check up The next step after rescue and health check–up was to release the animal into a suitable habitat as a healthy full grown wild animal has no place in a zoo – he/she belongs to his/her habitat, alas habitats are all usurped by humans.  Tiger is not a refrigerator that you can lift, transport and install safely somewhere else – they are living creatures, they are part of a larger system and before they could be rehabilitated one has to find out a safe place ( in terms of intra- specific dynamics, availability of prey, water, and cover). Usually, when a tiger or leopard is rescued and caged the whole town wants to see the poor animal; especially the public representatives, the news reporters and the local mandarins pressurize the forest officials to keep the animal in a cage until the last member of their family takes a peep at the animal. This obsequiousness causes a lot of trauma to the captive animal, and in some cases, the irritated animal damages its canines or loses its claws as while venting its anger on the iron grills of the cage. When this happens, such an impaired animal cannot be released in its wild habitat and spends rest of its life languishing in a small enclosure of the zoo.

The rescue protocol and the law (section 11 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act demands the release of captured healthy animal in habitat suitable for it as early as possible, and under the law, the chief wildlife warden has the exclusive authority to take a decision. The forest staff doesn’t keep rescued tigers on display for VIPs, news reporters and public, to save it from further persecution and trauma, – to them, the life of the tiger is more important than satisfying personal needs of individuals and to soothe their inflated egos.

As I said suitable habitats for tigers have become scarce and those areas that qualify as suitable habitats have enough tigers already. Each tiger needs a vast territory where it performs its life functions, and if the resources are scarce, it defends this piece of land with all its might. In areas where food, water, and cover are abundant tigers have been found to tolerate other tigers to a greater extent, but here, this tolerance is fragile – as such tolerance can quickly wither away with any adverse change in the conditions of the habitat. Therefore, when it comes to rehabilitating a tiger into a tiger habitat understanding these factors and finding a suitable place for release is part of the protocol. As I understand, in this particular case the wildlife wing had three choices in mind – Nauradehi sanctuary, Satpura tiger reserve, and Panna tiger reserve. Considering all the pros and cons the wing chose Panna tiger reserve as the safest place as Nauradehi is under heavy biotic pressure from 69 villages inside its boundaries and numerous others just outside the periphery, and as a result, the prey population is insignificant.

Besides the staff is not trained and equipped for intensive monitoring of tigers. Reintroducing tiger at this stage may lead to serious man: animal conflict as cattle will become the staple prey.
Satpura tiger reserve has received five tigers from outside in the last three years. These tigers have occupied the relocated village sites and prey on feral cattle and herbivores who have responded well to the restored habitat. Now, at the moment there is hardly a vacant habitat where another tiger may settle down. On the north-eastern side of the reserve a few villages have been relocated recently, the habitat is still recovering, prey population is low and the feral cattle are hard to find as villagers from these villages took away all their livestock when they shifted out, therefore this site, at the moment is unsuitable for releasing tigers. The management is on its way to translocate some chital from Pench tiger reserve to catalyze rapid growth of prey here. I hope that a year from now this particular area may be in a position to sustain one or two tigers.

Panna tiger reserve stood out as the best choice among the three available options, considering the facts mentioned above. This reserve has a huge core area and a much larger buffer with some suitable habitats to sustain tiger. The habitats have improved, and the prey base has responded to this improvement. The Tiger reintroduction plan for Panna tiger reserve, emphasizes the importance of bringing one male from another area to refresh the genetic stock. There is a sound protocol as well as trained professionals for monitoring of tigers, therefore, shifting this tiger to Panna was the best possible option for the wildlife managers. The threat that a tiger might succumb to intra-specific fights, diseases or poaching is omnipresent, the only precaution that a manager must take is to remain vigilant and ready to ward off the external threats such as poaching and human-induced destruction of tiger habitat. We need not be overly sentimental about territorial fights, cannibalism, abandonment of cubs by mother and cub mortality as this is the way nature works. Even interfering too much in the case of an injury caused naturally is uncalled for, the manager should resort to such an intervention only when the tiger is incapable in cleaning and licking the injured part, or the injury is such that it needs immediate surgical intervention.

The issue of tigers in Bhopal
Next morning all the Bhopal dailies were blaming the tiger for coming to the city – Berasia mein tiger – log dahsaht mein”. How callous of them. It was not the public who were being terrorized by the tiger but this poor tiger that was shivering with fear of the thousands of humans who had gathered in large number – shouting and jeering.
The News papers reported that the Hon’ble – NGT has asked the government to keep the tigers within their habitat and to see that they don’t enter areas where humans live. Is it not ironical to erroneously believe that the tigers are the intruders? I wonder who the encroacher is – man or tiger?. The City of Bhopal sits within a tiger habitat, and in the last 15 years, the city has grown rapidly eating further into the wilderness – fragmenting and destroying tiger’s home. Look at the map above to comprehend the situation: –

A garland of forested habitat surrounds the Bhopal city. Though the human habitations and developmental infrastructures have fragmented this habitat at places, the tigers still can move throughout this garland taking advantages of nalas, and riparian vegetation (along the river banks). The Ratapani sanctuary is a secure habitat where tigers have been breeding. Over the years the habitat has improved, and the number of tigers has increased, necessitating young tigresses and tigers to move out from within the sanctuary boundary to the forests outside the reserve to find suitable breeding and foraging places. My personal knowledge is that tigers movement in Kerwa has been reported every year since 1996, it is another matter that in those times media was not so proactive to seek out tigers and the news about tigers nor the Kerwa area was so full of academic institutions, human colonies, and a heavy tourist inflow. The only change in the behavior of tigers that we see now is that some tigresses have begun using Kerwa and Smardha forests for breeding and raising cubs.
Tigers make news especially when they appera near the cities; only a little commotion precipitates in media when the large cats wander around a village. Is it an elite abhorrence of tigers? The facts that stare in our face remains that the city dwellers are under real threat from rising number of criminals in Bhopal. And from among animals the city residents are more prone to contracting rabies from a huge population of stray dogs as well as their pet dogs and cats. or they may get a deadly bite from the snakes that have become more active as their dwelling holes and crevices are being dug out and destroyed by colonisers ; on the other hand the tigers around Bhopal pose a marginal threat, in fact, they are themselves seriously threatened by humans.

Possible Strategy that may resolve the problem:

  1. Plan the expansion of the city rationally to preserve the garland of the extant green belt around Bhopal.
  2.  Identify all movement paths that a tiger might use to stray into human dwellings, fence these areas off with a combination of mesh-wire and solar power fence. Both types of fences would need intensive upkeep and monitoring.
  3. Train and place at least six professional teams to monitor and report tiger moment 24X7 outside Ratapani sanctuary, and issue timely alerts.
  4. Identify suitable potential tiger habitats outside protected areas (in territorial divisions and buffer zones), carry out required habitat augmentation work to enhance prey base, build the capacity of the staff and equip them in a way to combat wildlife crime and monitor tigers in their areas. Once this is achieved the wildlife wing may be able to rehabilitate tigers straying out of natal areas into towns in such potential habitats.
  5. Improve habitat protection and development of grasslands in Kerwa, Kathotiya Ratapani, Badi and Samradha forest and augment water sources where necessary in these areas. Once the habitat improves, translocate chital from PAs with surplus chital population.
  6. Implementing this plan will entail a huge capital and recurring expenditure, but in a state that is committed to conserving its natural heritage, this is the only logical way to protect the Bhopal tigers from vanishing into oblivion.

Shift tigers?
I would emphatically say ‘No’ to any suggestion that involves relocating all tigers inhabiting Kerwa and Samardha forests to other areas. The reason is obvious, but people don’t want to see reason – As soon as the managers remove a tiger , the dispersing tigers from Ratapani will occupy the vacant territory. Secondly, at the moment, we do not have any area left where we may safely release tigers from outside. As I said earlier, we have to create such safe release areas to accommodate tigers that are threatened by human intolerance.

The End of the ‘Tiger Show’

By Dr. Suhas Kumar

I guess it may be difficult for a number of people to sympathize with animals that are at the receiving end of a human action or inaction and are suffering; therefore, this story that criticizes human apathy towards mute animals may cause some amount of heartburn in certain readers. This story is about the “Tiger Show”- an activity – pursued in the tiger reserves of Madhya Pradesh for almost 3 decades.

You may not be aware that the ‘Tiger Show’ was organized only in three of the tiger reserves of Madhya Pradesh, and it was an exception as nowhere else in the entire country any other tiger reserve has ever organized this activity for visitors. The “Tiger Show” – the way it was organized – brazenly militated against one of the prime objectives of the tiger reserves i.e. to provide a safe, secure and trauma free abode to tigers.
After the baiting of tigers was stopped in the early eighties, the practice of tracking tiger by trained elephants and mahouts for the purpose of showing them to visitors began. As in Madhya Pradesh the ‘tiger’ always remained the prime object of adverts published by the hotels, and tourism department for luring visitors to the reserves, to ensure that the visitors don’t miss to see a tiger, the ‘elephant ride’ permissible under the notified rules (Rule34 of the M.P. Wildlife Protection Rules,1974) was unofficially modified, and christened ‘Tiger show’.

The Tiger Show was discontinued briefly for a year during the tourist season 1995-96 following protest from some conservationists of national repute. After that, it restarted as a major activity in Kanha and Bandhavgarh tiger reserves and later in Pench and continued till 2012, when finally a ban was imposed by the CWLW.
Several guidelines have been issued from time to time by the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Chief Wildlife Warden of Madhya Pradesh to regulate tiger viewing in a manner that it exerts the least impact on the tigers’ behavior and avoids disrupting its normal activities. But as you would notice the term-“Tiger Show” was never mentioned in these instructions or rules notified by the state till 2009.

Guidelines issued by the CWLW in 1994 and again in 1996 are particularly relevant. The common gist of these instructions is as follows:

  1. Tiger must not be restrained or encircled for the purpose of showing it to the tourists.
  2. Elephant rides will be permitted only on forest roads, existing pathways and old elephant tracks. Elephant ride must not be organized in areas other than designated above and never along the river and stream banks and in grasslands. In special circumstances, the officer in charge of the PA may prohibit the use of any area for the elephant ride.
  3.  At a time only one elephant will be permitted on a particular track.
  4. Tigress with less than 6-month-old cubs must not be tracked for the purpose of showing it to tourists.
  5.  Elephant’s health condition must be considered before deciding the total duration of a ride.
  6. The Elephant rides will be organized up to 3hrs after sunrise and one hrs before sunset.
    vii. In case a tiger is sighted from the elephant back, a distance of at least 30 meters must be maintained from the animal.
  7. Elephants must be kept in camps at more than one place to avoid damage to the habitats.

Project Tiger Directorate (now NTCA) also issued instructions in 2003 and 2007. The gist of the 2003 instructions is as follows:

“Considerable tourist influx (both inland and foreign) in many of our Protected Areas and Tiger Reserves, necessitate regulation of such visitation in the interest of minimizing the biotic disturbance to wild animals and their habitat. Therefore, ecotourism should be fostered in the right perspective in these areas, so that there is no compromise or trade –off in wildlife interests since our Tiger Reserves are ecotypical repositories of the valuable gene pool. Hence, the following may be ensured in this regard:

  • tigerThe tourist visitation should be regulated as per the carrying capacity of the area.
  • In place of open gypsies and smaller vehicles, medium sized buses, with a closed body and sliding windows, may be used for park excursions. This will minimize the risk of close encounters with wild animals, apart from reducing the number of vehicles inside the park at any point in time.
  •  A minimum mandatory distance of at least 500 meters should be maintained between two vehicles plying on the same road.
  •  A minimum mandatory distance of 30 meters should be maintained by tourist vehicles while spotting a tiger or any other wild animal.
  • The route guides should be more professionally trained and the penalty should be imposed on visitors in case they violate park rules. Further, a model calculation of the Tourist Carrying Capacity is also appended for ready reference, which is fairly robust and can be computed in a site-specific manner by collecting some basic field data. It is requested, this computation may please be done for your Reserve and this Ministry may be apprised accordingly.
  • Since a certain amount of risk is always involved in jungle excursions despite all precautions, a standardized ‘Indemnity Bond’ may also be prescribed indemnifying the park authorities from litigation/arbitration which may arise on account of accidents suffered by tourists during park round. All due formalities in this regard may be completed before the tourists are allowed entry into the Tiger Reserve.
  • Under no circumstances tourist excursions should be allowed during the night for apart from causing immense disturbance to wild animals, such ventures are extremely risky. It is also reiterated, no tourist facilities should be created in the ‘core Zone’ of a Tiger Reserve.”

In 2007, the NTCA again issued instructions for regulating tourism in tiger reserves. This circular repeats many of the instructions issued earlier and elaborates the reason for maintaining distance of 30 metres while viewing tigers. The circular expresses concern over excessive tiger: man interaction that culminates in the aberrant behaviour of tigers and results in attack on tourists and villagers and also makes the tigers of the reserves vulnerable to poaching.

In Kanha tiger reserve the ‘Tiger show’ was arranged only in some parts of the tourism zone in the Kanha-Kisli and Mukki ranges. Every day the tiger tracking exercise began just before dawn and once the tiger was located a wireless message was sent to the entry gates and the tiger show ticket window at Kanha; and the elephants from camps were moved to the location where the tiger had been sighted. Even the ticket counter at Kisli used to display the locations of the tiger show every day. Sometimes, visitors, who could not watch a tiger even after purchasing tickets for the ‘show’, used to make a lot of ruckus compelling the field personnel to restrain tigers at one place to show it to the maximum number of visitors .There were also a rumour that some unscrupulous staff became quite friendly with some tour operators and went out of the way to ensure that their guests get to see a tiger.

It is interesting to note that despite tiger being a major motivation for most tourists for visiting Kanha, my study revealed that only 21.48% of the visitors and in Pench, 6.5% among Indians and 12.6% among the foreigners actually availed the tiger show in tourist season 2008-09 Unlike Kanha tiger reserve, at Pench, visitors opted for elephant ride even if there was no news of tiger. In 2006-07, 262 visitors and in 2007-08, 36 visitors availed elephant ride not associated with the tiger-show (Kumar.S., 2013).
Before the entry rules were amended in 2010, the ‘Tiger show’ was not a legally sanctioned activity as this activity was not included in the notified entry rules. The prescribed activity had always been ‘elephant ride’, but the tour operators and the reserve management in Kanha and Bandhavgarh reserves – had nicknamed it as ‘Tiger show’ for obvious reasons. The amendment included the words – “’Tiger and leopard show ” under the main activity-‘Elephant ride’, making tiger show a legitimate recreational activity. ..

During my field survey many visitors, field personnel, and guides complained about mismanagement during the tiger show. Besides, disrupting the normal activity of tiger by restraining it at one location with 4-5 elephants, a lot of disturbance was created by taxis and tourists once a wireless message about tiger’s presence was flashed. Photographic evidence confirms that the directions of NTCA and CWLW that mandates maintaining at least 30-metre distance from the animal during viewing and at least 500 meters between two vehicles were often flouted. There is also photographic evidence depicting breach of the code of conduct prescribed by the mandatory instructions issued by the CWLW and the NTCA.

I was very uncomfortable with the tiger show; not because viewing tiger is a profanity but because of the way the ‘tiger shows’ were organized – The usual scene at tiger show was like this – usually when a tiger, after a long hunting expedition in the night wanted a peaceful sleep 4 elephants mounted by curious and hyper-excited tourists surrounded it; some elephants were maneuvered very close to the sleeping tiger so that tourists could take a picture of the tiger supine with all four legs in the air, And when the tiger woke up from the clamour around it and attempted to wriggle out of the cordon, the elephants followed and surrounded it again.
My protests against the tiger show were usually dismissed by my peers and superiors with the statements like – “it hardly matters, people come to tiger reserves to watch tigers, let them watch”. Dismayed by my failure to convince my bosses and colleagues, I penned down an appeal on behalf of Kanha’s tigers. The poem appears at the end of this note.

Many years passed and I continued to tolerate this aberration with disgust and anguish as many of the impractical subordinates do every day. And then came an opportunity, the NTCA issued fresh guidelines in October 2012 in response to a Supreme Court judgement. The court agreed to those guidelines and ordered strict adherence to it. Without losing much time, I got an order issued by the CWLW banning tiger show in tiger reserves. Some months later, in April 2013, the Principal Secretary and the CWLW went to Dhudwa tiger reserve to attend a meeting convened by the NTCA. After returning from there, the CWLW, my immediate boss, informed me that the member secretary, NTCA had expressed his disagreement to our banning the tiger show. He added that now the PS wants to revive the tiger show. I said – “yes sir, we may start it once again but before that, we would have to get a written ‘’go ahead’’ from the NTCA as the business of organizing the tiger show clearly militates against the new guidelines.” My boss agreed, and I drafted another letter, got it signed and dispatched it the same day.

The letter reads as follows:-
(04.04.2013) “Please recall the issue of recommencing tiger show raised with you recently during the workshop at Dhudwa tiger reserve. You had mentioned that tiger show is permissible under the guidelines issued by the NTCA. As you are aware ‘Tiger Show’ was one of the recreational activities in Kanha and Bandhavgarh tiger reserves before the issuance of the gazette notification of the guidelines under section 38-O(c) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, for project tiger, by the NTCA on 15.10.2012. We were constrained to stop tiger show as the directive contained in article 2.2.15 prohibits ‘cordoning off’ wildlife with the purpose of showing it to visitors, Secondly, the directive also prohibits viewing of wildlife from a distance less than 20 meters.
As you are aware ‘Tiger Show’ is an activity that involves deliberate and persistent pursuit of tiger for the purpose of showing it to the visitors, it involves tracking and locating the tiger in the wee hours and then keeping it localized with the help of elephants to make it available for the visitors to see; obviously without cordoning off the tiger and pursuing it closely, it would be difficult to keep it available for the visitors.
Now, in order to recommence this ‘show’ for visitors, as advised by you, a clarification about it will be required along with very clear instructions from NTCA as to how the ‘tiger show’ should be organized by the tiger reserve managers. I would, therefore, request you to do the needful accordingly”
As I had expected, the CWLW never got a reply and perhaps, now the tigers of Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench would have a long reprieve from persecution. I pray it remains this way.

PANNA : Where have the Tigers Gone?

  • Originally written in 2009-With Post Script, 2015.

By Dr. SUHAS KUMAR

In 2009, two young wild tigresses – one from Kanha and another from Bandhavgarh were translocated to Panna to supplement the struggling tiger population, which, reportedly, was very-very small or non-existent. And after a gap of several months, a middle-aged male was brought from Pench Tiger Reserve to give company to the reintroduced females.

To find out the reasons for the sudden disappearance of tigers from Panna, the government of India ordered an investigation by a special team (SIT) headed by a former director of project tiger and the state government set up a high-level committee to investigate the causes. While the SIT squarely blamed the state government for mismanagement and its failure to curb poaching, the committee proposed some ecological perspective saying that the females left the park to safeguard their cubs from male tigers. In my opinion, both these findings are not wholly correct.

That the habitat of Panna, till 2007, did support a good number of tigers is undisputable for I have firsthand knowledge of this fact – during a one day tour of the reserve in July 2007, I had seen fresh pug marks at 3 different locations 10-15 km apart and heard vocalization by a tiger near Madla entry point of the tiger reserve.
The confirmation that the Panna reserve had lost all of its female tigers and from among the males merely a lone survivor roamed came after several rounds of checking and rechecking by the experts. This lone survivor was then wandering outside the safe confines of the tiger reserve; the staff had seen its pugmarks near Panna town in the fields along the Panna – Satna Road.

When I learned all these details in March 2009 through newspapers, I was totally at a loss as it was difficult for me to understand how in a short span of a year and a half all the tigers of Panna had suddenly vanished. I was also confused because, in the preceding three years, Panna Tiger Reserve had undergone a massive protection facelift? If poaching was the explanation I was unable to perceive how, in a short span of time, such large scale extirpation of the tiger could go unreported without a whimper in the press for Panna was a hot destination for media after a researcher had made a series of allegations against the management.
I devoted some time to search for likely causes for this sad state of affairs at Panna and came out with some hypotheses. In my view, the reason for the disappearance of a species is manifold – and in most cases, it is a combination of unsuitable ecological conditions and anthropogenic decimating factors like poaching. When an endangered species suddenly vanishes the so called experts tend to blame it on ‘poaching’ alone. And nobody cares to find out the other reasons.

Poaching, in and around Panna Tiger Reserve is a reality, no doubt, but almost all other tiger bearing areas face the same threat. Today amply networked and equipped professional gangs of poachers are involved and in this trade and the local traditional hunter communities are their partners. But what are the other factors besides poaching to explain the mysterious disappearance of all tigers from Panna over a short duration (between July 2007 to March 2009)?

The plausible hypotheses to explain the mysterious disappearance of tigers, which I am inclined to offer, is based on my knowledge of the terrain and the tigers of Panna, are:
i. The habitat had only a few female; some were poached within their territories that extended beyond the reserve and the remaining few, except one, dispersed out of the reserve in search of better hunting grounds. The presence of this lone female with two cubs was noticed in adjoining North Panna forest division in 2009.

ii. Males spread out and moved to other areas beyond the tiger reserve in search of prey and fecund females.
The above two hypotheses draw support from Dr. Raghu Chundawat’s Tiger Ecology Research. He concludes that the male tigers of Panna operate in a much wider area – one of the radio-collared males had a territory as huge as 277 square km, and females of Panna Tiger reserve have territories larger than those reported for females from any other PAs (Sunquist, 1981; Smith, 1984; Karanth and Sunquist, 2000). The territory the female tigers either extended beyond the Park boundary or touched its periphery, exposing breeding females to external threats (Chundawat,R. 2001).

This also means that the male tigers no longer seen within the reserve left the park after the disappearance of the females and might have moved out into the territorial forests of Satna, Rewa, Chhatarpur, Chanderi, Sagar, Damoh or Tikamgarh. Or, may be in the forests of Uttar Pradesh – a quick look at the Google map of this landscapes reveals the extent of dense and sparse forest cover beyond the tiger reserve which the tigers of Panna might use as their extended habitats. The support for this hypothesis comes from the field reports of the sudden appearance of a tiger in Damoh forest division – about 180 km away. That the tiger from Panna could wander off to far away forests of Damoh was confirmed again when a male radio-collared tiger that had strayed out of the Panna tiger reserve was recaptured from there. I also believe that a tiger and a tigress that have made Madhav national park their home since 2007 were also refugees from Panna tiger reserve. The habitat of Madhav National Park had recovered from severe depletion resulting from almost seven years of mismanagement until a sensible and hard-working officer arrived on the scene in 2006. Till then it had been more than 25 years for Madhav – once a playground for tigers – to have cradled a resident one, though pugmarks of transients were seen off and on. The recent and continued occupation of Madhav’s rejuvenated habitat by two tigers is a case of reclamation of a resurrected, potential habitat by dispersing tigers.
Dr. Chundawat’s research also points out two major problems about natural prey of tiger at Panna-

i. Panna National Park has an estimated density of 32 prey /km2 is low in comparison to other high tiger density areas.
ii. chital population has a poor fawn and yearlings ratio per female, indicating reduced productivity of the population.

His research attributes poor utilization of habitat by herbivores to the sparsely wooded landscape and the absence of water in tiger reserve’s upper plateau in summer season. Besides, chital, which usually forms a significant portion of tigers natural prey, are not very productive in the dry deciduous and water scarce landscape of Panna, making tiger utterly dependent on supplementary prey like cattle. Considering these two constraints that the tigers of Panna were facing, relocation of 9 villages that had a sizable cattle population – an important prey supplement for tigers – had an effect on prey availability as most families of these nine villages moved out along with their cattle in 2008-09 leaving the habitat suddenly bereft of supplementary prey (cattle). Another management intervention that might have adversely affected availability of prey for the tigers was the translocation of about 5000 feral cattle from the reserve to the pens by the end of 2008. The restricted distribution of chital in the undisturbed areas in and around Badgadi, a village that was relocated about 20 years back, may have been another reason why tigers were forced to move out of the reserve in search of prey. If a formidable male had occupied the stronghold of chital “Badgadi” and its immediate surrounds , other tigers would find a little courage to prey on chital there.

Some well-meaning people, who point out that the Panna tiger reserve has a good population of blue bull and therefore there is no dearth of prey for tiger, should consider that blue bull is not a preferred prey of tiger. And compared to cattle it makes a tough quarry as it is much agiler and alert than the cattle, besides it inhabits drier and sparsely vegetated tracts which the tiger usually avoids for such tracts are water deficient and provide little ambush cover. Because tiger has evolved as a specialized forest-edge predator following the cervid-radiation in Asia (Sunquist and Karanth, 1999), its survival and hunting strategies are more cued to cervids than prey found in open habitat. Tigers do not avoid blue bull consciously but preys only sparingly on the blue bull that occupy forest-edge habitat. Moreover, the blue bull is less likely to achieve their optimal densities in these forest habitats. Therefore, in Panna, prey species like nilgai and chinkara may be playing a limited role in the ecology of tigers. The Cervid and the bovid populations usually achieve their maximum densities in a mosaic of forest habitat in Asia, and therefore, these habitats support higher tiger densities

The research carried out by Chundawat in Panna suggests that the tiger’s habitat occupancy is directly linked with water and prey availability but in Panna the productivity of natural prey like chital and sambar has been suboptimal compared to other reserves, even the fawn to yearling survival rate has been very low. Gogate and Chundawat (1997) report that chital is the most preferred prey in Panna (concerning number) and this species is utilized more than its availability. It is only in the case of Panna that chital has been reported as the preferred prey whereas in all other cases so far chital has been reported to be the principal prey and this, perhaps, indicates the absence of habitats that are conducive to the proliferation of chital. Hence in Panna, there is a need to create and maintain such habitats (Mathai Manu Verghese, June 1999, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun). Managing the relocated village sites at a seral stage as edge habitats consisting of grassland juxtaposed by woodlands and creating more waterholes should become the prime focus of management.

If data of cattle kill for three consecutive years (2004, 2005 and 2006), for the villages evacuated in 2007, are analyzed, one may be able to draw some useful conclusions. I would also suggest that all the DFOs of the districts which I have listed in this note may be asked to mount a vigil to locate evidence of tiger in their forests and immediately report the presence of any tiger within their respective jurisdictions. As I have said earlier the tiger and its remaining non-PA habitats need more protection outside the PAs than within, the DFOs need to be equipped and made responsible for the protection of tigers within their jurisdictions. But it seems, at present, they appear to be in a state of denial of the threat of poaching and even reluctant to confirm presence of tigers in the areas under their charge ?

In my view, the management needs to begin a planned intervention to augment water availability in water-scarce habitats and try to reclaim the abandoned village sites as grasslands so that the chital, a versatile species, may respond favourably and become more productive. With better habitats, the fawn to yearling survival rate, which is meagre right now, would certainly improve. The another significant intervention required is to equip and make the forest officers, who manage territories around the tiger reserve, responsible for tigers and wildlife so as to protect tigers from poachers and secure breeding areas of the female tigers that extend beyond the boundary of the tiger reserve.

If we could take these measures without losing time – we may hope the return of the tigers to Panna, or else, We may be witnessing the last of the tigers in this unfortunate reserve. I hope that the nomad tigers would come back as the habitat and prey base improve, but I also fear that the unfavourable conditions beyond the safe confines of the tiger reserve may have already decimated the wandering tigers. The fate of the vagrant tigers outside tiger reserve remains uncertain. Outside it is wild-wild west – poachers lurk with their gin-traps, sticks and iron bars and the upset villagers, whose cattle is killed, lie in wait with their devices to electrocute or poison tigers. With this sad scene outside the reserves, there is but a flimsy hope that out of ten straying tigers probably only one would get a safe passage back home. ( P.S. – In 2013, CCMB, Hyderabad published a research paper confirming that one of the cubs born in Panna after reintroduction carries the genes of a tiger thought to have been exterminated before 2009- an undeniable proof that one of the resident tiger that had left PNP had returned and mated with one of the reintroduced tigresses)

Now in the prevailing situation what the female tigers brought from Kanha and Bandhavgarh could do remains to be seen. The chances are – the lucky males that have so far escaped the trap or the live wire will return by the onset of winter when the mating season reaches its peak. It is time, therefore, to ensure – by putting in place pointed protection machinery inside and outside the tiger reserve- that the nomads outside the reserves remain safe and the females within the tiger reserve do not stray out. And by employing a network of informers in the peripheral villages and by swift preemptive actions poachers are kept at bay. Pressure on the poachers must never relax.

( P.S.- The tiger from Pench and the females from Kanha ,Bandhavgarh have successfully resurrected the tiger population in Panna and by 2015 there were around 30 resident tigers in Panna tiger reserve)

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Note : The views expressed above are solely of the author and not written in any official capacity( additions made in 2015).
( The original note written on 26.3.2009 was Sent To Dr. P.B Gango padhyaya, the then CWLW, MP and Shri H.S. Panwar, Member of the Committee constituted by the State Government to inquire into the issue of Vanishing tigers of Panna.)