The Unfortunate tigress from Ratapani

By Dr. Suhas Kumar

The following incident belongs to a time when I was on study leave. One morning, I received a request from the Director, Van Vihar National park to come over to examine a young tigress that was discovered by some villagers in a pool deep inside the forest of Ratapani. Over a period of three days some villagers had sighted her sitting in that pool at the same spot. Considering it a strange behaviour , they informed the staff of the sanctuary. The rescue team from Van vihar was called and the tigress was immobilized and relocated to Van Vihar.
   When I first saw the tigress in her enclosure, she was in great pain – she lay almost lifeless in a cage – her moans were the only sign of life coming out of her. But as soon as we approached the cage she tilted her head and sat on her front legs, the lower part of her body remained motionless. The doctor showed me her injured front paw- two of her toes were missing from the right front paw as if torn away forcefully, One of herupper and one lower canine were uprooted, the socket which held those teeth were still crimson indicating recent wound.

Till then everyone including the DFO of Ratapani had maintained that the animal was afflicted by some disease. Though there were no signs of injury on the body, it was not difficult to conclude that the ruthless poachers had dealt her a series of blows while she was struggling to free her paw from the gin trap. She was in a gin trap from which usually the animals cannot escape, but in a desperate bid to free herself she had lost her toes and her two canines.
Life threatening situations trigger a great rush of adrenaline in the body of animals, and this powerful hormone gives them a desperate strength that they cannot muster under normal circumstances. The tigress was in this state of an adrenaline rush when she wrenched herself off the trap and ran for several miles to the safety of a secluded pool within a patch of dense forest. The injury to her back manifested later for the blows on her back had compressed some vertebrae causing severe inflammation of her spinal cord that had left her lower body paralyzed.

I advised the director to make the chief wildlife warden aware of our findings and request him to instruct the divisional forest officer to launch a combing operation in a radius of ten km around the pool, where the rescue team had found the tigress for I was almost sure that the poachers, who usually place several traps simultaneously, must have laid gin traps on other animal tracks in that forest. I insisted that the DFO should make an investigation to unearth the culprits without losing time. (But, I came to learn later, there was only a perfunctory attempt to find the gin traps and the culprits. This news saddened me.)
The unfortunate tigress had not even seen her 12th winter; her mother along with her other cubs probably abandoned her and moved on when she found her in a hopeless situation. This behaviour was a normal instinctive reaction of a mother tigress – an ailing or injured cub is generally left behind to protect the other healthy ones from diseases or predation.

The zoo doctor had begun the treatment with antibiotics and vitamins. The tigress responded to the treatment and care provided by the conscientious vet, and on the third day she was on her feet and walking. I was jubilant and hoped to see the tigress fully recovered in a month’s time. But, on the seventh day, while I was on a train traveling from Mumbai to Bhopal, my mobile rang. The director Mr. Rajpoot was on the line, and he gave me the unexpected news that the tigress was found dead by her keeper in the morning that day – her head partially submerged in the water trough and her body, on its haunches, outside it.
I couldn’t believe that the tigress that was well on the path to recovery could die in such an incredible way. I became curious to know the postmortem findings, and on reaching Bhopal, I called the zoo doctor. He informed me that the tigress had died of acute lung infection. Though I was not entirely convinced by the explanation yet, the infected organs presented irrefutable evidence of the disease. Now, what went wrong in our diagnosis and treatment was the question asking for an answer.

We hammered our heads, recapitulating the course of events from day one when the tigress was pulled out from the jungle pool and all the interventions the doctors had made to treat her till the day she was found dead in her enclosure. One thing that struck us all was the fact that the villagers had seen tigress sitting in the pool of water and she had been there for several days before the team had rescued her. Her prolonged immersion in water for so many days and that too without food might have predisposed the tigress to an acute lung infection — all of us had erred in not making use of this valuable information in deciding the line of treatment.
The doctor was disconsolate by the death of the tigress for he had been confident that she would make a full recovery. We all learn from our mistakes, this time, too, the lessons were learned, but the cost of this lesson was insufferable.

In defence of the tigers- Lock them up?

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 it firmly believes that a tiger that has killed or injured a human being is utterly 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 hashelped them grow in number and then completion among them for food, female and space 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 or exposed to continuous stream of tourists 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, Shyadri and their likes) 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.The tigers are now challenging human tolerance and a result die prematurely when humans retaliate. 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 all other forests harbouring tigers. Don’t waste your time on reviving corridors and asking territorial forest guys to take care of tiger within their jurisdiction. 10.10.2017

 

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)
.
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. ‘’

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.

tiger-jackटाइगर श्रॉफ और जैकलीन फर्नांडिस की फिल्म अ फ्लाइंग जट्ट रिलीज हो गई है। इस फिल्म में दोनों का एक जबरदस्त किसिंग सीन है। इस सीन की पर्दे के पीछे की कहानी भी उतनी ही दिलचस्प है। खबरों के मुताबिक, डायरेक्टर रेमो डिसूजा सीन के लिए दोनों से बात कर चुके थे कि कट बोलने के साथ ही उन्हें एक दूसरे के नजदीक आकर रुक जाना है। लेकिन टाइगर और जैकलीन आगे बढ़कर एक दूसरे को किस करने लगे। डिसूजा को बार बार कट बोलने का भी दोनों पर कोई असर नहीं हुआ।

Knowledge Booster: बाघ शेर नहीं होता

  • Boost your Knowledge….

बाघ, शेर, तेंदुआ और चीते को पहचानने में हम अक्सर गलती कर जाते हैं। यहां तक कि बड़े बड़े मीडिया संस्थानों के पत्रकार भी अपनी खबरों में बाघ को शेर बना देते हैं और तेंदुए को चीता। जबकि बिल्ली प्रजाति के होते हुए भी चारों में बहुत अंतर है। यहां हम आपको इसी अंतर के बारे में बताने जा रहे हैं, ताकि आप बाघ को शेर न बनाएं।

Knowledge booster

शेर (Lion): शेर को जंगल का राजा कहा जाता है। शेर की पहचान बेहद आसान है। इसके गले में बालों का एक बड़ा घेरा होता है, जिसे इसके मुकुट के तौर पर भी देखा जाता है। इनके शरीर पर किसी तरह की धारियां नहीं होतीं। ये हल्के या गहरे भूर रंग में होते हैं। मादा यानी शेरनी की बात की जाए तो उसके गले पर बालों का घेरा नहीं होता। शेर की दहाड़ सबसे ज्यादा तेज होती है। मौजूदा वक्त में भारत में शेर सिर्फ गुजरात में ही हैं। शेर ज्यादातर सामाजिक होते हैं। यानी वो अमूमन झुंड में रहना पसंद करते हैं, जिसे प्राइड्स कहा जाता है। शेरनी समूह के लिए शिकार करती है और फिर सब उसे खाते हैं।

Knowledge booster

बाघ (Tiger): बाघ को पहचानना भी बेहद आसान है। बाघ के शरीर पर एक ऑरेंज रंग का कोट होता है, जिस पर काले रंग की धारियां होती हैं। साथ ही इसका गले से लेकर नीचे तक का हिस्सा जगह.जगह से सफेद रहता है। शारीरिक बनावट में बाघ शेर के मुकाबले काफी लंबे और वजनी होते हैं। शेर की तुलना में बाघ अकेले रहना पसंद करते हैं, और खुद शिकार करते हैं।

leopard

तेंदुआ (Leopard): अक्सर लोग तेंदुए को चीता बोलते हैं। जबकि चीते बरसों पहले भारत से खत्म हो चुके हैं। तेंदुए के शरीर पर छोटे छोटे काले रंग के स्पॉट होते हैं। चीते की तुलना में इसकी कदकाठी भारी होती है। हालांकि, इसका आकार बाघ और शेर के मुकाबले छोटा होता है।

cheetah of Serengeti
cheetah of Serengeti

चीता (Cheetah): चीता आकार में तेंदुए की तुलना में छोटा होता है। दोनों में सबसे बड़ा अंतर यह है कि चीता दहाड़ नहीं सकता। दुनिया के इस सबसे तेज जानवर की आंखों से मुंह तक गहरी काली रेखाएं होती हैं। इसका चेहरा बिल्ली प्रजाति के अन्य जीवों का तुलना में छोटा होता है। इसके शरीर पर काफी महीन काले रंग के स्पॉट होते हैं।

jaguar

जगुआर (Jaguar): अमूमन लोग तेंदुए के जगुआर कह जाते हैं, जबकि ऐसा नहीं है। तेंदुए की तुलना में जगुआर का सिर बड़ा होता है और इसके शरीर के स्पॉट बड़े एवं बिखरे होते हैं। दोनों में सबसे बड़ा अंतर यह है कि जगुआर अमेरिका में पाए जाते हैं, जबकि तेंदुआ एशिया और अफ्रीका में।