The Corbett Tiger Reserve is fast turning into a cramped home for tigers, forcing many to move out into buffer zones and villages.
All India Tiger Estimation 2014 says the 1,288 sqkm-large CTR has 215 tigers, and in mid-2015, state forest minister Dinesh Aggarwal announced that the number had increased to 240. This is the highest in any reserve in the country.
But, with one tiger every 6 sqkm against the standard of one per 70 sqkm, the conservation and breeding of the felines are a cause of concern, experts noted.
“The reserve has reached its saturation to accommodate breeding tigers. It leaves us with the question – what if this number continues to swell,” Bivash Pandav, tiger expert at Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute (WII) told HT. There is no research to throw light on how tigers would adapt to limited space, he said.
After breeding in the reserve, tigers have been spotted moving out to neighbouring forest divisions of Lansdowne, Haldwani, Ramnagar, Terai East, Terai West and Terai Central.
In November 2015, a striped cat was photographed in Kedarnath Valley at 1,500 feet altitude, following which camera traps photographed a tiger in Askot Wildlife Sanctuary at about 12,000 feet in March.
In 2011, a tiger photographed in Lansdowne for division-buffer of Corbett, was camera trapped in Rajaji National Park following which another tiger of same region was spotted at the park in 2012.
Officials are now planning an annual Phase IV monitoring during winter, and are hoping that the numbers rise, Surendra Mehra, the reserve’s director, said.
The monitoring would be completed by the end of this year.
However, Qamar Qureshi, another tiger expert at WII, stressed on tracking tiger-movement along the forests and corridors, “before they fall prey to poaching”.
Strengthening corridors will remain one of the most important tasks for hassle-free movement of tigers, he said.