Taking the first step to revive the population of tigers in the western flank of Rajaji Tiger Reserve (RTR), state forest officials on Tuesday met Wildlife Institute of India (WII) scientists along with representatives of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to discuss the translocation project.
During the meeting, scientists suggested that Special Operating Procedure (SOP) followed during tiger translocation at Sariska Tiger Reserve (STR) in Rajasthan could be replicated in Rajaji National Park.
Under the Sariska’s tiger repopulation programme, three male and three female tigers were translocated from Ranthambhore National Park.
Minimum 15 days of training is likely to be provided to Rajaji staff at Sariska where they will learn to study movement of translocated tigers and how to report gathered information to National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and WII. Digvijay Singh Khati, chief wildlife warden in Uttarakhand, asked WII scientists to prepare a technical project at the earliest so that by first quarter of 2016, tigers could be translocated.
“The indicative plan for translocation was already submitted to NTCA few months ago. Now, the technical plan needs to be submitted quoting all necessary details as per SOP,” Khati said during the meeting.
In July this year, an indicative tiger conservation plan was submitted to NTCA including a brief proposal about tiger translocation in the western part of RTR, which is spread across 570-sqkm area. The eastern part of the reserve is compact and is spread across only 150-sq km area and due to the presence of male and female tigers here, breeding is often reported.
Tiger translocation will, thus, be carried out in the western part of the reserve, preferably in its Dhaulkhand range. “NTCA’s SOP mentioned Dhaulkhand as a potential tiger recovery site,” Neena Grewal, director of Rajaji, said. According to K Shankar, senior scientist at WII who was behind tiger translocation at Sariska, certain key points would be included in the technical proposal to be submitted to NTCA (see box).
The enclosures and vehicles used during transportation of tigers at Sariska could be used for transportation of two couple tigers from Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) landscape to Rajaji. However, several translocations will be done periodically to achieve tiger repopulation in the western part of the reserve.
One of the key concerns highlighted during the meeting was strengthening of corridor. The narrow corridor, which is about 1.2km long and 3 km wide, divides the eastern and western part of Rajaji.
This corridor remains abuzz with traffic of National Highway 58, railway tracks, army ammunition dump and over 10 villages.
Due to heavy disturbance, two tigresses in the western part have been unable to cross over to the eastern part because of which breeding stopped.