If attempts to populate the western part of the Rajaji reserve with tigers succeed, then Uttarakhand together with neighbours Himachal Pradesh and Haryana can offer one big playground to the big cats, say wildlife scientists and experts.
In a concept note submitted by the scientists at the Wildlife Institute of India to the National Tiger Conservation Authority, it was mentioned that the Simbalbara National Park in Himachal Pradesh, Kalesar National Park in Haryana and Shivalik range of Uttarakhand that houses Rajaji park are well-connected and offer potential tiger habitat. Tigers from the Rajaji park could move in and out of the three states at their will.
But the stumbling block is: breeding is reported in the eastern part of Rajaji, which has around 150 sq km of core area and about 11 tigers, but not from the western part, from where the tigers could walk across to the neighbouring states.
It could be mainly because the western region remains abuzz with traffic on NH 58, presence of railway tracks, army ammunition dump and presence of over 10 villages.
Talks are on to translocate tigers from the Corbett landscape to populate the western part. “Western part of Rajaji is the most ideal place for tigers in terms of habitat security and prey base. If tigers breed in this part of the reserve, then they can go till Haryana and HP due to the connectivity maintained,” said AK Singh, the team leader at Terai Arc Landscape World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
“Before the year 2000, tigers used to follow the similar course. And if we are able to revive the species, then the same course would be followed in future too,” said Singh.
Bivash Pandav, a scientist at WII, said, “Before 2005, there were tigers in western part of Rajaji which used to move along River Ganga and Yamuna. The two rivers flow through Shivalik range of UP/Uttarakhand, Simbalbara in HP and Kalesar in Haryana”.
“If we manage to achieve healthy tiger population in the western part of Rajaji, we would be able to consolidate tigers in the remaining two protected areas as well. With the help of NTCA, tri-tiger states could be formed for better conservation of the species.”
Forest officials believe tri-tiger states will support better conservation in the landscape through joint efforts of all forest departments.
Neena Grewal, the director at Rajaji, said, “It would be an advantage for all three states if we manage to retain tiger population in western part of Rajaji. Shivalik-Simbalbara-Kalsar is potentially viable for movement and breeding of tigers and NTCA could support us in the effort of conservation”.
A bigger playground