A booming tiger population in Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) has led to an increased presence of big cats in the adjoining forest divisions, triggering conflicts with people entering the forests for collecting firewood.
A tiger killed two labourers in the Terai west forest division on Thursday. The forest department finds it difficult to tackle tiger threats in Terai. Reason: High dependency of locals on forests.
Corbett has nearly 220 tigers, according to official figures. A Wildlife Institute of India (WII) report says CTR has the highest tiger population among 44 tiger reserves in the country. The phase IV estimation of 2016 reveals that there are 119 adult tigers above 1.5 years in five Terai divisions -- east, west, central, Ramnagar and Haldwani.
The ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) has allowed the five divisions -- part of the Western Circle -- to utilise funds from Gola Corpus Funds, generated through legal quarrying. About ₹1 crore comes annually to the kitty of each division.
But the challenge to keep people away from reserve forests has proved to be daunting.
“Human footprints in reserve forests are a main concern which lead to conflicts. No doubt, the population of tigers in Western Circle is increasing, but tigers are attacking only those humans who are going into the forest for collection of firewood,” Parag Madhukar Dhakate, conservator of forest (Western Circle), told Hindustan Times on Friday.
In the absence of a state government policy ensuring cheaper sources of cooking fuel, nearby villagers are heavily dependent on the reserve forests for firewood.
“Many non-government organisations are working towards reducing dependency of villagers on reserve forests to check conflicts. But, there has to be a holistic policy if we wish to safeguard our tigers as well as people,” said Abhishekh Kumar of Traffic NGO.
The state forest department gives more than ₹5 crore as compensation for deaths and injuries in big cat attacks. Uttarakhand tops in human-animal conflicts. Since November 2000, when the state was carved out, till February last year, 604 people were killed in conflicts and 3,092 injured, according to forest department figures.