If the impossible had happened — if a lone tiger had managed to survive Sariska’s butchers — -the big cat wouldn’t have lived long.
For, far from being a refuge, Sariska, with its thinning green cover and invasive human presence, is unfit to be a tiger reserve.
The damning fact was brought to the notice of the environment ministry by the Wildlife Institute of India recently. The institute conducted an ecological analysis of the reserve on the ministry’s request after reports of all tigers dying out in Sariska.
The report is scary. Almost 11 square km of forest and green cover in the reserve has been lost in the past few years. Government officials blame the loss of greenery, which is also the buffer zone between the animals and humans, on the easy access of local residents to the reserve.
The presence of 12 villages and the Alwar – Tanagiri Tehsil road inside the reserve have contributed to the disappearance of the tigers, the report said.
Tigers have not been able to reproduce in the reserve for the last seven to eight years. “Excessive pollution from the traffic on the road and the disturbance caused by villagers drives tigers to open areas. And this makes them easy prey for poachers,” a senior ministry official explained. The verdict: Sariska is unsafe for tigers.
If the tigers are to be brought back, the institute said, all villages should be relocated outside the road and the Tehsil Road should be completely dismantled. Politics, however, is bound to come in the way. “The state government has refused to spare money for relocation. We haven’t even been able to make the Rajasthan government agree to constructing a new road outside the reserve though the Centre has already sanctioned Rs 3.5 crore for it.” Relocation is evidently a far cry.
In short, the Rajasthan government’s request — tigers should be relocated to Sariska from nearby reserves – deserves to be rejected.