Recurring cases of man-animal conflict at the Chandrapur circle, Vidarbha, has forced forest officers to consider translocation of its tiger population to different parts of the state.
Forest officers said that between 2015 and 2016, there have been more than 1,500 cattle and 12 human deaths owing to conflicts with tigers. The conflict has also led to nearly 180 injury incidents to humans during the same time.
Spread across 2000 square km of forest land outside protected areas (PA), six divisions of the Chandrapur circle – south, central, west and east Chandrapur, Allapalli and Bhamrapuri - are home to 55 adult and sub-adult tigers with the maximum at Bhramapuri with 37 tigers.
The problem of man-animal conflict has forced the Maharashtra forest department to mull over trans-locating six tigers – four females and two males - to Sahyadri tiger reserve in the Western Ghats, spread across 1,165.56 sq km in the districts of Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Ratnagiri and is home to only five to seven tigers.
Forest minister, Sudhir Mungantiwar told HT that the forest department has no concrete plan for translocation yet but the issue of man-animal conflict at Chandrapur is worrisome. “The tiger population across this circle has increased substantially over the past two years and there is also a heavy demand for tigers from different sanctuaries and national parks,” said Mungantiwar. “However, changing their habitat is not an easy task and requires immense amount of vigilance.”
He added that it would take a minimum of one year before finalising the plans for translocation. “We are currently in the planning stage. There are a number of permissions that need to be taken before and after drafting a formal proposal. We have to check the natural balance of tigers in a new environment such as a proper prey base, adequate supply of water and many more such prerequisites.”
Chandrapur forest officials said that they were doing everything possible to control the problem of man-animal conflicts. Two tigers at the circle have been radio-collared – a tracking device that tells an animal’s exact location, learn about their movement and helps mitigate conflicts – by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun.
“Our plan is to increase radio-collaring of more tigers with WII’s help,” said Sanjay Thakre, chief conservator of forest, Chandrapur circle. “We have also carried out camera trapping outside the PA, where 650 camera traps have been installed to monitor the movement of tigers. However, considering there is such a large population, translocation is the only way to minimise conflicts.”
Thakre added that the state government had recently sanctioned Rs15 crore project for electronic surveillance of the six divisions of Chandrapur (Rs9 crore) and the Tadoba Andhari tiger reserve (6 crore) that is home to 80 tigers. “CCTV cameras installed near waterholes will help us study the animals better and allow us to avoid situations in which humans come in close proximity with wild animals,” he said.
Threat to humans, cattle
Number of deaths owing to man-animal conflict with tigers at Chandrapur circle
2014 – 20 human deaths
2015 – 9 human deaths
2016 – 3 human deaths so far
Between 2015 and 2016, more than 1,500 cattle deaths have been reported from the region
70 tigers, 180 leopards outside protected forested areas of Vidarbha
A camera trap study from 2015 by the Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) revealed that around 70 adult tigers, 180 leopards live outside protected forest areas in Vidarbha.
The project covered an area of 3,975sq km outside the Tadoba Andhari, Pench, Bor tiger reserves and Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary.
The last tiger census, released by the Maharashtra forest department in August last year, revealed that there were 202 tigers across the state. According to the WCT study, more than one-third of the total population of tigers was spotted outside protected areas.