Pilibhit tiger reserve’s approach reducing deadly conflict: Officials
- Erection of a 40-km-long electric fence around the part of the reserve known most for man-animal encounters has also helped in containing the incidents.
The Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR) which was hitherto known for man-tiger conflict has managed to turn the corner with the help of awareness campaigns, electric fencing and ban on mushrooms.
11 people died in tiger attacks in the past three years, a significant drop from over 26 encounters between man and tiger in 2017, resulting in deaths of 16 residents of over 524 villages, located within a kilometre of the reserve, necessitating an emergency meeting in Pilibhit, called in August by newly-elected chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
Sameer Zargar, who is associated with various environmental projects in Pilibhit, said the rise in tiger population, an almost negligible buffer zone in the reserve and villagers’ dependence on the forest, were the major reasons for the conflict.
The PTR officials, as part of a multi- pronged approach, built a 40-km-long electric fence by July 2020 around the part known for most man-animal encounters. “The work on electric fencing will continue. We are planning to extend the fence to 13 more kilometres this year,” said Naveen Khandelwal, deputy director, PTR.
Besides fencing, the PTR and local district administration spread awareness about ways to avoid conflict with tigers in villages near the reserve. “We regularly organise awareness camps in villages. We also urge people to not enter the reserve and take measures to prevent any encounter with tigers,” said the officer.
“A major aspect of the drive is to encourage villagers to report tiger sightings near villages so that we can send experts to relocate the tiger from there,” he added. Four tigers living outside the reserve have been relocated since 2018.
Success is also attributed to a ban on Katharua, a kind of mushroom found inside PTR and considered a delicacy. Locals used to illegally enter the reserve to harvest Katharua, risking tiger encounters. Authorities announced a ban on its use and sale in the entire district in 2017. The ban exists till date. The last man -animal conflict that resulted in the death of a woman, took place in June 2020, a year that saw seven deaths, a discomforting spike after two encouraging years in 2018 and 2019 which together saw loss of four lives.