Highest tiger density makes Corbett too cramped for the big cat
Corbett, which has the highest density of tigers in the country-- over 250 tigers according to wildlife officials -- may have reached saturation point, experts and conservationists said, adding that the focus now needs to be on using the surrounding areas to accommodate the rising number of big cats.
If this isn’t done, human-animal conflicts may increase, they said.
Corbett is in the state of Uttarakhand, which saw an increase in tiger numbers to 442 from 340 in 2014 and 227 in 2010, according to the latest tiger numbers released Monday.
Corbett is spread across 1288.31 sq km with 821.99 sq km as the so-called core area and another 466.32 sq km as the buffer.
“The reserve has crossed 250 mark,” state forest minister Harak Singh Rawat said.
Jai Raj, principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Uttarakhand forest department said: “There’s a space crunch for tigers in Corbett, but we must understand that the species have become adaptable.”
The forest department last week said tigers are present in all the 13 districts of the Himalayan state, making Uttarakhand perhaps the only Indian state with this distinction.
According to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), each tiger requires at least 10 sq km area. Going by the thumb rule, against 1288.31 sqkm area, Corbett can sustain only 130 tigers.
“The Corbett habitat is saturated but it produces tigers that disperse to colonise vacant habitat ,” YV Jhala, senior tiger expert at WII said, adding that tigers could now be going higher up.
A tiger was camera trapped at the highest elevation of 11,154 ft in Kedarnath area in Uttarakhand in June. A tigress was also spotted in Askot Wildlife Sanctuary at an altitude of approximately 10,741 ft in March 2016.
AJT Johnsingh, one of India’s best-known conservationists said that the focus needs to shift to “reviving corridors and creating an array of links so that the tigers can move out and breed in other parts”. He warned that unless this is done “conflict is bound to happen.”
Corbett’s problem isn’t unique.
T Balachandra, conservator of forests and field director, Project Tiger, Bandipur, said, “We have almost reached a spillover point. We have to ensure there is no conflict. To avoid conflict we have increased the prey base and maintain grasslands.”
Madhya Pradesh too faces this problem in some of its reserves but as the state’s PCCF U Praksham said, there is “a lot of carrying capacity in Kanha Tiger reserve, Nauradehi Wildlife sanctuary and Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve.”
That more than balances the saturation of the big cat in Bandhavgarh and Panna.”
Rajesh Gopal, secretary general of Global Tiger Forum said inviolate spaces are absolutely crucial if tiger numbers have to be rise further in India. “We cannot expect that tiger numbers will keep increasing in India. We have reached a spillover point. We need community stewardship to prevent conflict. Communities should be involved and rewarded.”
With inputs from Shruti Tomar in MP