After four years, Mukundra reserve awaits its first tiger
The reserve was formed to cater to the spillover tiger population from Ranthambore National Park.jaipur Updated: May 22, 2017 19:00 IST
Four years after its creation, the Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve (MHTR), still awaits relocation of tigers.
Ranthambore National Park (RTR) in Swai Madhopur and Sariska Tiger Reserve (STR) in Alwar were the only two reserves in Rajasthan when in 2013 the state government announced a third tiger reserve — the Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve.
The reserve was formed to cater to the spillover tiger population from RTR, which at present is reported to be around 65 tigers.
Tapeshwar Singh Bhati, president of the Mukundra Hills Environment and Wildlife Society, Kota, said, “It’s been four years since MHTR was declared a tiger reserve but the state wildlife department’s efforts to facilitate tiger relocation is going on at snail’s pace.”
The main reason behind the delay in getting the big cats is the pace of relocation of villages from MHTR. So far only one village, Kharli Baori, has been shifted out of MHTR while another village, Lakshmipura, has been partially relocated in 2016. However, 12 more villages, inside MHTR, needs to be relocated.
“Villagers are living inside the forest for several decades, but now they are ready to move out provided the government increases their compensation from ₹10 lakh to ₹20 lakh per adult of a family. Also, they should be given four times the price of the land as compensation according to the land acquisition act,” said Nandlal Meghwal, Sarpanch of Girdharpura village.
Janki Das, a resident of Girdharpura village, said, “There are no facilities in the villages like road and drinking water supply, so villagers want to shift out but compensation should be justified.”
When asked about compensation, deputy conservator of forest (DCF), MHTR, Seduram Yadav said that a revised proposal for increasing compensation has been sent to the state government.
However, former DCF of STR and Ex Indian Forest Services (IFS) officer, Sunayan Sharma, who was posted in Sariska during tiger relocation in 2008, is of the opinion that although villagers’ relocation from MHTR is desired to avoid human-animal conflict, but tigers can be relocated even without waiting for the relocation of the villages.
“There were a total 27 villages inside Sariska when a tiger was relocated in 2008. It still has around 26 villages. The tiger population has grown from two to 14 in Sariska. So tigers can also be relocated,” said Sharma.
Sharma, who recently visited MHTR, said that certain pockets have insufficient prey base and need augmentation. But several pockets have adequate prey base where tigers can be released.
Deputy conservator of forest, MHTR, SR Yadav said that the prey base for tigers is adequate but there is scope for improvement. The wildlife department has brought 131 spotted deer from other areas and released them into MHTR in last few months. “There are around 100 sambhar, 400 spotted deer and large numbers of bluebulls and wild boars in MHTR,” he said.
At present, the reserve is home to panthers, sloth bear, cheetal, sambhar, bluebulls, chinkara, wild boars, langurs, monkeys, jackal, fox and other animals.
Speaking about the progress of infrastructural works at MHTR in the last four years, Yadav said that a lot of work has taken place.
The state wildlife department has sent the Tiger Conservation Plan (TCP) to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in 2106, whose approval is awaited.
Meanwhile, chief wildlife warden of Rajasthan, GV Reddy said that establishment of the tiger reserve and relocation of the big cats is not a target-oriented process and requires human dynamics. “Development of infrastructure, shifting of prey base and villages, selection of tigers for release and other related works take time,” he said.
“Once the state government decides on the relocation package, the relocation work can attain pace,” said Reddy.
However, Reddy said that relocation package is not a hurdle for shifting villages.
“The state wildlife department is planning to relocate a tiger to MHTR either by December 2017 or January 2018,” he said.
Conversationalists like Bhati and Sharma also point out the need for political will for expediting the tiger relocation process.