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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

10-year study planned to observe changes in Maharashtra’s tiger habitat

The state forest department and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have planned a 10-year study to understand the changes in the animal’s habitat in the state.

mumbai Updated: Aug 18, 2019 10:56 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times,Mumbai
The Rs 19 crore study was approved last week by the technical committee of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
The Rs 19 crore study was approved last week by the technical committee of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.(AP photo(Representational image))
         

With Maharashtra reporting a steady rise in its tiger population since 2006, the state forest department and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have planned a 10-year study to understand the changes in the animal’s habitat in the state. Titled “Long term research in the state of Maharashtra”, the study will also analyse populations of sloth bears, honey badgers and wild dogs in the state.

The Rs 19 crore study was approved last week by the technical committee of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and initial grants have been released by the Maharashtra government. “We are facing a problem of more tigers in certain pockets. It is important to know their dispersal pattern to strengthen wildlife corridors and reduce man-animal conflict over an extended time frame. The main intention is to give a boost to conservation,” said Nitin Kakodkar, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife).

The NTCA has imposed some restrictions on two of the six components of the study. “While scientists can help, only authorised forest officials will conduct studies on population estimation of tigers at each reserve,” said Anup Nayak, additional director general, NTCA. “Secondly, tigers cannot be radio-collared based on random selection at any given time. Requisite papers and permissions need to be sought from NTCA for every tiger,” he said.

While three components of the study will focus on tigers, the remaining three will study sloth bears, honey badgers and wild dogs. Work on the tiger-centric components will start this month.

The first is monitoring five tiger reserves and establishing annual tiger estimates for the next 10 years, including identification of prey base, habitat changes and sex ratio. “Continuous annual monitoring at Melghat, Bor, Pench, Tadoba-Andhari and Navegaon-Nagzira reserves will be done scientifically,” said Bilal Habib, head and scientist, department of animal ecology and conservation biology, WII.

The second component involves radio-collaring female tigers and their cubs after they turn one-and-half-years old. “We will collar tigers as they travel through different habitats, establish new territory and have their offspring because it will enable us to see changes in areas used by them,” said Habib. “This will help to take informed decisions about habitat protection and changes in the dispersal pattern.” The collaring process will be carried out over a decade.

The third component of the study will establish a four-level categorisation of tiger habitats, each with its own management strategy. The four categories are core areas with zero conflict; buffer zones with minimal human interaction; wildlife corridors with chances of conflict; and human-dominated agricultural land where conflict is high.

Nayak said addressing man-animal conflict in central India was a priority. “Multi-species research within tiger-dominated areas will also provide important information on long-term protection of wildlife corridors,” he said. Habib added the final intent is to develop a multi-species corridor, drawing upon findings from the other components. “Apart from tigers, there are other species which have not yet been studied. Species such as honey badgers do not receive due attention even though they are equally important as tigers,” said Kakodkar.

First Published: Aug 18, 2019 00:58 IST