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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

Maharashtra’s largest tiger population area likely to witness increased human-animal conflicts: Report

. There are over 200 tigers inside and outside the protected areas in eastern Vidarbha, which has a forest cover of 22,508sqkm,

mumbai Updated: Apr 15, 2019 16:33 IST
Forest officials attach radio collar to a tiger in Vidarbha.
Forest officials attach radio collar to a tiger in Vidarbha. (HT Photo )
         

The Eastern Vidarbha Landscape (EVL), home to Maharashtra’s largest tiger population, is likely to witness a rise in human-animal conflicts outside its protected areas, according to the findings of a six-year-long study conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun.

The study has also, in a first in India, validated the existing tiger corridors between Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), Brahmapuri, Umred Karhandla, and Navegaon-Nagzira, which will help put in place protection measures.

Protected areas are wildlife sanctuaries or park or bioreserves, which see around-the-clock movement of tigers, according to the study. There are over 200 tigers inside and outside the protected areas in eastern Vidarbha, which has a forest cover of 22,508sqkm, about 37% of the total geographical area. Human population in EVL is 1.45 crore. The total tiger population in Maharashtra is in the range of 235 to 240, states the forest department.

According to the study, tigers outside the protected areas were moving at night for an average of eight hours in search of new territory, mostly occupied by humans. “The distance is almost double than that inside protected forests, which means they are walking faster,” said Bilal Habib, scientist from WII who led the study. “Ecologically, this means the requirement of food is much more as the energy required is 20% higher outside protected areas. Also, the prey base is low. This means, there is a higher potential for conflict outside these areas.”

Vidarbha recently saw reports of tigress T1 or Avni killing 13 people, forcing the state to hunt her down. Last year, Maharashtra also topped the tally of human mortalities owing to tiger attacks (45%) in India for the fourth consecutive year. “National highways, state highways, district roads and village roads dissect the EVL, leading to its fragmentation, which has created 517 new patches outside protected areas spread across 246 sqkm,” said Habib.

To identify the corridors as part of the study, WII, with help from the Maharashtra forest department, radio-collared 18 sub-adult tigers since 2013, after the union environment ministry sanctioned radio-collaring of 22 tigers to study their dispersal and habitat. “Before this, we presumed that these corridors might be used by tigers, but this is the first impression where corridors have been validated successfully. Despite road, railway and infrastructure project networks, tigers continue to use these corridors, which will help us reduce untoward incidents,” said Habib.

“This year, four tigers have been radio-collared, two in Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary and two in Brahmapuri. Overall, we are left with four tigers – three in Tadoba and one in Brahmapuri to study their movement,” said Girish Vashishth, divisional forest officer (advisory), Nagpur in-charge of the project with WII, adding that a final report is expected by mid-2020, based on the findings of the movement of the remaining radio-collared tigers.

“The results of this study are crucial for tiger conservation outside protected areas as all existing and proposed linear infrastructure projects are being examined from the point of view of validated corridors and controlling possible conflict cases. Whatever proposals will come for clearance, mitigation measures will be identified based on suggestions of this study,” said Nitin Kakodkar, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife), Maharashtra forest department. “Tiger corridors validated by WII were identified prior to 2014 by wildlife poachers. They used to monitor these zones and take out dispersing tigers,” said Nitin Desai, director (central India), Wildlife Protection Society of India.

First Published: Apr 15, 2019 16:32 IST

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