‘Travel shows how important tiger corridors are’Updated: Jan 04, 2020 03:11 IST
Despite increasing development across fragment forests, farmlands, open areas etc. outside protected forests, these habitats are still conducive for movement of big cats in the central Indian landscape, said Dr Rajesh Gopal, secretary-general of the Global Tiger Forum and former member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority in an interview with Hindustan Times on T1C1’s journey. While confirming that this was, in fact, the longest recorded movement of a tiger anywhere in the country, he said it is critical to protect areas the tiger traversed through.
Are long journeys common for all tigers?
Tigers do move long distances, especially the male ones. It is natural for them. The social dynamics of these animals show that they are metapopulational species, which means there is a source area (protected forest area – where overall births exceed deaths) and a sink area (fragmented patches outside forests – where overall deaths exceed births). Dominant tigers existing in one forest patch will not allow another tiger to take over the territory. Once the tiger is old, other tigers move into those patches. Innately, the males have a tendency to take the longer journey traversing through a number of habitats to find this territory.
Do tigresses also walk as much as males?
Tigresses, on the other hand, have more site fidelity, and they are found in adjoining habitats closer to their mothers. This phenomenon is called philopatry. Even males have site fidelity but they take longer travels to ensure in-breeding does not take place.
T1C1’s moved across 1,700 km over 190 days. Do you think it was quite fast to have covered this journey in a short time?
T1C1 is looking for a viable area where it can live, eat, and mate. If it does not find these, the animal will move again. The frequency of this movement is fast because this is a totally wild animal, and not conditioned to human scent or biotic disturbances. Thus, in his attempt to find new territory, he avoids these factors that he does not understand. Also, if he doesn’t find the scent of another female (for mating), he will move away again.
What are the causes for males to move out of habitat they are born in?
There could be multiple causes such as lack of space, more competition with other dominant males for food, shelter or even a mate. It could also be that a more dominant tiger is occupying the region and it is difficult to take over.
Do you think T1C1 has established his habitat finally at Dnyanganga Sanctuary?
There are three types of habitats that a tiger comes across. The first are areas where tigers can only move which does not provide shelter or food. The second is an area where they can move, and maybe stay for a day or so and get some food. The last is the proper habitat where they can not only eat and rest but also breed. T1C1 must have encountered all these three areas but it seems that the Dnyanganga Wildlife Sanctuary qualifies as the third category where it came back for the second time. However, we can never say for sure if T1C1 has established his habitat there as it depends on a lot of factors that must satisfy the tiger.
What does this mean for tiger and habitat conservation?
This entire episode of the tiger’s movement demonstrates for the public, society at large, and wildlife managers that how important these pathways and wildlife corridors are. They must be protected. We must also remember how important land-use practices in India are relevant to the movement of free-ranging wild animals. The tiger is relevant for ecosystem services in the current context of climate change and acts as an indicator species to understand the status of a particular habitat.