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Monday, October 22, 2012

3 more tigers for Sariska but safety still a big concern

MONDAY, 22 OCTOBER 2012 00:58 PNS | NEW DELHI After the success of relocated tigress delivering two cubs, the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan is also planning translocation of three more tigers by the end of the year, but conservationists and wildlife experts are apprehensive about the safety of the big cats there. The relocation of three tigers will take their numbers of big cats to 10 in the reserve. However, experts feel that the safety situation is more or less same as it was in 2005 when the reserve lost all its tigers due to poaching. The experts pointed out, there are still 28 villages existing in the critical habitat area of the reserve. Further, large number of pilgrims and vehicles regularly enter through the core area of the reserve to reach the ancient Hanuman temple at Pandupole, every Tuesday and Saturday when there is free entry. Shortly after Sariska declared to have lost all its tigers, in February 2005 the Government had constituted the State Empowered Committee on forests and wildlife management (SEC). The committee had come out with a number of suggestions to prevent the recurrence of similar incident in future. The report clearly stated, “In Sariska, all the reasons responsible for the disappearance of tigers in toto zero in on one single factor which is that large number of villages exist inside the reserve. No successful rehabilitation of these villages has ever taken place. Therefore, poachers could take shelter here and kill tigers.” Apart from concerns on the biotic pressure from human, they also pointed to the accompanying problem of grazing of cattle living in the villages situated within the reserve and on the periphery. They had recommended reduction of these existing disturbances and a time-bound relocation of villages. “Most of these recommendations are yet to be followed,” pointed out Dharmendra Khandal, conservation biologist from Tiger Watch. Let alone the issue of relocation, the Forest department has done little to reduce the influx of pilgrims to the ancient Hanuman temple at Pandupole every week. Further, nearly 8 kms of a State Highway also passes through the core area of the reserve, he pointed out. Though the Forest department has tried to reduce the number of vehicles passing through the reserve but lot more needs to be done, he felt. Field Director Sariska, RS Shekhawat admitted that relocation was the single biggest challenge. “This is a voluntary process and we have formed a relocation cell deputing full time officer to look into the issue,” he pointed out. Recently, we have been able to vacate the Umri village and have relocated nearly 90 per cent of Dabli and Rautkela villages. Two more villages are to be expected to be evacuated within the next two months, he pointed out, for which funds worth `50 crore from National Tiger Conservation Authority. Efforts are also on to introduce shuttle buses to regulate the inflow of pilgrims and check the entry of vehicles to the Pandupole temple , for which again funds from the Centre are awaited, informed the Field Director.

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