When villagers volunteer to manage stray tigers
Feb 06 2013
The document ensures that the straying tigers are handled in the most appropriate manner so as to avoid and minimise casualty or injury to human beings, tigers, cattle and property. Such SOPs are good for the system and would avoid negligence for the rescue of tiger-like important species.
Usually situations in this field are more complicated and gruesome. Park managers, at times, have to act beyond the prescribed SOPs. Sometimes it is also possible that funds, managerial limitations and other conditions do not permit the ground force to adhere to the SOPs.
Many of the tigers’ stray-prone areas have very hard boundaries, where on one side, there is a high density of human population, while on the other side, there is high density of wildlife. Everyday in such areas, few tigers move outside the forests during the night. Some of them even go upto 2-3 kilometres away from the park. This is a very natural phenomena and such movement is not new. You may find tigers that are not residing in the outside area during the day, but such a situation changes when they kill a large prey and do not come back to the park. These tigers become victims most of the times. The curious crowd surrounds such animals and the trouble starts.
Another thing that has changed over the past decade is that in most of the human dominated landscape, common land like pastoral land or non-cultivation land and wastelands among others, have disappeared from out landscape. These were the areas where the tiger sized animal could hide himself. All these areas have converted into agriculture lands and the remaining pasture land is used by many livestock. These small areas were providing them good cover, but are now encroached for agriculture use. This is the reality of our country and we have to manage our tigers residing alongside high density of human beings.
Filed director of Ranthambhore, YK Sahu planned a very interesting methodology to manage straying tigers. He recruited some 20 villagers in various villages around Ranthambhore to help forest rangers when a tiger would move outside.
These villagers are known as ‘village wildlife watchers’ are mainly farmers who get some remuneration from the eco-development committee or local NGOs for helping the forest department in such situations. These people are getting some basic informal training from forest guards about installing camera traps, using GPS and making POP pugmark cast to track tigers when they are outside protected areas. They are not only monitoring tigers, but also talking to their fellow villagers to help the forest department.
The village wildlife watcher is now, a village based forest representative who is contacted by the villagers first and he acts like a buffer between forest and villagers. Immobilising and rescuing a stray tiger is not a big issue if villagers support the forest department.
Sahu emphasises that natural return of a tiger is always good and in this process, a simple village level wildlife advocate can play a very significant role than a scientific rescue team.
(The writer is a conservation biologist at Tiger Watch, Ranthambore)