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The price of a tiger (Sep)

 
Business Standard, New Delhi, 29th  Sep 2013
 
Last month, the Maharashtra government completely evacuated Navegaon village, which is on the edge of the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve forest. Some 200 families were voluntarily relocated to land outside the reserve area. The evacuation freed 175 hectares and the fening has been realigned to include this land within the protected zone. This has eliminated conflicts between villagers and the local big cats, which lifted livestock. 
 
Tigers, solitary apex predators, need large hunting ranges. Forest Department officials hope that the local tiger population, which is currently at 43, could grow as the extra space will make it easier for a larger population of adult tigers to mark out personal territories.
 
Navegaon is the latest of 38 villages, in and around protected areas in Maharashtra, where such relocation have been carried out. The state has spent 280 crore in the past nine years, moving 2,000 families out of four reserves and freeing up 1,875 hectares.
 
It intends to spend 900 crore or so, relocating another 55 villages of the edges of similar zones, in Sariska, another reserve in Rajasthan, the state government has experimented with a similar plan, shifting out the 85 residents of Umri village, It intends to scale up and relocate the populations of another 11 villages from Sariska Reserve, which occupies about 885 square km. A habitat the size of Sariska can sustain a population of 80 odd tigers, along with the appropriate proportion of prey and smaller predators. In 2002, Sariska had 16 tigers and the local population was driven to extinction by poaching. The reserve had since been restocked and has a current population of five tigers. Once the reserve is freed from human habitation and hopefully, better anti poaching measures is implemented, it is hoped the tiger population will recover. 
 
The concept of voluntary relocation of forest populations is relatively news. it is an interesting attempt to reverse habitat encroachment, reducing tree-cutting and animal-human conflicts, since those are major issue hindering the preservation of wild life and maintenance of the ecosystem in sanctuary areas. The result indicate that forest cover regenerates quickly and wildlife seems to recover to sustainable levels in the relatively short time. The core funding comes from the National Tiger Conservation Authority, which offers a compensation package of 10 lakh per married couple, plus another 10 lakh for each of their adult unmarried children. State governments do have a chip in with funding. They also have perform the delicate task of negotiating with locals, and find suitable land where they can shift. 
 
There are just about 1,700 tigers left in India`s forest and along with other animals, they are endangered by continuous human encroachment.