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India Battles Challenge of Shrinking Tiger Habitat


VOICE OF AMERICA
January 16, 2015

Anjana Pasricha

NEW DELHI—A shrinking habitat for tigers is one of the biggest challenges facing conservationists in India, which has mounted the world’s biggest program to protect the big cat.  There is a  growing problem of balancing the interests of wildlife with those of villages situated in or near tiger reserves.

More than a year ago, wildlife authorities scrambled to a village located in the heart of Sariska Tiger Reserve on hearing that a tigress was prowling in its vicinity.
 
Worried that petrified villagers would target the animal, they spent many hours persuading them not to disturb the tigress, which had apparently come in search of a mate.
 
Watchful eyes

The Deputy Field Director of Sariska Reserve, Manoj Parashar, says forest guards along with villagers formed teams to keep a 24-hour vigil on the tigress.
 
He says they told the villagers that if she attacks someone, they will immediately intervene. Otherwise they urged the villagers to leave her alone. He says they agreed.
 
The tigress spent a week near the village before returning to the deep jungle - three days alone and four days with a tiger who responded to her mating call.
 
The officials were elated when months later, the same tigress gave birth to two cubs. They are the newest additions to the 13 tigers in Sariska.

Dangerous proximity

But conservationists say neither the villagers nor wildlife benefit from the proximity. Wild animals, whether deer, boar or elephants, trample the villagers’ crops or attack their cattle. For tigers and other animals, the presence of these villages means noise and movement in the midst of the forest.

Conservationist Belinda Wright, who heads the Wildlife Protection Society of India, says times have changed, even for forest dwellers.  “It is no longer a quiet little village that has a sort of very simple existence and simple life. Nowadays it is quite intrusive. People have aspirations which they did not have in the past. It is now very complex and same villagers want motorbikes and so on and it is a huge disturbance for wildlife,” she explained.


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