Atiq Khan

Uttar Pradesh steps to save the big cat come in the wake of the sharp decline in their numbers

LUCKNOW: With public pressure on the natural habibat of the tiger (“Panthera Tigris”), also known as the Royal Bengal Tiger, proving to be a big impediment in conservation of the big cat, villages located in the “critical tiger habitat”, or the core area of the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh, would be shifted in a phased manner. The re-location exercise would be funded entirely by the Union Government.

A meeting of the field directors associated with Project Tiger and the National Tiger Conservation Authority to be held in Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh on March 14 and 15 will thrash out the fresh conservation measures and re-location exercise. While Rs.600 crore has been allocated for Project Tiger in the Union Budget 2008-09, Rs.50 crore has been allotted to the Tiger Conservation Authority. The re-location of humans inhabiting the tiger’s dwindling fiefdom in the wilds of the State is expected to begin soon thereafter.

The Dudhwa Tiger Reserve comprises the Dudhwa National Park, the Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary (Lakhimpur Kheri district) and the Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary (Bahraich district), where about two dozen villages have been identified by the forest authorities. These would be shifted from the core area of the Tiger Reserve.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden of Uttar Pradesh, D.N. Sinha Suman, told The Hindu that 16 to 17 villages have been identified in the Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, three in the Kishanpur Sanctuary and one in the Dudhwa National Park.

“The exercise is aimed at declaring the core area of the reserve as a no-disturbance zone and help in the breeding of the big cat,” said Mr. Suman.

In fact, the re-location package has been made attractive by the Union Government.

According to the wildlife authorities, earlier an amount of Rs.1 lakh per family was given to the oustees; now it has been increased to Rs.10 lakh per family.

Steps to save the big cat in the State come in the wake of the sharp decline in their numbers as per the estimates worked out by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehra Dun, recently.

Since the number has been pegged at around 109 tigers, which is in sharp contrast to the estimated 273 in 2005 when the count was carried out by the State forest authorities, the latest figures have been disputed by the forest officials here.

“Camera trap” technique was used by the WII for estimating the number of tigers.