Satkosia making fresh attempts to be suited for tiger habitat

Forest dept. is relocating three villages from the core area

February 07, 2022 08:14 am | Updated 08:14 am IST - BHUBANESWAR

The tiger which was relocated from the Kanha Reserve Forest to the Satkosia Tiger reserve in Odisha. Photo: Handout

The tiger which was relocated from the Kanha Reserve Forest to the Satkosia Tiger reserve in Odisha. Photo: Handout

Fifteen years after declaration as a tiger reserve and failure of revival of big cat population through India’s first inter-State tiger relocation programme, the Satkosia Tiger Reserve (STR) in Odisha has started making efforts afresh to reestablish it as a tiger habitat.

The State and Forest department are attempting to relocate inhabitants of three villages from its core area to create 500 sq km area of inviolate zone for tigers.

“At present, the STR has about 200 sq km area, which does not have any human presence. We need to expand the inviolate zone so that the reserve becomes suitable for tigers,” said Akshaya Patnaik, Regional Chief Conservator of Forest, Angul.

Mr. Patnaik said, “We are persuading villagers of Rataranga, Asanbahal and Tulka so that they move out from the core area and make way for the tigers. The compensation is attractive and villagers will get a better life outside forest.”

There were six villages in the STR core area and one of these falls under the administrative jurisdiction of Angul Wildlife Division while rest comes under Mahanadi Division. Raiguda comprising close to 200 villagers, which was under Angul, had already been shifted out of Satkosia’s core area.

The STR was declared as tiger reserve in 2007. In 2017, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) tried to rationalise STR boundary by excluding 104 villages from its STR’s jurisdiction. The STR had 963.87 sq km where it was declared as a tiger reserve. Later, forest patches of 172 sq km were proposed to be added to the STR.

Dwindling population

During the past few years, the STR has been in news for all the wrong reasons. At the time of declaration Satkosia as a tiger reserve, it had about 12 tigers. Over the years, the big cat population dwindled. The STR is left with only one tigress. However, the lone big cat has been missing for past two months. STR field staff has been on its trail.

“We will install 400 cameras to trace footprints. Other evidences such as cattle kills are also being collected. In the past, a tiger from Satkosia had migrated to areas on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar,” said Mr. Patnaik.

To revive tiger population in the STR, India’s first inter-State tiger relocation programme was launched by way of import of a pair of tiger and tigress from Kanha Tiger Reserve and Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in 2018. But, the programme had failed primarily due to hostility of local communities and their intensive use of the tiger reserve resources for livelihoods. While the tiger died in a poacher’s trap, villagers opposed tigress’ presence after it strayed into human habitation. The tigress was finally sent back to Madhya Pradesh.

According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority, a total of 24 species of ungulates, carnivores, domestic animals, omnivores and galliformes were photo-captured in Satkosia.

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