To improve the population of tigers in some parts of India, a tiger relocation project had been rolled out among Indian states.
To improve the population of tigers in some parts of India, a tiger relocation project had been rolled out among Indian states. The project first launched in 2018, saw the inter-state translocation of a tigress- Sundari from Madhya Pradesh to Odisha where as male tiger was also brought. A report by IT noted that the tigress spent two years and four months in captivity in Odisha’s in Satkosia Tiger Reserve before she was sent back to Madhya Pradesh, indicating that the relocation project did not go as planned.
It is to note that the Tiger Relocation Project focused on increasing the tiger population of the state and for this, a male tiger (named Mahavir) was also brought from Kanha Tiger Reserve. There were two aspects for this relocation, one was to have enough tiger population in areas where the number of tigers have gone down due to various reasons and second, was to reduce tiger population in areas where the territorial disputes have increased. For this, both the tigers were brought. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) decided to have six tigers for this project at Satkosia tiger reserve for recovery of tiger population, which in 2018 was recorded at just 2. And Rs 19 crore was allocated for this project.
However, the turnout was not what NTCA predicted despite various efforts. The report said that after a few weeks of project initiation, there were severe objections by villagers living on the sidelines of the forest, which eventually turned out to be a poll-bound issue for general elections to be held in 2019. Villagers reportedly burned down forest department offices and attacked the officials due to the danger of having big cats in the neighbourhood. They felt that their lives and livestocks were endangered and alleged that their consultation was not taken in account and neither any information was given to them prior to relocation.
After a few months, Mahavir was found dead and a field inspection report claimed poaching as the cause of death. Then some reports of a woman’s death along with the killing of another person surfaced and Sundari was alleged as the cause of death. Sundari was then tranquilised in November and according to the report, was shifted to an enclosure at Raigoda. Following this, the NTCA project was suspended.
The report noted the lack of confidence as well as trust building among the villagers and the forest department was one of the major reasons for shutting of this project. Apart from this, Sundari was believed to be venturing in the habilitation of humans as an existing tigress in the forest did not allow the presence of Sundari. This could have led to the human-animal conflict.
Citing a wildlife conservationist Aditya Panda, the report highlighted that the process of translocation was done in haste where the field staff along with the tiger reserve management were not prepared. Apart from this, locals were not given the confidence regarding the project and how tiger tourism can be beneficial for all of them.