Monday, March 21, 2011

Rajaji tiger count tops 32, no thanks to Van Gujjars

March 22, 2011 7:35:07
Paritosh Kimothi Dehradun

The number of tigers in Rajaji National Park (RNP) has risen to over 32 but biotic pressure, especially from the population of Van Gujjars living in the national park, is damaging environment in the protected area, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wild-Life Warden Shrikant Chandola said here on Monday.

Speaking at a meeting on the occasion of World Forestry Day, Chandola said 32 tigers had been counted in the park though their population is believed to be around 40. The national park has one of the richest sambhar populations in India, which is favourable for tigers.

But Van Gujjars living in the park are disturbing peace in the area, Chandola said.

Eight tiger deaths have been recorded in the State since April 1, 2010, of which one tiger was shot after being marked a ‘man-eater’. The other deaths were due to natural causes. However, referring to the man killed by a tiger in Corbett National Park on March 11, the CWLW said it was not a man-eater and that the death, though unfortunate, occurred because “the man was in the tiger’s area and hence an easy prey”.

Since Van Gujjars occupy the best lands and utilise water inside Rajaji, it has a negative impact on wildlife, Chandola said. He added that though the Van Gujjars in the past were sensitive towards environment and wildlife, their presence in the park was now associated with the rise in poaching.

Grazing by domestic animals has also led to the spread of lantana throughout the park and, for ensuring the success of conservation efforts, it is essential to relocate humans outside the national park, Chandola said. Moreover, developing the forests of Lansdowne division as a dedicated wildlife corridor is vital for ensuring genetic diversity and allowing free movement of animals between Corbett and Rajaji.

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