An additional tiger habitat has been created in the buffer area of Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserves in Chandrapur district by converting seven acres of barren land into farmland.
This land was kept free from human interference for 10 years to convert it into forest which is now visited by several animals.
The initiative was taken by two wildlife conservationists, Harshawardhan and Poonam Dhanwatey , who founded the Tiger Research and Conservation Trust (TRACT), a non-governmental organization.
Poonam Dhanwatey told TOI that they kept the land free from interference and allowed the forest to grow. “We did not allow grazing or tree felling. A small watering hole was created. All this has created an additional tiger habitat," she added.
According to the ministry of environment and forest`s ecotourism guideline, regulated ecotourism may be permitted on 20% or area larger than 500 sq km, subject to the condition that 30% of the surrounding buffer/ fringe area was restored as a wildlife habiat in five years.
Dhanwatey, referring to MoEF’s guideline, said if 30% of the buffer area was restored as wildlife habitat, an additional tiger habitat should be created by converting marginal farms to local community-owned forests.
There will be more forest space for wildlife and locals will benefit through tourism footfalls and home stays. Tourism pressure in core areas will be reduced, she added.
It could be a solution for the marginal farmers who are unable to fund the fencing of entire area and cannot prevent wild boars or others herbivores from damaging their crops,” They can grow fruit- bearing trees and forests species and allow wildlife on their land, she said.
According to her, the buffer or peripheral forests have a sustainable population of large carnivores and prey, but the threats are enormous. The man-animal conflict incidences in these areas are due to sharing of natural resources and the intrusion of locals into the forest for extraction of forest produce," she said.
In 2008, around 21 human deaths were reported due to man-tiger conflict in Tadoba Andhari Tiger tiger reserve. TRACT, and the state forest department began the corridor conservation programme. It worked for mitigating man-large carnivore conflict to an extent. It was achieved by putting more forest guards, monitoring the presences of large car-nivores and sensitizing local communities about the code of conduct in an area which is home to tigers.
Dhanwatey said that this programme was supported by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and is in its fourth year. Last year, there was only one human death in the area, Voluntary rehabilitations of the villagers from the reserve is also taken up, Of the 146 families in Kolsa village, 49 were relocated, but the remaining 97 families were still within the reserve. There were issues which were addressed and this has helped expedite the process. Now families have voluntarily relocated outside the reserve," she said.
A forest official from Tadoba- Andhari tiger reserve confirmed that incidences of man-tiger conflict have come down because of initatives taken by the department like educating and creating awareness among people. "When a grown up tiger comes to a new area, the chances of conflict increase.
We have made People aware of the precautionary steps. Forest guards area also trained," he said.