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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Maharashtra Wildlife Board suggests removal of tigers from industrial areas

In the past five years, at least six tigers have been documented as having made CSTPS their permanent home. Tigers have been seen to be consistently present and breeding in these areas, leading to a high number of human-tiger interactions and sightings.

Written by Sanjana Bhalerao | Mumbai |
Updated: October 15, 2021 7:30:01 am
The tiger population from TATR has been spotted in the power plant areas earlier as well. However, in the past five to six years, these areas became habitat for a few due to shrinking forest covers, said experts. (File)

A 11-member technical study group constituted by the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) has recommended the removal of tigers from Western Coalfields Ltd (WCL) and Chandrapur Super Thermal Power Station (CSTPS), which five to six tigers have made their home.

“These tigers should not be released into the wild. They should be transferred into zoos or tiger safaris. Breeding of tigers should not be allowed in this zone and operation should be carried through active collaboration with CSTPS, WCL and other relevant industry authorities,” the SWBL has recommended.

In the past five years, at least six tigers have been documented as having made CSTPS their permanent home. Tigers have been seen to be consistently present and breeding in these areas, leading to a high number of human-tiger interactions and sightings.

As many as 10,000 people — employees and their families — work and reside in the power station area. CSTPS is connected to the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) through a corridor of coal mines that are thickly covered with Prosopis plant species and provide a hiding space for the tigers. The area also provides a prey base— cattle and wild boars— a thick tree cover and a nullah that suffices the basic needs of the tiger population.

Chandrapur district is home to more than 200 individual tigers, a sizeable portion of which inhabit areas outside the Protected Areas (forests) in the human-dominated landscapes in the territorial forest divisions of Bramhapuri, Chandrapur and Central Chanda.

The proximity between tigers and humans has led to Chandrapur district becoming a virtual hotspot for human-tiger conflict in the country. The 11-member committee was formed during the 15th SBWL meeting held on 7 August 2020 to suggest plans to reduce human-tiger conflict in the district.

The committee suggestions were approved in the SBWL meeting on Tuesday.

The tiger population from TATR has been spotted in the power plant areas earlier as well. However, in the past five to six years, these areas became habitat for a few due to shrinking forest covers, said experts.

The committee has also recommended the preparation of a separate wildlife management plan for Gadchiroli forests to improve the habitat for wildlife and augment prey populations. The committee noted, “Currently, naturally dispersing tigers are not able to settle in this region despite the presence of good forest cover.”

The report broadly divides the tiger bearing areas of Chandrapur district into four zones and suggests separate measures for each zone for management purposes. Zone-I includes contiguous forest patches with an area of co-existence, eco-development and wildlife management. Zone-II has been classified as degraded and smaller forest patches for safe passage for non-breeding tigers and no habitat enrichment. Zone-III includes small patches interspersed with villages where tiger density is low. Zone-IV has areas like WCL and CSTPS where tiger presence has to be discouraged.

The committee has also suggested conservation translocation on a case-by-case basis. Such as where the young tigers that disperse into small forest patches spread through villages, and where tiger density and human-tiger interactions are low but crop depredation is high, they can be translocated in the central India landscape or other tiger-worthy sites and be radio-collared.

The committee has suggested initiating the process of conservation translocation of few breeding females from fringe areas in the Chandrapur district to potential habitats. Sunil Limaye, principal conservator of forest (wildlife), confirmed that these tigers will not be translocated to Sahyadri and will be translocated only in the similar/central Indian landscape.

A total of 9,442 conflict incidents were reported from 2005 to March 2020 from the Vidarbha region. Of these, human-tiger conflict incidents made up approximately 58 per cent of the total incidents.

The incidents in Vidarbha peaked between 2015 and 2018. The total number of attacks on humans caused by tigers (232) also peaked between 2017 and 2019.

The panel has recommended increasing the compensation and said an advance part payment of Rs 25,000 should be given to the family in case of grievous injury due to the attack. The compensation in case of permanent disability should be increased to Rs 7.5 lakh and should be commensurate at 50 per cent of the human death amount. At present, it is Rs 5 lakh.

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