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Panna’s challenge: From zero tigers to too many now

Tigers are not only venturing out of the core area into buffer zone but in some cases travelling much farther.

Written by Milind Ghatwai | Bhopal |
Updated: November 26, 2019 4:30:05 am
Tigers are not only venturing out of the core area into buffer zone but in some cases travelling much farther. From a place devoid of any big cat, the PTR, located in the backward Bundelkhand region, is now tackling a problem of plenty.

The recent litter of new cubs at the Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Madhya Pradesh caps the remarkable turnaround in a place that was left with no big cats a decade ago forcing authorities to undertake a reintroduction programme, considered perhaps the best model of conservation in the last decade in the world.

From a place devoid of any big cat, the PTR, located in the backward Bundelkhand region, is now tackling a problem of plenty. Tigers are not only venturing out of the core area into buffer zone but in some cases travelling much farther.

A tiger spotted in Hamirpur in Uttar Pradesh on November 22 is believed to have been from the PTR but forest authorities are waiting for confirmation before making any official claim unlike their UP counterparts, who insist it could have only been from PTR.

Spread over 576 sq kms in Panna and Chhatarpur districts, the current population of big cats in PTR has reached 55 with the arrival of the latest litter. Before it, the reintroduced tigers and their progeny have littered 35 times. In all seven big cats, including two males, were reintroduced from other reserves.

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Forest officials had taken a long time to admit that Panna had lost all its tigers before making a public admission in early 2009. In March 2009, two tigresses were relocated from Bandhavgarh and Kanha but there was no male.

A decision to reintroduce big cats from other reserves was then taken and a formal reintroduction programme was formulated with technical inputs from the Wildlife Institute of India in August 2009. T3, a male tiger shifted from Pench on December 6, had ventured out of the PTR towards the south and was tranquilised and brought back on December 25.

Then park director R S Murthy recalled that successful monitoring, increased security and timely managerial interventions resulted in the first ever litter of four cubs from T1 on April 16, 2010.

Explained

MP tops tiger count, but loses habitat

The tiger estimation report released in July pegged the total number in the country at 2,967, with the highest in Madhya Pradesh (526). However, another report released on the same day showed that at least half of 50 reserves in the country face threats from infrastructure. MP is the second largest state in India in terms of forest area which is constantly shrinking. The state lost 17,781.588 acres of Very Dense Forest and Moderately Dense Forest in last four years, according to the report.

“It’s a success story of tigers and people. It won’t be proper to call it problem of plenty because tigers are venturing into landscape, they are not going into villages. The same landscape had many poachers but they have given up illegal activity. People who were against tigers and the park now want to save the reserve,” said Murthy, now additional PCCF and Member-Secretary of MP Biodiversity Board.

If a senior park official, who has been there since before the reintroduction programme was launched, is to be believed, many more tigers have dispersed from PTR over the last few years.There have been 10 mortalities so far but all due to natural causes.

Confirming the arrival of the latest cubs, Field Director K S Bhadoriya admitted that tigers from the park are going outside protected areas and it is a challenge. Panna-based activist Rajesh Dixit said the reintroduction programme has overall been a success not only because of the increased tiger count but also the tourist footfall.

The successful reintroduction in PTR prompted forest authorities to try it in other reserves.

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