The Pilibhit Tiger Rescue Centre promises to curb man-beast conflict
To check the increasing conflict between the majestic predators – tigers – and the human beings, the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has decided to set-up the state’s first Tiger Rescue Centre at Pilibhit Tiger Reserve.
As many as half a dozen people were mauled by a tiger and a leopard in the past year in Pilibhit, Lakhimpur Kheri and Bahraich districts. About a dozen cases of the attacks were reported in the last four months alone.
Spread over an area of 703 kms in three districts, one of the major problems in areas falling under Pilibhit Tiger Reserve is that there are patches which are only 3 to 5 km in width. “They provide easy access and route to leopards and tigers to enter human habitat in search of food,” said S.K. Upadhyaya, Chief Wildlife Conservator.
It has been noticed that villages in the close vicinity of these small-width patches are more prone to attacks from the big cats than the others. “Majority of attacks took place in these villages in the area,” Upadhyaya pointed out.
Since it is a sugarcane belt, the wild beast finds it easy to attack and disappear in large sugarcane fields making it difficult for the forest officials to lay trap for catching them. Recently, forest officials returned empty handed when they laid a trap for over a month to catch a wild leopard, which killed two persons.
Villagers living in close vicinity of Pilibhit Tiger Reserve have horrifying tales to share about their encounters with the wild beasts. “We were sleeping outside when a tiger attacked us. Before we could understand anything, the tiger took away my brother’s son. His remnants were later found in the jungle,” said Shailendra Singh, a farmer.
A fear psychosis has prevailed among villagers after spurt in incidence of predator attacks. “We have stopped sleeping outside. After sunset, an eerie silence prevails in majority of our villages. Despite so many complaints, the forest department has failed to protect our lives,” said Lakhvinder.
The chief wildlife conservator said that the work on solar fencing in an area of about 100 kms has already begin but it will not be that effective since the beast can jump over the fence easily and, moreover, solar fencing will not be effective at night when they enter human habitat.
“Taking into account the uneven geographical boundaries of the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve, Tiger Rescue Centre is the only effective solution to check predators entering human habitat,” claimed the chief wildlife conservator.
Work on the Detailed Project Report (DPR) has already begun but since it will take time, the state government has already sanctioned Rs 3.5 crore to start work on setting up the Tiger Rescue Centre at the earliest.
The state government has also sought permission from the Supreme Court and the Central Zoo Authority to develop the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve into a Tiger Safari but since approval is yet to come it has decided to set up rescue centre in an area of 10 hectares to prevent man-beast clashes.
The Tiger Rescue Centre will have all facilities to keep 15-20 tigers at a time. It will have a team of wildlife experts, a panel of doctors, guards armed with tranquilliser guns, a mini hospital, rest houses, canteen, sheds for keeping tigers etc.
“The main aim of this rescue centre would be to catch tigers and leopards before they enter villages and keep them at the centre for sometime before setting them free in Tiger Reserve again,” said Upadhyaya.
It will also act as rehabilitation centre where tigers would be kept under continuous watch of wildlife experts to study their behavioural changes and make them acclimatize to their natural life in the wild.
There were about 28 tigers in the forest when Pilibhit Tiger Reserve came into existence in 2008. Now the number has increased to well over 50. “We can increase their population further once the rescue centre is set up,” he said.
A study conducted by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) claims that Pilibhit Tiger Reserve is one of the most suitable eco-system for ecological and behavioural adaptations of tigers in the country. It has a great potential of increasing the population of endangered Bengal Tiger due to its bio-diversity.
It is home to over 127 animals and 326 bird species, including majestic Bengal Tigers, leopards, Bengal Florican, red jungle fowl, hornbill, pea fowl, black francolin, drongo, spotted owl jungle babbler, Indian vulture etc. It has a large prey base consisting of swamp deer, cheetah, spotted deer, hog deer, sloth bear, wild boar, blue bull etc to support food for carnivores.
“The Terai eco-system and bio-diversity in the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve is the most suited natural surrounding for the growth in the population of endangered Bengal Tigers. With little extra effort, we can further increase the number of the majestic animal.
The rescue centre is one such major step in this direction,” added Upadhyaya. After losing Corbett Tiger Reserve to Uttarakhand, the state government has always been keen in promoting Pilibhit Tiger Reserve due to its huge potential of natural eco-system, marshy grasslands, water bodies, open space and adequate availability of food for Bengal Tigers and leopards.
Plans are afoot to increase the boundaries of the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve by including new areas of Khuta ranges of Shahjahanpur, Kishenpur Sanctuary and Pilibhit district to provide more space for free movement of the predators and other animals.
“We are very happy at the news of Forest department’s decision to set up Tiger Rescue Centre. We hope that it will safeguard the lives of villagers as well as predators entering our areas and attacking us,” said Ram Naresh, one of whose relatives was recently attacked by a leopard. Naresh pointed that there were occasions when angry villagers killed leopards and critically wounded tigers when they attacked them. Will the Tiger Rescue Centre end human-beast conflict in Pilibhit Tiger Reserve and help increase their population, only time will tell. But forest department officials, who are finding it difficult to check increasing number of incidence of human-beast conflicts in the area, hope that the rescue centre will act as a strong wall to curb predators entering villages.
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