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Tiger translocation to Sahyadri Reserve

  • Context (IE): Maharastra is gearing up for the translocation of a few tigers from the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Chandrapur to Sahyadri, the lone tiger reserve in the state’s western region.
  • It is part of a long-term plan to revive the big cat population in the northern Western Ghats forests.
  • It serves as a tiger corridor connecting tiger populations in Sahyadri Reserve, Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary, Amboli Reserve forest in Maharastra, Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa and Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary and Kali Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, according to the government’s All India Tiger Estimation report, 2023.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) cleared the translocation plan in 2023, and final approval from the Union Environment Ministry is awaited.
  • In the initial phase, a male tiger or a pair of male and female tigers would be translocated. The later phase involves the translocation of eight tigers from the Pench Tiger Reserve landscape.
  • It will be a soft release, which involves monitoring tiger in an enclosure before releasing it into habitat.
  • Tranquilisation of tiger for translocation is permitted under Section 12 of the Wildlife Protection Act.

Section 12 of the Wildlife Act 1972

  • It allows tranquillisation for:
    1. Education, scientific research & scientific management, including translocation to an alternative suitable habitat and population management without killing or poisoning any wild animals;
    2. Collection of specimens for recognised zoos or museums and similar institutions;
    3. Derivation, collection or preparation of snake venom for the manufacture of life-saving drugs.
    4. Prior permission for translocation is required from the Central Government for Schedule I animals and from the State Government for any other wild animal.
  • The STR forest department has already completed phase I, which involves preparing the habitat for the big cats’ reintroduction, augmenting prey, improving forest protection, and building a temporary enclosure for their soft release.

Why is Maharashtra planning to translocate tigers to STR?

  • The tiger population in the region has been historically low due to poaching, poor prey base, and changing habitat. Even after the STR was notified, the number of tigers did not increase as breeding tigers did not colonise the reserve.
  • The population can increase through the inflow of tigers from the forests with the strengthening of the wildlife corridor. However, the spike in tiger numbers can take years. As a result, the translocation of tigers has been opted for short-term outcomes.

Is translocation the best approach for tiger recovery?

  • Tiger translocation projects have been undertaken in India since 2008. Sariska Tiger Reserve, in 2008, & Panna Tiger Reserve, in 2009, have witnessed successful tiger reintroduction and translocation projects.
  • However, there have been many failures and shelving of reintroduction plans, for e.g. in Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Odisha, which was the country’s first inter-state translocation project. Thus, translocation initiatives have been a mixed bag so far, and they should not be considered a last resort.
  • Poor management of community apprehensions was a key reason for the translocation project’s failure. For e.g. the protests over tiger reintroduction from Kanha in 2018 over perceived impact on humans.

Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (STR)

Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (STR) - PMF IAS

  • Location: Sahyadri Ranges of Western Ghats in Maharashtra.
  • These ranges form a common boundary between Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa and comprise rich evergreen, semi-evergreen and moist deciduous forests.
  • Sahyadri’s habitat consists of woodlands, grasslands, and a plateau, the latter of which is locally referred to as “Sadaa” and is lateritic in nature.
  • Flora: Fodder species such as karvi, bamboo, kumbal, fruit species such as Zizyphus rugosa, Ficus racemosa, Sideroxylon tomentasa, Ficus arnottiana, Acacia concinna, Terminalia chebula, Terminalia bellerica, Vangueria spinosa, Emblica officinalis, Carissa conjestaare.
  • Fauna: Wild dog, Leopard, Gaur, Sambar, Four Horned Antelope, Mouse Deer, Giant Squirrel, Indian long-billed Vulture, endemic Hornbills, Indian River Tern, Blue finned Mahasheer fish in Koyna River.
  • STR is one of only five tiger reserves in the country with no tiger population.
  • The other four tiger reserves with no tiger population are Kaval (Telangana), Kamlang (Arunachal Pradesh), Dampa (Mizoram) and Satkosia (Odisha).
  • STR straddles Kolhapur, Satara, Sangli and Ratnagiri districts in western Maharashtra.
  • It was notified in 2010 by amalgamating the Chandoli National Park and Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary.

Role of Wildlife Corridors in Conservation

  • In 2014-15, the National Tiger Conservation Authority and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) mapped 32 major tiger corridors in the country across four broad tiger landscapes – Shivalik Hills and Gangetic plains, Central India and Eastern Ghats, Western Ghats, and the North East Hills.
  • Corridors are essentially habitats and pathways that connect wildlife populations, which are fragmented by human settlements and infrastructure works.
  • They are crucial for the long-term survival of wildlife as they help guard against localised extinctions and ensure the exchange of gene flow, which helps in population diversity.

Sahyadri-Konkan Corridor / Sahyadri-Radhanagari-Goa-Karnataka corridor

  • Nestled in the north central Western Ghats, it runs nearly parallel to the Western coast of India and spans across Maharashtra, Goa, and Karnataka.
  • The corridor connects the source population area in Kali Tiger Reserve in Karnataka to the forests in Goa’s hinterland, which in turn provides tigers connectivity to Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary, conservation reserves in Sindhudurg district and Sahyadri Tiger Reserve.

Sahyadri-Konkan Corridor / Sahyadri-Radhanagari-Goa-Karnataka corridor - PMF IAS

Credits: Coalition for Wildlife Corridors

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