Fable of Rajasthan: Concatenating the charismatic felines through a natural corridor

Harboring the tenth-largest tiger population in the country, Rajasthan is home to more than a hundred majestic cats. The colourful state is all set to witness the inception of a tiger corridor, linking three of its crucial tiger reserves other than Sariska. These include Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in the northeast, Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve in the south, and the newly upgraded Ramgarh Vishdhari Tiger Reserve in between the two. 

Upon receiving a green signal from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on 5th July 2021 sanctioned the conversion of the Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary into the state’s fourth tiger reserve. 

For the uninitiated, tiger reserves in India were set up first in 1973, governed by Project Tiger, one of the substantial conservation initiatives in the world. Under this project, the government takes care of the forests where the national animal lives. These forests are called tiger reserves, administrated by NTCA.

Source – Indian Express

The amelioration of Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary is worth noting for its new status as a tiger reserve has made the possibility of a tiger corridor concrete in the state – although, it does not necessarily signify that all tiger reserves have to be already either a sanctuary or a national park in order to be one. They may also exist as original tiger reserves when created for theconservation and protection of big cats in the first place.

The Rajasthan government had first announced in 2020 its plan to develop the Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary as a tiger reserve so as to allocate additional habitat to Ranthambore tigers, enhance the ecosystem, and boost tourism in the state budget. Established in 1982, the said sanctuary is also known to have been a breeding place for striped cats. Time and again, tigers were spotted spilling out from Ranthambore to Ramgarh. 

According to a 1985 census, nine tigers resided in Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary with at least three big cats having strayed from Ranthambore to Ramgarh since 2013. It exhibits that the tigers have been migrating there naturally and regularly advanced through the region from the direction of Ranthambore.

Source – Times of India

Stretching across the district of Bundi, the Ramgarh Vishdhari Tiger Reserve is bifurcated into two zones. The 302 sq. km stretch (out of 1071 sq. km) is declared critical tiger habitat with rest into a buffer zone. This new reserve that witnesses recurrent venturing of tigers from Ranthambore will formally open for tourists once the government places a translocation plan for tigers. Alongside, eight villages are also required to be transferred and relocated elsewhere. With each adult tiger needing at least 20 sq. km of territory, Ramgarh Vishdhari can house thirty-five tigers at most.

It is for the past three decades that Rajasthan has been striving to develop a corridor for facilitating free movement of tigers around Ranthambore and Sariska, with the aim to aid the magnificent species move naturally beyond the existing reserved spaces and look for new territories. Thus, the development of the Ramgarh Vishdhari as the 52nd Indian Tiger Reserve shall now allow the connectivity of the entire belt from Ranthambore in Sawai Madhopur to Ramgarh in Bundi and Mukundra Hills in Kota. 

Ergo a tiger corridor constituting a vast stretch of land, linking the three tiger habitats, allowing the movement of tigers, prey, and other wildlife, would be put in place. It is indeed a vital and much-needed step because sans corridors, tiger habitat becomes fragmented and tiger population isolated and dwindled, leading to localized extinction of the enigmatic species.

In wildlife parlance, corridors are essentially of two types: Functional and Structural. Our focus here is on functional corridors, defined in terms of functionality from the reference of an animal. Putting simply, functional corridors are the areas where movement of wildlife, spilling out from another region is recorded regularly.

In the wake of the growing feline population and infights in Ranthambore, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in a meeting of the State Wildlife Board directed the officials on 16th July 2021 to form an expert panel to suggest effectual strategies for transposing the tigers. The esteemed panel was to propound the ‘hows’ of shifting the increasing number of tigers to other sanctuary areas and devising ways to effectively develop Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve and the newly upgraded tiger reserve in Bundi.

Source – India Today

Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary has been acting as an adjoining bulwark or buffer zone for Ranthambore Tiger Reserve for long. This proposed functional corridor shall assist in resolving the explosive population of tigers at Ranthambore tiger reserve, currently housing over 79 tigers, including 28 cubs and sub-adults living in an approximate area of 1,334 square kilometres. 

It makes for the third most congested habitat of felines in India after Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand and Kaziranga National Park in Assam. On the other hand, the Mukundra reserve is home to just one of these charismatic mammals. Therefore, to strike a balance in the population distribution of tigers, a tiger corridor is the way forward to stabilize the same imbalance.

Rajasthan’s chief wildlife warden ML Meena said that the population of big cats at the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve has been multiplying, and thereby they need more space. Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary, a natural habitat of tigers before its incorporation as a sanctuary, shall now help resolve the dire issue of space crunch to these territorial animals by virtue of its upgradation. He further added, “To strengthen the prey base, the state had already approved shifting of chital (spotted deer) from Ghana Bird Sanctuary (Karauli) to Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve, Keoladeo National Park, and Ramgarh Vishdhari.”

Due to inadequate area for movement, human disturbance, and sparse prey; tiger-human or man-animal conflicts and territorial fights in and around Ranthambore have been witnessing a rise. Jostling for space, the young and feeble beasts leave Ranthambore and attack human beings and cattle to reclaim their lost abode. 

Since the past decade, the magnificent species has killed at least fourteen individuals compared to two in the thirty years preceding it. More tract given to Ranthambore tigers is likely to bring down such unnecessary human killings, prevent resentment among locals against them and mitigate revenge killing of the royal species.

Thus, tigers there undeniably need extra expanse, preferably through a safe corridor, with lesser need for translocation, which has its own sets of primary and secondary shortfalls. Just like man, tigers too have a personality and their own individual streak. Inhabiting the Indian wilderness, this exotic species is the epitome of ultimate power and represents all other genera and living organisms in the woody domain. 

Being at the apex of the food chain, the existence of tigers ensures equilibrium of the Indian forest ecosystem and helps strike a balance. Hence, being in close proximity to Ranthambore, Ramgarh Vishdhari Tiger Reserve is an apt choice for tigers seeking out new territory, alongside ensuring inconsequential fragmentation of tiger habitat and equitable growth of tiger population.

Written by- Aakriti Sanghi

Edited by- Mallika Rahane

The post Fable of Rajasthan: Concatenating the charismatic felines through a natural corridor appeared first on The Economic Transcript.

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