On a tiger’s trail

Posted on
11 December 2014


Among the many engaging activities available to wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists, perhaps the most exciting opportunity is to be able to experience one’s surroundings through the eyes of an animal. This unique perspective makes one look at one’s natural surroundings anew. WWF-India organized a seven-day walk between the Kanha and Pench Tiger Reserves to provide nature enthusiasts with such an experience. The walk was designed to show people the formidable challenges a tiger faces in trying topass along this critical corridor in search of   habitat.

One of the goals of the programme was to alertnational and global conservation communities on the need tosecure  threatened tiger habitats and the shrinking wildlife corridors. Thiswalk was conceived following the previously successful corridor walk between the Kanha and Achanakmar Tiger Reserves in 2013. Itsintentwastobuild  socio political will among various stakeholders, also to gain insight into the rich biodiversity of the region and ensure a harmonious coexistence between wildlife and humans. Besides, the walk also attempted to enhance these nature lovers’ understanding of wildlife conservation in a human-dominated landscape and commit themselves to protect the integrity of wildlife corridors such as these.

Wildlife corridors are of vital importance to conservation becausethey provide a linkage between Protected  Areas (PAs) and serve as a means to connect smaller tiger populations to larger source populations. In the absence of these corridors, source tiger populations are at a risk of extinction due to external factors such as poaching, and biological factors such as loss in genetic vigour due to in-breeding .

The 16,000kmcorridor in the Kanha-Pench region is one such important linkage in the country. This corridor is essential to maintain a viable population of tigers in this region and facilitate tiger dispersal between the Kanha and the Pench Tiger Reserves. Furthermore, the corridor serves as a refuge for tigers and several endangered plants and numerous mammals such as wild dogs, sloth bear, leopard, hyena, jackal and sambar among others. 

Challenges faced by tigers

A tiger passing through a corridor is vulnerable to  many  threats present in non-Protected Areas. When tigers stray into human settlements in search of prey and kill livestock, it often leads to retaliatory killings of tigers by hostile villagers. Electrocution, poaching and deaths due to road and rail traffic are some of the other threats tigers face.Development projects such as the  widening of railway lines, construction of new roads and the expansion of existing ones in these regions further exacerbate the problem.

On the move

The participants of  this mesmerizing seven-day walk witnessed several large carnivores, deer and other wildlife on the course of their journey. Several awareness events were conducted en-route which saw the participation of over 1500 villagers as they discussed  important conservation issues.

This 200 km, seven-day walk out of which 130 kms was on foot beganin Kanha on23 November 2014 following a formal flag-off by the field director and concluded on 29 November at Rukhad near Pench. The trail covered diverse forest types and several perennial rivers.

The walk was inaugurated in Khapa village by Dr Chittaranjan Dave (Landscape Coordinator, WWF-SML Programme)along with Field Director, Kanha National ParkLodge association of Kanha and the ceremony commenced with acultural programmeperformed by the children of a local middle school. Each day, the participants walked for approximately 18km. They were guided by forest department, several government and WWF-India officials who helped indicate numerous points of interest along the journey including notable plant and animal life. The participants also passed through numerous villages including Khapa, Ghana, Tatighat, Kakranjpar among several others.To cover maximum distance of this vast corridor 70 kms transport were arranged on day 1 and 2  tothe halt location to participate in awareness building activities and entertainment programmes, and to rest for the night. Some of the awareness building activities included presentations on advanced and agriculture and animal husbandry methods. Additionally, participants also interacted with small tribal communities located deep within the densely forested regions of the corridor and helped to spread the message of conservation. This interface also allowed the participants to gain an insight into the socio-political issues concerning land use and forest land rights in these regions.

These interactions received  an overwhelming response from the local communities who were grateful to WWF-India and other organizers for drawing attention to their region’s problems, and  engaging  them on how to achieve theirlong-term conservation goals and in turn serve their interests better.

There are several misconceptions concerning relocation in local communities. The forests and wildlife must be cared for as we do with our own homes,” said Dr C.Dave (Landscape Coordinator,WWF-India, SML)

Programmes such as this jungle walk are vital for  building awareness and garnering support towards the long-term conservation of tiger corridors which are suffering due to mounting human encroachment.We should remember that the health of these corridors isof prime importance to the overarching goal of tiger conservation.

For further information:
Senior Project Officer
Community-based Conservation, SML
WWF-India, Madhya Pradesh
E: souravpaharis@gmail.com
T:(+91-11) 9424692299


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