Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, located at the junction of the Aravalli and Vindhya hill ranges in Rajasthan, is a region of unparalleled scenic beauty and rich forests that are home to seven species of wild cats along with numerous mammals, birds and reptiles. Once the private hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur, Ranthambhore first made history in 1973 when it was declared amongst the first nine Tiger Reserves in India under the Project Tiger. This laid the ground for conservation activities in a region that first witnessed a sharp decline in tiger population due to hunting and continues to face threats such as unregulated grazing in forest areas, expansion of agriculture fields along the forest periphery, unlicensed mining for sand and boulders, existing linear infrastructure and poaching. .
Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve spreads across roughly 1,411 sq km and is home to at least 40 tigers. It is connected to four other Protected Areas through degraded and fragmented forests and collectively, this forest network spans more than 30,000 sq km in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh . These forests are prime tiger habitat however, due to disturbed connectivity between them, tigers are largely restricted withinthe boundary of Ranthambhore and unable to disperse safely into larger territories.
With this in view, the WITL team of WWF-India have been closely working with the Rajasthan Forest Department and local communities in five villages which lie between Ranthambore National Park and Kailadevi Wildlife Sanctuary. The WITL team aims to ensure the long term survival of tigers in this region by developing connectivity between forests to facilitate distribution of the species across a larger habitat by . improving forest protection and managementpractices by building the capacity of the Forest Department and providinginfrastructure support, monitoring dispersing tigers to ensure they move safely into new territory as well as engaging local communities to reduce forest dependence and support tiger conservation .
A first ever comprehensive assessment was undertaken to identify the training requirements and gaps in infrastructure needs ofthe frontline staff of all six Protected Areas adjoining Ranthambhore National Park. More than 220 forest guards from Madhav National Park, Ramgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, BhesronGarh Wildlife Sanctuary and Mukandara Hills Tiger Reserve have been trained on legal aspects pertaining to wildlife laws and enforcement. Further, equipment and supplies such as water filters, borewells andwinter jackets were distributed in forest camps situated inside Ranthambhore and adjoining forests, collectively benefitting more than 600 forest guards. Trainings ensure forest guards are up-to-date on knowledge about wildlife laws, patrolling and forest management techniques and infrastructure support contributes to improving living conditions, mobility and efficiency.
The primary focus of conservation activities in this region is to ensure connectivity between Ranthambhore and surrounding Protected Areas to facilitate dispersal of tiger populations across larger habitats. WWF-India field teams regularly monitor the movement of dispersing tigers using camera traps to identify routes used by them to move between forests and subsequently work with the Forest Department to improve protection along these routes. So far, six tigers have safely dispersed out of Ranthambhore in search of new territory.
Heavily populated villages located on the periphery of Ranthambhore pose a challenge, tigers dispersing out of Ranthambore often pass through human habitations sometimes leading to conflict, also the dependence of the villagers on the forests for fuelwood, fodder, grazing and other forest produce leads not only to forest and habitat degradation in some areas but also a tension fraught relation between the forest staff and local communities. The support of local communities is essential for conservation efforts to succeed.WWF India engages local villages in a range of activities from training some villagers in monitoring of tiger movement, setting up camera traps and informing forest department and WWF India personnel of wildlife presence and movement in corridor areas.
More than 2000 locals from 13 villagesliving around Ranthambhore, Ramgarh and Kailadevi forests have been made aware of the need for tiger conservation through education programmes such as film screening, street shows and regular interaction. Alternate livelihood opportunities such as handicraft production have been initiated and members of aWomen Self Help Group are being trained with the assistance of a partner organization working on handicrafts in the region.Youth are being enrolled in Skill Development Programmes which help secure jobs in close by towns and cities.Of the50 youth that have been trained, 90% of them have are now successfully employed.
The area is in a water stressed region and seven rainwater harvesting structureshavebeen set up to improve water supply in four villages. Energy efficient stoves have been provided in order to reduce the amount of fuelwood used and thus harvested from the forest areas. The stoves have been developed on the lines of the energy efficient stoves designed by Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI),Pune. So far, 30 chulhas have been provided in the villages.
Crop raiding by wild herbivores is commonplace in the forest fringe villages, introducing and encouraging cultivation of crops such as onions has not only helped farmers reduce crop raiding but also earn a higher price from the cash crop, around 100 farmers have been assisted in the cultivation on onions so far.
Significant progress has been made in mitigating the threats to tigers in Ranthambhore. With improved protection in the forests and increased community support, tigers are gradually finding their way out of Ranthambhore and claiming new territories, on their way towards a safe and secure future.
For more information, please contact:
Western India Tiger Landscape, WWF-India
Programme Fund Raising, WWF-India
(This project is supported by corporate partner Oracle and other network donors.)