With more tigers now, government decides to redistribute big cat

Calls for conservation of tigers outside tiger reserves as well

By Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava
Published: Thursday 19 March 2015


Since the official estimates that established a 30 per cent increase in the wild tiger population were released in January, many conservationists have repeatedly raised concerns over government’s capacity to manage the increased number of tigers.

With the increase in number of tigers in past four years in India, the tiger density in some of the reserves has surpassed their carrying capacity. Therefore, a good number of tigers have either dispersed or are reported to be living outside the reserves, often coming into conflicts with people or becoming easy targets for the poachers

The government so far did not have a strategy to look beyond the tiger reserves and manage the big cats at a landscape level. But now, with an aim to address this problem, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has come up with a set of guidelines to rehabilitate the tigers that are “dispersing” from the densely populated source forests and bring them to suitable forests with low or no tiger density. On March 18, the NTCA released a “Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for rehabilitation of tigers from source areas at the landscape level” and presented it to the Chief Wildlife Wardens of the tiger-range states and field directors of the tiger reserves. The SOP identifies the population clusters with surplus tigers across the country and suggests areas where they can be relocated. The process for relocation has also been mentioned.  

What guidelines say
“With the increase in number of tigers in India, there will be several areas where dispersing tigers will move via human-dominated landscapes and at times result in human-tiger conflict… Often, the main reason for the dispersal of tigers is the high density of the source population. It is important to relocate such tigers to areas of low tiger density (or no tigers but have recorded tiger presence in the historical range), which have good habitat and prey populations. However, care needs to be taken to ensure that such relocations are done within population clusters that share a recent common gene pool,” say the guidelines. Based on the current genetic knowledge of tiger populations and the corridor connectivity, the NTCA has identified population with surplus tigers and the areas where tigers can be relocated (See table: Sources and Destination). 

Deviating from the previous strategies of focusing conservation measures entirely on the tiger reserves, the NTCA for the first time has stressed on conservation of tigers at the landscape level by identifying potential tiger habitats for relocating tigers outside the tiger reserves as well. For managing the tiger populations outside tiger reserves and protected areas (wildlife sanctuaries and national parks), the territorial forest department would be held responsible as per the NTCA guidelines. The guidelines also prescribe boosting of prey population, restoration of habitat and ensuring protection measures at the sites of relocation.

"We will take actions on rehabilitation of tigers only after assessing the situation on case-to-case basis for dispersals and conflicts as they come to fore. However, we hope this approach will go a long way in securing the future of tiger populations by suitably re-distributing the tigers as per their densities, genetic and corridor connectivity,” says B S Bonal, member secretary of NTCA.  

Sources and destinations
Shivalik Hills and Gangetic Plains  

High-density source populations: Corbett Tiger Reserve, Dudhwa National Park, Kishenpur Wildlife Sanctuary, Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary and Pilibhit Tiger Reserve

Potential sites for relocation: Forest ranges in the west of Rajaji National Park which include Dholkhand, Kansrao, Haridwar, Motichur, Ramgarh and Chillawali forests

Central Indian Landscape

High-density source populations: Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

Potential sites for relocation: Kailadevi Wildlife Canctuary, Kuno Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary and Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve

High-density source populations: Kanha Tiger Reserve, Pench Tiger Reserve, Tadoba-Andheri Tiger Reserve and Bandhavgarh tiger Reserve

Potential sites for relocation: Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve, Guru Ghasidas National Park, Achanakmarg Tiger Reserve, Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve, Kawal Tiger Reserve, Indravati Tiger Reserve, Palamau Tiger Reserve Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary and the forests of Khandwa, Dewas, Harda, Betul and Burhanpur

Eastern Ghats Landscape

High-density source populations: Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve 

Potential sites for relocation: Sri Lankamalleswara Wildlife Sanctuary, Sri Penusila Narasimha Wildlife Sanctuary, Sri Venkateswara National Park and the forests of Srisailam, Siddavatam, Kurnool, Prakasham and Cuddapah

Western Ghats Landscape

High-density source populations: Bandipur, Nagarhole and BRT tiger reserves

Potential sites for relocation: Bhadra, Dandeli-Anshi and Sahyadri tiger reserves and the protected areas of Goa

North-East Landscape
High-density source populations: Kaziranga and Orang tiger reserves 

Potential sites for relocation: Manas, Dampa and Buxa tiger reserves, Gorumara National Park, Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary and the forests of Karbi Anglong Hills


Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :
Related Stories

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.