I was asked to prepare a “Tiger Agenda” for the states of Jharkhand and Chattisgarh a couple of months back. I submitted it, but unfortunately even after roughly 3 months I don't really know what happened regarding the report because while I did read the agenda for some other Tiger-States, I didn't come across one for Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.However I decided that I won’t let history keep on repeating itself and at least I will be doing all that I can in my personal capacity to bring these neglected yet high-potential Tiger Habitats back to the fore. So I’m reproducing the “Tiger Agenda” that I prepared for the state of Jharkhand here (and for Chattisgarh in the next post):
TIGER AGENDA : JHARKHAND
Jharkhand is a state with 29% forest cover, a state where the first ever Tiger census was conducted in 1932(in forests of Palamau which recorded 55-60 tigers in just 297.8 sq.kms), a state which was among the first to be included in Project Tiger. However, inspite of such a rich history, the fauna of this state is among the least documented and most neglected in the country. The result has been that inspite of a good forest cover, almost all the fauna of the state has been wiped out and the flagship species i.e. the TIGER WILL BECOME EXTINCT IN A MATTER OF 5-6 YEARS WITHOUT REMEDIAL MEASURES. Following remedial measures have to be taken for ensuring long-term survival of Tigers in Jharkhand:
1.) The Palamau Tiger Reserve (PTR) holds the only viable population of Tigers in the state with about 7-9 individuals at most, while a few stragglers (5-6) do show up in some other forests connected to Palamau. So, to ensure long term survival of Tigers here, all the conservation efforts have to be concerted towards Palamau.
2.) Unlike in other parts of the country, Resettlement of Villages in Jharkhand is almost impossible owing to the insurgency that depends on these villages. So, it’s imperative to involve local Tribals of these areas into conservation by providing them with livelihood opportunities through eco-tourism in the park.
3.) Moreover, owing to the fact that Naxal control most of the reserve, it’s necessary to have a dialogue with them because no scheme/plans can be implemented on the ground without their consent. This has been achieved earlier; in the period of 1993-97 Naxals actively cooperated with the department and even nabbed poachers who were then handed over to the department.
4.) Posting to Palamau has been seen as a punishment posting owing to the huge Naxal presence; so ground staff is highly de-motivated due to the lax attitude of their seniors. So it’s necessary to immediately post competent and dedicated officers at the Director and Deputy Director Level (especially those who have delivered good results while working in Naxal dominated areas of the state).
5.) Due to the Naxal insurgency, arms cannot be provided to the forest guards as this will bring them in direct conflict with the extremists and further deteriorate the situation. So the department has to win that goodwill back which it once had in mid 90’s among the locals and create a strong information network to prevent poaching as well as nab the culprits.
6.) Palamau has the one of the highest staff vacancies among any Tiger reserves with as many as 71 posts out of the 107 posts lying vacant and the average age of staff somewhere around 55. The vacancies must be filled immediately preferably with local people to create goodwill as well as tap their vast knowledge of the area.
7.) Immediately regulate/halt the mega mining industries as well as small-scale illegal mining operations that are destroying critical corridors that connect Palamau with other forested area such as Hazaribagh(a transitory Tiger showed up here in 2006 after the healthy resident population of this Wildlife Sanctuary was wiped out in 1994) and Chatra (Tiger sightings reported) .
8.) Out of the 1026 sq.km PTR, only 226.32 sq.km has been notified as a National Park (Betla National Park--The whole National Park just has a single Male Tiger) The remaining forest area is notified as Palamau Wildlife Sanctuary under section 18 of WLP Act of 1972. The process of final notification is pending. It should be completed immediately.
9.) The once healthy herbivore population of Palamau has been all but wiped out outside the Betla National Park in the last decade. So, there is an immediate need to increase the prey base of the reserve by better protection and effective management of grasslands that have been severely degraded over the last decade.
VANISHING PUGMARKS: The Pugmarks of the "Lone Male" of Betla.