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Man-tiger conflict in KNP fringe areas on the rise

By Sivasish Thakur

GUWAHATI, March 1 � At a time when the tiger is finding itself on a slippery ground due to unabated poaching, a palpable man-tiger conflict in the fringe areas of Kaziranga National Park could bode further ill for the future of the big cat.

Cattle-lifting by tigers of Kaziranga has been a nagging problem in the border villages, and there have been at least a couple of confirmed cases of retaliatory poisoning by the affected locals in the past few years. There have also been a few suspected but unconfirmed cases of poisoning during the period. Forest officials and conservationists believe that unless urgent interventions are made, the situation could worsen for the tiger.

According to data with WWF-India, the one-year period from April 2008 to March 2009 saw as many as 171 cases of cattle lifting by tigers � a very high incidence. Worryingly, the trend has persisted during the period from April 2009 till January this year, with the number of cattle-lifting standing at 130.

PJ Bora of WWF-India, which has been engaged in a programme on mitigating the growing man-tiger conflict in Kaziranga says, �Any increase in hostilities between the tiger and the fringe-dwellers could spell doom for the animal. Payment of timely compensation to the affected people is a must to reduce the hostilities even as we need to look into the reasons behind the tiger�s growing preference for domestic animals. Thankfully, the awareness levels of the fringe villagers have increased, but for which the retaliatory killings would have been much higher,� he says.

Bora revealed that the WWF-India had paid a total of Rs 3 lakh as interim relief to villagers who had lost their cattle or goat to tigers during the period from April 2008 till March 2009. The interim relief is paid at the rate of Rs 2,500 for a big cattle, Rs 1,000 for a small animal, and Rs 500 for a goat and Rs 1,000 for a pig.

The thickly-populated human settlements with large cattle populations located on the boundaries of the national park have borne the brunt of the tiger attacks on animals. The situation is said to be serious in about 10-15 villages each in the Kohora and Agoratoli ranges, besides some areas of bordering Karbi Anglong. Some riverine areas along the northern boundary of the park are also facing the problem.

Forest sources sought to attribute the preying on domestic animals by tigers to the availability of a large cattle population on the immediate fringes of the park. �A tiger hardly needs to exert itself to go for a domestic animal which is far from the case when it attacks a wild animal, say a deer,� a Forest official said, adding that apparently a few tigers might have developed a taste for cattle.

Bora said that recently there have been some cases of attacks on cattle by sub-adult tigers. �In several such incidents, the tigers were unable to kill their prey,� he said.

Firoz Ahmed of the conservation group Aaranyak, while terming the situation as serious, was of the view that the possible links of poachers or smugglers in wildlife body part trade with poisoning cases needed to be investigated into. �Poachers and smugglers are known to use the situation to their advantage in times of any man-animal conflict. Since there have been cases of poisoning of tigers in Kaziranga, such aspects must be looked into,� he said.

Ahmed also underscored the need for holding regular meetings with the villagers for greater understanding of the situation by the parties concerned. �We do hold such meetings with fringe inhabitants, as it can go a long way in enhancing awareness levels and can be a deterrent to activities inimical to the park�s precious fauna,� he said.

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Man-tiger conflict in KNP fringe areas on the rise

GUWAHATI, March 1 � At a time when the tiger is finding itself on a slippery ground due to unabated poaching, a palpable man-tiger conflict in the fringe areas of Kaziranga National Park could bode further ill for the future of the big cat.

Cattle-lifting by tigers of Kaziranga has been a nagging problem in the border villages, and there have been at least a couple of confirmed cases of retaliatory poisoning by the affected locals in the past few years. There have also been a few suspected but unconfirmed cases of poisoning during the period. Forest officials and conservationists believe that unless urgent interventions are made, the situation could worsen for the tiger.

According to data with WWF-India, the one-year period from April 2008 to March 2009 saw as many as 171 cases of cattle lifting by tigers � a very high incidence. Worryingly, the trend has persisted during the period from April 2009 till January this year, with the number of cattle-lifting standing at 130.

PJ Bora of WWF-India, which has been engaged in a programme on mitigating the growing man-tiger conflict in Kaziranga says, �Any increase in hostilities between the tiger and the fringe-dwellers could spell doom for the animal. Payment of timely compensation to the affected people is a must to reduce the hostilities even as we need to look into the reasons behind the tiger�s growing preference for domestic animals. Thankfully, the awareness levels of the fringe villagers have increased, but for which the retaliatory killings would have been much higher,� he says.

Bora revealed that the WWF-India had paid a total of Rs 3 lakh as interim relief to villagers who had lost their cattle or goat to tigers during the period from April 2008 till March 2009. The interim relief is paid at the rate of Rs 2,500 for a big cattle, Rs 1,000 for a small animal, and Rs 500 for a goat and Rs 1,000 for a pig.

The thickly-populated human settlements with large cattle populations located on the boundaries of the national park have borne the brunt of the tiger attacks on animals. The situation is said to be serious in about 10-15 villages each in the Kohora and Agoratoli ranges, besides some areas of bordering Karbi Anglong. Some riverine areas along the northern boundary of the park are also facing the problem.

Forest sources sought to attribute the preying on domestic animals by tigers to the availability of a large cattle population on the immediate fringes of the park. �A tiger hardly needs to exert itself to go for a domestic animal which is far from the case when it attacks a wild animal, say a deer,� a Forest official said, adding that apparently a few tigers might have developed a taste for cattle.

Bora said that recently there have been some cases of attacks on cattle by sub-adult tigers. �In several such incidents, the tigers were unable to kill their prey,� he said.

Firoz Ahmed of the conservation group Aaranyak, while terming the situation as serious, was of the view that the possible links of poachers or smugglers in wildlife body part trade with poisoning cases needed to be investigated into. �Poachers and smugglers are known to use the situation to their advantage in times of any man-animal conflict. Since there have been cases of poisoning of tigers in Kaziranga, such aspects must be looked into,� he said.

Ahmed also underscored the need for holding regular meetings with the villagers for greater understanding of the situation by the parties concerned. �We do hold such meetings with fringe inhabitants, as it can go a long way in enhancing awareness levels and can be a deterrent to activities inimical to the park�s precious fauna,� he said.