Better habitat management helps tigers thrive in Sariska

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Efforts to improve the prey base have paid off, with the reserve now numbering 25 big cats

Tiger habitat management measures initiated about six months ago in the famous Sariska Tiger Reserve in Alwar district of Rajasthan have started to bear fruit. The population of tigers in the wildlife sanctuary has increased to 25, while resources are provided to create waterholes and develop grasslands for ungulates as a prey base.

New tourist route

The forestry administration has opened a new road in the buffer zone of the tiger reserve, adjacent to the town of Alwar, for tourists to facilitate better viewing of the big cats. The new Bara-Liwari road, located in the area where a tigress recently gave birth to two cubs, will reduce pressure on the central area and increase livelihood opportunities for the rural population.

A foundation set up by a private bank began delivering goods and resources that the Forestry Department could not organize due to various disabilities. As part of its corporate social responsibility spending, the foundation is funding the development of grasslands, earthen bunds and watering holes for wild animals at 10 different locations and supporting the livelihoods of displaced villagers from the sanctuary.

The tiger reserve, which covers an area of ​​1,216 sq km, witnessed the first transfer of tigers of its kind from Ranthambore National Park by helicopter in 2008 after the felines went extinct in the sanctuary. Since then, the animal has been slow to multiply at ease, unlike Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, where a similar aerial translocation was carried out in 2009.

Help for guardians

The foundation distributed 23 motorbikes with helmets to rangers in Sariska to monitor the movement of the tigers with the promise that one new motorbike per new tiger will be donated in the future.

Tourism & Wildlife Society of India (TWSI) Honorary Secretary Harsh Vardhan, who has been visiting Sariska for four decades, saidThe Hinduthat the forest now represented an appropriate balance between prey and predator. Grassland habitats developed in patches of dry land have helped ungulates better forage and breed in areas such as Naya Pani, Dabli and Bhagani, which has improved tiger diets.

The forest administration, assisted by the foundation, created new water sources in 10 diverse habitats within the forest, where tube wells with solar pumps were dug. This will make it easier to supply water to remote areas, even in elevated areas without any diesel pump noise like in the past.

Sariska Tiger Reserve field manager RN Meena said three more areas in the core zone would be open to tourists in the near future. Re-routing has been done for visitor vehicles to occasionally stay staggered and cover inland forest regimes for better tiger viewing.

Amid efforts to relocate villages, around 1,000 families are still staying in the forest area, some of them residing in the 881 km2 core area, such as Madhopur, Indala, Kundalka and Haripura. According to forestry officials, the needs of rehabilitated villagers, includingkhatedarirights to the land allocated to them, were respected as a priority to act as a catalyst for the remaining villages to be moved out of the reserve areas.

Mr Vardhan said all wildlife issues in Sariska would become easier to address if the ecology of the forest was understood and action taken accordingly. Being the closest Tiger Project Reserve to the National Capital, Sariska holds immense potential for ecotourism with its rich wildlife and beautiful mountains, streams and lakes, as it blooms again with tigers.

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