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The race is on: Tiger vs Man in the forests of India

Locals being axed of their ancestral lands to safeguard a tiger habitat

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Tiger vs Man in the forests of India, credits-pixabay
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Bhubaneshwar, Feb 27, 2017: In the Similipal forests, man and tiger co-exist in huge numbers. The race is now on to see which animal will win supremacy on their ‘home’.

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The indigenous villages are ripped off their rights fighting against the tigers with more clout.

Sanghamitra Dubey, an activist with an informal Indian advocacy group for forestry rights asked, “Why are indigenous people being asked outright to leave without even attempting to explore reasonable options of coexistence with wildlife?”, mentioned a report on Similipal forests by Thompson Reuters Foundation.

Dubey further highlighted the stripping of the ancestral lands of the people to protect the shrinking number of tigers and how it led to the extinction of the traditional ways of life, like the old rope plaiting technique.

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Nearly half the estimated 3200 tigers of the world are found in India, in dozens of different reserves built since the 1970s.

The tiger has more cloat than the human, Source: Pixabay

Wildlife tourism serves as a growing money maker for the country. However, conservationists continue to debate if the tourists encroach their habitat or help protect the species.

The relocation process:-

Notice: last November, to protect the Tiger habitat in the forests, hundreds of families from about 44 different villages were asked to relocate.

Anup Kumar Nayak, a senior forest officer in Bhubaneswar said, “relocations are voluntary but a number of villages around Similipal were in the ‘core’ habitat zone or so close they were “as good as inside it” and would need to move. Only the Buffer zone is for human-animal coexistence.”

Only months ago had the villagers acquired rights to the 25000 hectares of woodland area.

The Forest Rights Act of 2006 permits Tribal Households to harvest and utilize the forest resources for maintenance of their ancestral lands.

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One-off Settlement: A visit by the Park Officials was reported by the villagers in November, offering them a one-off payment to evacuate their homes and lands to clear the forest lands under human activity.

Tribandha Barja, a villager reported that most of the people refused the offer. “(They told us) take one million rupees keep it in the bank and live better with the bank interest,” Barja said.

Dubey also commented that 50 families from a neighboring village were also targeted though it was nowhere near the core zone.

As per official figures, about 2750 square kilometers of dense forests are covered by tigers reserves including bio-diverse land and adjoining forest which is used as a corridor by other animals.

According to the report by Thompson Reuters Foundation, 10,000 people are estimated to live within the park including the buffer zone by the Authorities. Also, half a million people are estimated to live in 1,200 villages within a 10km radius around the park.

The 10 year tiger conservation plan of Odisha highlights that 800 to 1000 square kilometer area is required by 80 to 100 tigers.

As pointed out by Nayak, this serves as the reason behind the relocation.

However, only 26 Royal Bengal Tigers were found by the official Odisha government in the Similipal reserve last year.

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The End of the rope plaiting : In the core of the park, in the Jamuna Garh Village, only 3 out of approximately 35 families have stayed back and decided to continue to use their land. The others chose to relocate, accepting the compensation.

One of the holdouts, Telanga Hasa said, “neighboring families had been paid one million rupees via bank deposit in September 2015 – of which 30,000 rupees was paid in cash.”

“All are still waiting to be allocated the two acres of farmland they were promised.”
“Now they have no forests, no farm land and no livelihood …how can they live with dignity?” Hasa also said that 25 families in the hillside village in Bakua had also stayed back.

The villagers are unable to access the sacred creeper ‘siali’ from which the rope os plaited. This rope, very strong, is highly demanded by farmers.

Presently, the locals have been forced to purchase plastic potato sacks for rupees three per sack for the purpose of plaiting ropes out of them. These ropes are then sold for a petty gain.

 

-By Nikita Saraf of NewsGram, Twitter: @niki_saraf

 

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Rescue Efforts For Wild Puerto Rican Parrot In Motion

Scientists also are now collecting new data on the number of predators at El Yunque, including el guaraguao, a red-tailed hawk that hunts Puerto Rico parrots.

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Puerto Rican Parrot
A Puerto Rican parrot eats inside one of the flight cages in the Iguaca Aviary at El Yunque, Puerto Rico, where the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service runs a parrot recovery program in collaboration with the Forest Service and the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, VOA

Biologists are trying to save the last of the endangered Puerto Rican parrots after more than half the population of the bright green birds with turquoise-tipped wings disappeared when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and destroyed their habitat and food sources.

In the tropical forest of El Yunque, only two of the 56 wild birds that once lived there survived the Category 4 storm that pummeled the U.S. territory in September 2017. Meanwhile, only 4 of 31 wild birds in a forest in the western town of Maricao survived, along with 75 out of 134 wild parrots living in the Rio Abajo forest in the central mountains of Puerto Rico, scientists said.

And while several dozen new parrots have been born in captivity and in the wild since Maria, the species is still in danger, according to scientists.

 

Puerto Rican Parrots
Parrot eating a fruit. Flickr

 

“We have a lot of work to do,” said Gustavo Olivieri, parrot recovery program coordinator for Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources.

Federal and local scientists will meet next month to debate how best to revive a species that numbered more than 1 million in the 1800s but dwindled to 13 birds during the 1970s after decades of forest clearing.

The U.S. and Puerto Rican governments launched a program in 1972 that eventually led to the creation of three breeding centers. Just weeks before Maria hit, scientists reported 56 wild birds at El Yunque, the highest since the program was launched.

But the population decline is now especially worrisome because the parrots that vanished from El Yunque were some of the last remaining wild ones, said Marisel Lopez, who oversees the parrot recovery program at El Yunque for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Puerto Rican Parrot
These two Puerto Rican parrots were photographed at the aviary in El Yunque National Forrest after Hurricane Maria. Flickr

“It was devastating. After so many years of having worked on this project…,” she stopped talking and sighed.

The Puerto Rican Amazon is Puerto Rico’s only remaining native parrot and is one of roughly 30 species of Amazon parrots found in the Americas. The red-foreheaded birds grow to nearly a foot in length, are known for their secrecy and usually mate for life, reproducing once a year.

More than 460 birds remain captive at the breeding centers in El Yunque and Rio Abajo forests, but scientists have not released any of them since Hurricane Maria. A third breeding center in a forest in the western rural town of Maricao has not operated since the storm. Scientists are now trying to determine the best way to prepare the parrots for release since there are such few birds in the wild they can interact with, and whether Puerto Rico’s damaged forests can sustain them.

One proposal scientists

Puerto Rican Parrot
When in flight, some of the PR Parrots show their beautiful blue primary feathers. Flickr

Scientists are tentatively planning to release 20 birds next year in Rio Abajo.

Another proposal is to release more parrots in Maricao, which was not as heavily damaged by Maria.

“Our priority now is not reproduction. … it’s to start releasing them,” Lopez said, adding that breeding centers can hold only so many parrots.

But first, scientists need to make sure the forests can offer food and safe shelter.

Jessica Ilse, a forest biologist at el Yunque for the U.S. Forest Service, said scientists are collecting data about the amount of fruit falling from trees and the number of leaves shed. She said the canopy still has not grown back since Maria and warned that invasive species have taken root since more sunlight now shines through. Ilse said that many of the large trees where parrots used to nest are now gone and noted that it took 14 months for El Yunque’s canopy to close after Hurricane Hugo hit Puerto Rico in 1989 as a Category 3 storm.

Puerto Rican Parrot
Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program. Flickr

Scientists also are now collecting new data on the number of predators at El Yunque, including el guaraguao, a red-tailed hawk that hunts Puerto Rico parrots. Without a canopy and proper camouflage, wild parrots have become an easy target.

Ilse said local and federal scientists plan to help the forest recover through planting. By the end of November, they expect to have a map detailing the most damaged areas in El Yunque and a list of tree species they can plant that are more resistant to hurricanes.

Also Read: India To Release 8 Endangered White-Backed Vultures In The Wild

“People keep asking us, ‘How long is it going to take?'” Ilse said.

But scientists don’t know, she added.

“The damage is more extensive than [hurricanes] Hugo and Georges. … It’s been a complete change to the ecosystem.” (VOA)