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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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Thailand: Elephants Aid in Spreading Fruit Seeds

Based on the diets and habits of mammals, scientists found that elephants are the best allies for the Thai Annonaceae tree to spread its seeds.

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Elephants
Asian Elephants are the major seed dispersers for the p. macrocarpa. Pixabay

Massive fruit trees in the Thailand evergreen forest need Elephants to help spread their seeds, according to a new study.

Based on the diets and habits of mammals, scientists found that elephants are the best allies for the Thai Annonaceae tree to spread its seeds.

In the diverse environment of Khao Yai National Park, there is a complex set of relationships between the plants and animals. Not every species of fruiting tree is an attractive meal to all herbivores. A team of researchers, led by Kim McConkey from the University of Nottingham, set out to study one particular tree, the Platymitra macrocarpa from the family of custard apple trees.

The p. macrocarpa produces 3-to-5-inch fruit that are ripe from May through August. McConkey tracked how often animals visited the trees and ate the fruit, including elephants, bears, monkeys, gibbons and Sambar deer. They measured the animals’ fruit consumption as well as the ensuing seed dispersal and seed viability.

Researchers found the seeds in the dung of some species while others like the Sambar deer regurgitated the large seeds. When asked about tracking animal poop, McConkey admitted, “I’ve got two boys so they just love what I do.”

As expected, the Asian elephants were the major seed dispersers for the p. macrocarpa. Elephants aren’t often seen in the area of the trees McConkey studied, but as she told VOA, “I thought if I’m going to see them feed on any fruit, it’s going to be this one.” Her hunch was borne out in the data, with elephants consuming only 3 percent of the fruit but producing 37 percent of the viable seedlings.

Elephants
The p. macrocarpa produces 3-to-5-inch fruit that are ripe from May through August. VOA

These findings regarding the Asian elephants point to the important role they play in the ecosystem. Jedediah Brodie, chair of conservation in the Wildlife Biology Program at the University of Montana, told VOA that “overhunting in the tropics often drives large animals locally extinct but leaves smaller species like rodents. And this study shows that those smaller animals just are not able to replicate the ecological role of the larger species.”

When looking at the performance of other species, the researchers were surprised by how effective Sambar deer were at dispersing seeds. “Sambar deer generally have quite a bad rap in these forests,” McConkey said. “People think they’re seed predators, but it turns out they actually do disperse a lot of seeds.” While the Sambar deer weren’t quite as effective seed dispersers as gibbons (21 percent), they still produced a respectable 17 percent.

Bruchid beetles were the primary challenge to producing viable seedlings. The beetles, which are known to infest all kinds of seeds and beans, spoiled most of the seeds left exposed on the forest floor. Unlike the regurgitated seeds of the sambar deer, the seeds went through the elephants’ digestive system and were covered by excrement. The seeds were protected from beetles and provided with an effective, natural fertilizer and were able to survive and grow into seedlings.

It is easy to think of animals adapting to their environment through evolution and behavioral change, but we rarely consider the same relationship in the opposite direction. The massive Platymitra macrocarpa has perhaps evolved to provide fruit that appeals to more than one frugivore.

Also Read-Breaking the Law? Sri Lanka Cracks Down on Owners of Elephants taken from Wild

As McConkey told VOA, “The husk of the fruit — it’s like the outer covering of the fruit — has become very thick, and it’s that outer covering that deer eat. But if you open up the fruit, each seed is covered by this juicy, soft pulp, and it’s that that the monkeys and gibbons like.” She thinks that this might be a case where the tree evolved to appeal to multiple animal species to increase the chance of spreading viable seeds.

Despite the variety of animals eating the seeds, elephants are still the tree’s best chance of producing viable seedlings. When asked what might happen if elephants were to disappear from the region, Brodie responded, “That’s the million-dollar question.” (VOA)