Why did the first inter-state tiger relocation project failed?
What was the Tiger Relocation Project?
- The tiger relocation project was initiated in 2018 wherein two big cats, a male (Mahavir) from Kanha Tiger Reserve and a female (Sundari) from Bandhavgarh from Madhya Pradesh were relocated to Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Odisha, to shore up the tiger population in the state.
- The relocation was meant to serve two purposes — reducing tiger population in areas with excess tigers to majorly reduce territorial disputes, second, to reintroduce tigers in areas where the population has considerably reduced due to various reasons.
What is the Satkosia Tiger Reserve and why was it chosen?
- Encompassing an area of 963.87 sq km, the Satkosia Tiger Reserve spreads across four districts in Odisha and has as its core area 523 sq km, its population was significantly reduced in the last decade.
- The purpose of the relocation was to repopulate tigers in the reserve areas.
What was the outcome of the project?
- The project ran into trouble within weeks of initiation. The villagers feared the big cats would endanger their livelihoods, lives and livestocks.
- They also alleged that they were not consulted or informed prior to the translocation.
- Within months of the translocation, Mahavir was found dead due to poaching. Sundari was involved in man-animal conflict killing two persons in the tribal village.
- Subsequently, the project was suspended by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
What factors contributed to the likely failure of the project?
- As per wildlife conservation activists and former forest officials from the state, the major reason which contributed to the failure of the project was the lack of confidence and trust building between the forest department and the villagers.
- While Mahavir had settled down after initial exploration of the forest area, Sundari was venturing into human habitation. This was also because the already existing female tigress in the core area did not allow the presence of another tigress and chased her away. Sundari’s proximity to human habitations which are in abundance even close to the core area in Satkosia could have led to the human-animal conflict.
- Capacity for tiger monitoring was poor. The local communities were not taken into confidence nor conveyed the benefits from tourism that tigers could bring them.
- Relocating villages should be prioritised before tiger reintroduction is continued.
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