Pilibhit Tiger Reserve: 10 big cats living in sugarcane fields to be relocated

FE Online

The Uttar Pradesh forest department has given its nod to relocate at 10 big cats that have made sugarcane fields in the vicinity of the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve their home. However, authorities are awaiting final approval in this regard by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, Hindustan Times reported. The decision to relocate the tigers was made necessary to lessen the human-animal conflict as the region has witnessed several human casualties in the past.

According to data released in the parliament by the government, 49 people were killed by tigers last year which is 18 more than the number reported in the previous year. The man-animal conflict has taken a toll on the tiger population as well in equal measure with around 60 tigers getting killed since 2014, the government data showed.

Saturation of Pilibhit Tiger Reserve with an increasing population of tigers has resulted in man-animal conflicts in the area. Being a territorial species, fights among tigers are common with stronger and younger ones pushing out the older ones out of their demarcated territory.

At least 10 tigers are residing in the sugarcane fields owned by rich farmers near Deuni dam in Amaria block which is 18 km away from the Tiger Reserve, Deputy Director of the Reserve Naveen Khandelwal was quoted as saying by HT. He further said the presence of tigers in high numbers poses a big challenge to the safety of the people residing around the Tiger reserve.

The proposal was sent to relocate the tigers to a different sanctuary by the officials of the Tiger Reserve due to high population density of tigers inside the reserve. The reserve has also zeroed in on the place where the big cats might be relocated with the Sohagi Barwa wildlife sanctuary in Maharajganj district being the first choice, said H Rajamohan, Director of the Tiger Reserve.

After the final approval from the authorities, a long process will begin which may take up to two years before the tigers are left in their new home. The wildlife authorities will catch two tigers at a time as all of them cannot be caught in one go due to the space crunch, said Rajamohan. He also said that the tigers will then be kept in the Mala and Mahof forest range to make them accustomed to the conditions of their new home.

However, the decision to relocate the tigers is fraught with risks propounded by experts in the same field. Rahul Shukla, who is a former honorary warden in the Dudhwa Reserve, said that tigers who are used to living in a human settlement might find it difficult to hunt animals and might resort to killing humans which are the easiest target.

Senior Scientist at Wildlife Institute of India YV Jhala cautioned that new tigers from the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve might replace the ones who are being re-located. He added that the new ones might turn out to be more antagonistic towards humans and further endanger the lives of the people.