In a first, the Maharashtra government will undertake a long-term comprehensive study about tiger dispersal and its ecological aspects, first time with radio telemetry, in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) landscape.
The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) will partner with the state forest department in the Rs 1.6-crore study partly funded by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). A pact between the three agencies is likely to be signed in December first week, according to WII scientist Bilal Habib, who will head the project.
“The project’s initial phase will span the next 10 years and it will provide baseline data from about 3,000 sq km of TATR landscape that includes various contiguous protected areas such as Nagzira, Navegaon, Chaprala and Umred-Karandla about not just tigers but all co-predators and prey species and dynamics of their relationships and co-existence. It will generate a huge pool of information about tiger dispersal, occupancy, the threshold of disturbance that causes conflict, corridors. It will also give a perspective about how and why the dispersal happens,” Habib told The Indian Express.
This is the first time in central India that long-term study has been planned. Wildlife biologist Ulhas Karanth has done it in south India without radio telemetry (radio collaring of tigers) over the past many years.
Asked why TATR was selected for the project, Habib said, “TATR landscape is unique for the dispersing tigers coming in conflict with humans and for its about 5-6 breeding tigresses adding to the population and triggering dispersal every year. It is also interesting from the point of translocation of human populations in rehabilitation programmes. With some villages already relocated and some other in the offing, TATR offers us unique chance to study how the vacated space augurs for wildlife.”
About the project’s utility, Habib said, “It will be useful in better managing wildlife corridors and man-animal conflict. It will offer better understanding about tiger-leopard co-existence, prey-predator relationship, prey base requirement and tiger ecology.”
Another uniqueness of the project will be that it will study all the components of entire wildlife and its habitat and ecology, he said.
The TATR Tiger Foundation has already sanctioned over Rs 46 lakh for the first five years of the project in excess of the Rs 1.6 crore the NTCA is going to fund.