Launched in 2013 in partnership with the Wildlife Trust of India and the Uttar Pradesh Government, this project aims to mitigate human- carnivore conflicts in the Dudhwa Tiger landscape. The Dudhwa landscape houses a good tiger population but is also one that is plagued with increased conflict between man & tigers, besides with other large carnivores.
Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) is a major threat to conservation, and one of the most difficult problems that wildlife managers in India face today. Among various wildlife species, large mammals such as Tigers, Leopards, Elephants, Rhinos, Wild Buffaloes, etc., occur in the highest frequencies and intensity, of such conflict situations. Large mammals especially predator such as Tigers and Leopards are also ‘ecological indicators’ of the health of natural ecosystems. They sometimes also perform important functions as ‘Umbrella species’ as they support a number of other species by protecting patches of habitats. Today however, burgeoning human pressures on the environment have put such vital ecosystems and their wild inhabitants, at grave risk. Risks of local extinctions, range degradation and fragmentation threaten India’s wildlife acutely, such that their populations appear in dwindling numbers, which single stochastic events could exterminate. Of all the large bodied mammals that occur in conflict with humans, tigers perhaps occupy peak as the most charismatic and the largest predator species found in India. Tigers are also one of the most important, flagship species and interfaces of Conservation for the country, with the remaining world. This is because India still holds the largest population of tigers in the world, which after a long suspenseful decline from the mid 1980s, are today exhibiting a positive trend.
Tigers however also pose a more proximate threat to human beings, which also impacts their own scope of survival. Their existence within an ever-growing human matrix drives them into severe conflict with human beings, leading sometimes to the death or injury of both the wild animals and the involved humans. Consequently, the issue of Tiger-human conflict is a critical element in the Conservation Plans of the country, as by 2020, India promises to the world to achieve about 2000 tigers.
Although to a lesser extent, Leopards also find a place in the country’s conservation plans, although they occur more frequently than tiger-human conflicts. This is primarily due to Leopards’ high adaptability to human spaces, as they continue to invade, further into their habitats. As tiger and leopard populations increase, there will be an impending requirement of fool-proof conflict-mitigation techniques and skillsets that can help ameliorate the imminent threats to both wildlife and humans.
A single project in India aims at addressing this in a comprehensive manner. The “U.P. Big Cat Conservation Project” (UPBCCP) of the Wildlife Trust of India, supported by Aircel, Pvt. Ltd. Aims at addressing human-big cat (Tigers and Leopards) conflicts in Uttar Pradesh in a holistic manner. Over recent months, the state has seen a large number of high intensity situations involving tigers and leopards Dudhwa Tiger Reserve (TR) is one of the largest protected areas of the state, and perhaps the last stronghold of the tiger in the landscape. The base of this project therefore stems in Dudhwa TR, although the project endeavours to cater to a larger project area across the stretch and therefore particular cases in some other districts of Uttar Pradesh as well.
The adjacent areas of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve (DTR) of Uttar Pradesh experience a significant level of tiger-human conflict in India. The number of people and livestock killed by large cats every year always pose a serious concern to managers in DTR. The conflicts like these are not new to the landscape as it has a long history of large carnivore-human conflict, but they appear to be more frequent and widespread largely because of the exponential increase in human populations and the resultant expansion of human activities. DTR has some of the highest human population densities living within large carnivore range amidst other TRs.
Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) initiated UPBCCP in partnership with Aircel since 2011, lending its expertise and qualified personnel to mitigate human-tiger and human-leopard conflicts in particular and a few other long-term interventions, in favour of both large carnivores and people. WTI is a registered charitable trust formed in 1998 with the mission to conserve wildlife and its habitat and to work for the welfare of individual animals in partnership with communities and government. WTI in partnership with Aircel and the state Forest Department has been taking an active role in alleviating human-wildlife conflicts in buffer area of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve since the inception of this project. Under the Save Our Tigers initiative Aircel supported UPBCCP, aims also at developing the skill set of wildlife managers in the state, enabling them to address and resolve HWC situations more amiably and successfully. The project also has a few, intensive efforts that require long-term commitment to bear sustainable successes.
The implementation of these measures will confer greatly to the long-term tiger and leopard conservation in this country, and therefore require long-term support to be replicated at wider and larger scales.