High tiger density may result from habitat loss

Conservationists have welcomed the recent finding that the Kaziranga National Park in Assam has the highest tiger density in the world.

Guwahati: Conservationists have welcomed the recent finding that the Kaziranga National Park in Assam has the highest tiger density in the world, but warned that it
could be an indicator of destruction of habitats in the vicinity and suggested framing of a tiger habitat management policy.

`Aaranyak`, an environment watchdog, in collaboration with the Assam Forest Department in a recent survey using the `camera-trap` method has found that the forest, famous for housing the one-horned rhinos, has a recorded density of 38 tigers in an area of 100 square kilometres.

Describing such an unusual increase of the animals in a single protected area can be a dangerous indicator of habitat destruction, conservationist Bibhab Talukdar of Aaranyak
recommended regular monitoring of tigers and prey population in the forest.

"We like to recommend regular monitoring of tigers and prey population to understand the ecology in such a high density tiger habitat," Talukdar said.

He said the unusual increase of these animals might be attributed to habitat destruction in the surrounding areas as a result of which animals flocked to Kaziranga.

Due to the high-density, human-tiger conflict in the fringe areas of the park might go up and both short and long term measures were necessary to minimize such conflicts, he felt.

Treating Kaziranga and the adjoining Karbi Anglong hills as a single conservation belt was the need of the hour for the long-term survival of the Park and proper dispersal of
tiger population, Talukdar pointed out.

"Unless the tigers had a wider dispersal area, myriad problems like infighting and conflict with humans was likely to intensify," he added.

The corridors linking Kaziranga with Karbi Anglong forests have suffered extensive degradation due to encroachment, illegal logging, stone mining, growing settlements and tourist movements have severely disrupted wildlife movement, particularly during the flood season, said PJ Bora of WWF-India.

The man-tiger conflict has increased in recent years with high incidence of cattle lifting reported from the fringe villages of Kaziranga and there have been also confirmed cases
of retaliatory poisoning by the affected locals.

To ensure future of the tiger, improved management of tiger habitat, including restoration and management of corridors between core areas through land-uses compatible with tiger conservation was necessary, Bora said.

"Creating additional or expanding existing protected
areas to support viable, breeding tiger populations, and
linking them with habitat corridors should be of utmost
priority for both proper management of the Park and tiger,"
Talukdar added.