Village relocated as Sariska prepares for big cats


Alwar (Rajasthan): A village from the Sariska tiger reserve in Rajasthan was relocated Wednesday as part of the plan to secure the habitat for big cats ahead of their reintroduction.

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Bhagani village in Tehla forest range in the heart of the reserve was relocated to an alternative site near Behor in Alwar district, about 100 km from Sariska.

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), an NGO helping the forest department to relocate this village, handed over bank drafts of compensation to 18 families who have been relocated.

After tigers in the reserve were wiped out two years ago, the central government decided to reintroduce them, provided the state government created a revived and ecologically secure habitat.

The Tiger Task Force in the ministry of environment and forests had recommended relocation of four villages in a time-bound plan in view of the serious threat it posed to wildlife.

While there are 11 villages in the core area inside the reserve, four of them were selected on a priority basis for relocation by the state’s forest department.

The remaining three villages would be relocated later, Soma Shekar, field director for Sariska, told IANS over phone.

“The negotiations are on for the relocation of the second village. The government has provided adequate financial resources for its relocation to a place near Moujpur in Alwar district,” he said.

“The remaining two villages will be moved in the next phase,” he added.

“This success has boosted the ongoing efforts of the forest department for relocating the villages and will ultimately help in the reintroduction of tigers in Sariska,” WTI vice chairman Ashok Kumar, who handed over the cheques to the families, said from Behor.

“Big cats would face threats in Sariska unless the villages are moved. The angry villagers whose cattle or members of family were predated by tigers would be more than happy to get rid of them,” said advocate Mahendra Singh Kachawa, who had earlier teamed up with the prosecution in a case against notorious wildlife trader Sansar Chand, currently lodged in a Rajasthan jail.

“Earlier, a poacher called Balwan had confessed to obtaining two tiger skins from here. And why not? For a petty sum of Rs.5,000, people are ready to kill them. During interrogation he said he had to pay Rs.10,000 to someone and therefore he poached two tigers,” Kachawa added.

The Sariska tiger reserve, home to dozens of majestic Royal Bengal tigers just a few years ago, has lost the entire population of them due to poaching and habitat disturbances.

The park, spread over 866 sq km and located 107 km from Rajasthan capital Jaipur, is also home to many rare animals including leopard, jungle cat, hyena, jackal, chital and langur. About 500 sq. km area of the reserve comprises the core area.

“For its protection, the forest department has already recruited 35 ex-army personnel out of the 100 posts recently created as per recommendations of the government,” Shekar said.

The forest department is waiting for the government’s nod for halting night traffic on the highway that passes through the heart of the reserve till it can be finally diverted out of the forest, he added.

“A fact-finding committee was formed under the chairmanship of the district collector of Alwar to look into the matter. Its report has already been sent to the government,” he said.

Experts said an estimated 1,300-2,000 tigers still roam the forest in different parts of the country.