Explainer: Protecting the tiger’s habitat
- The article discusses about the man-animal conflict in light of recent instances of killing and casualties attributed to tigers.
- Background: Since 2016, 13 people have died in the Pandharkawda divisional forest of Maharashtra which has been attributed to tigers and at least five of them to Avni, a 6-year-old with two cubs.
- Provisions for man-eating tigers: India’s wildlife laws permit a tiger which is believed to have preyed on humans to be killed. The State’s chief wildlife warden could claim to have evidence.
- Data of tiger killings: According to information provided by Rajya Sabha, Out of 553 tiger deaths from 2012 to 2017, 22.1% were due to poaching, 15.4% were seizures, and 62.4% were attributed to natural causes.
- Recent Case: The Supreme Court recently cleared the way for the forest department to have the man-eating tiger named ‘Avni’ killed. However, it later emerged that forest officials along with Asghar Ali, the son of hunter Nawab Shafat Ali, claimed to have chanced upon the tiger which, they said, charged at them.
- When the hunting party failed to tranquilize Avni, as the rules required, they shot at it fatally.
- Union Minister for Women and Child Development described the killing as “murder”, and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has commissioned an independent team of wildlife experts to investigate the killing.
- However, days after the killing of Avni, villagers in Lakhimpur Kheri, U.P., crushed a tiger to death with a tractor after it fatally attacked a farmer.
- Reasons for increasing Man-animal conflict:
- India has 50 tiger reserves, but with forest area increasingly spilling into hamlets, there have been several instances of tigers preying on cattle, livestock and, sometimes, people.
- A recent study by the World Wildlife Fund said that eight tiger sanctuaries in India could, over time, support more than four times the current population of tigers in these sanctuaries.
- Loopholes in Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA) 1972:
- The model of conservation enshrined in the WLPA is premised on creating human-free zones for the protection of rare species based on the erroneous notion that local people are the prime drivers of wildlife decline.
- Such an exclusionary approach is better suited to countries that are less densely populated and have a more developed non-rural economy.
- Way Forward:
- The Forest Rights Act, 2006 is a pushback against the exclusionary approach of WLPA 1972.
- By explicitly recognizing the rights of locals, it incentivizes them to manage and conserve natural resources.
- Thus, the FRA can be a useful check, making the consent of local inhabitants and affected Gram Sabhas mandatory for diverting forest land for non-forestry purposes.