Why the first inter-state tiger relocation project failed
Context: Sundari — a tigress shifted as part of India’s first inter-state translocation project in 2018 from Madhya Pradesh to Odisha — returned home. The five-year-old tigress spent 28 months in captivity in Satkosia Tiger Reserve, Odisha as the two states lingered on the process for her relocation despite the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) shelving off the much-vaunted inter-state tiger translocation drive.
Tiger Relocation Project:
- The tiger relocation project was initiated in 2018 wherein two big cats, a male (Mahavir) from Kanha Tiger Reserve and a female (Sundari) from Bandhavgarh from Madhya Pradesh were relocated to Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Odisha, to shore up the tiger population in the state.
- Sundari was brought to Satkosia a week after Mahavir’s arrival.
- The relocation was meant to serve two purposes — reducing tiger population in areas with excess tigers to majorly reduce territorial disputes, second, to reintroduce tigers in areas where the population has considerably reduced due to various reasons.
Satkosia Tiger Reserve:
- Satkosia Tiger Reserve is a tiger reserve located in the Angul district of Odisha, India covering an area of 30 km².
- Satkosia Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary was created in 1976, with an area of 796 km².
- Satkosia Tiger Reserve was designated in 2007, and comprises the Satkosia Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary and the adjacent Baisipalli Wildlife Sanctuary.
- It is located where the Mahanadi River passes through a 22 km long gorge in the Eastern Ghats mountains.
- Encompassing an area of 963.87 sq km, the Satkosia Tiger Reserve spreads across four districts and has as its core area 523 sq km.
- According to NTCA, Satkosia falls under reserves where there is a potential for increasing tiger populations.
What was the outcome of the project?
- The project ran into trouble within weeks of initiation. The arrival of the tigers was followed by severe protests by villagers living on the fringes of the reserve and the matter eventually snowballing into a poll issue with assembly and general elections due in 2019.
- Forest department officials were attacked and their offices burnt down by irate villagers.
- This reaction was the outcome of displacing tribals from Raigoda in the core area to Saruali on the outskirts of the reserve.
What factors contributed to the likely failure of the project?
- As per wildlife conservation activists and former forest officials from the state, the major reason which contributed to the failure of the project was the lack of confidence and trust building between the forest department and the villagers.
- While Mahavir had settled down after initial exploration of the forest area, Sundari was venturing into human habitation.
- This was also because the already existing female tigress in the core area did not allow the presence of another tigress and chased her away.
- Sundari’s proximity to human habitations which are in abundance even close to the core area in Satkosia could have led to the human-animal conflict.