New Delhi, April 13: The rising number of cattle kills in and around the villages of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh is becoming a source of major concern. According to the figures obtained, 60 cattle have been killed in March while the figures are already 18 in the current month.
The 18 cattle kills this month has been brought about by a male tiger tagged as B-2 in the Tala range of the reserve, along with two cubs foraying from Khitauli range to the nearby villages.
In a novel initiative, ‘Save the Stripes’, a Bandhavgarh-based NGO for tiger conservation, has come forward to sponsor the two cubs by way of paying interim relief of Rs 2,000 for every cattle killed by them in the villages. This is aimed at checking retaliatory killing of tigers by the villagers.
The Forest department on the other hand, is trying to improve the grasslands in the reserve for herbivore pray base, besides speeding up payment of final compensation to the villagers.
According to local sources, B-2, with territory in the Tala range of the reserve has been foraying into the villages of Damna, Bansa and Ghanghor. “He killed 14 cattle during the last 3-4 days, mostly at night, making maximum number of kills in Damna”. To add to this, two motherless cubs aged about one-and-half years are also venturing out of the Khitauli range reaching the villages of Gandpuri, Rancha and Dobhi. They have killed four cattle between April 2-5.
“Prompted by such rising instances of cattle killing in the adjoining villages, especially in the backdrop of the poisoning of a tigress in 2009, we began the initiative of paying interim relief to the affected villagers,” said Saptarishi Saigal, associate conservator, Save the Stripes. The effort was started last week, whereby three persons have already been paid. “We decided to sponsor the two cubs considering they were without mother and did not have territories either,” he added.
Deputy Field Director Mridul Pathak while talking to The Pioneer said, “The shrinking space for rising tiger population and declining prey base were forcing the big cats to sneak into human habitats.”
According to the latest tiger census report, the population of big cats has gone up in Bandhavgarh to 59 in 2010 from 47 in 2006. “They are now developing territories in areas as Katni and Shadul, outside the reserve,” he said, adding that there are more than 150 villages in and around the park.
However, the department is trying to develop better grasslands in the reserve area. New type of grass is being sown to keep away the thermo-insensitive parthenium weed which is a major threat for herbivores and bio-diversity of the reserve.
“We hope to improve the prey base density through this exercise,” felt Pathak.
The department has also tried to speed up the payment of compensation, which varies fromRs 5,000 — Rs 10,000, based on the productivity of the cattle killed as per the report from the veterinary surgeon. Further, the villagers are being made aware to keep away the cattle from the chain link fencing. Closed camps for cattle is being deliberated upon which would be constructed by the eco-development societies, informed Pathak.
Sehgal pointing to the economic vulnerability of the villagers pointed to the need for cattle breeding programme in the villages to boost up the productivity of the cattle. As per a socio-economic survey, the average income of a household in these villages is about Rs 1,200 hence, efforts are on with other organisations to upgrade the livelihood of the villagers as a part of conservation mechanism.
Not surprising, as the local sources pointed out, “The villagers often misuse the provision of compensation for cattle kill.” A cow can be purchased for about Rs 2,000 and on its death it is able to recover more than twice the amount. Hence, cattle with low productivity are left around the chain link fences deliberately, informed the sources.