Wildlife Institute of India is partnering the state forest department in the study with National Tiger Conservation Authority putting in Rs 1.6 crore for the project
A comprehensive long-term study of tiger dispersal and its ecological aspects in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) landscape is being undertaken by the Maharashtra government using radio telemetry (radio collar).
The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is partnering the state Forest department in the study with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) putting in Rs 1.6-crore for the project. A memorandum of understanding between the three is likely in the first week of December, according to WII scientist Bilal Habib, who will head the project.
“The initial phase of ten years will provide baseline data from about 3,000 sq km of the TATR landscape that includes various contiguous protected areas such as Nagzira, Navegaon, Chaprala and Umred-Karandla about not just tigers but all co-predators and prey species and the dynamics of their relationships and co-existence. It will generate a huge pool of information on tiger dispersal, occupancy, threshold of disturbance that causes conflict, corridors etc. It will also give a perspective on how and why dispersal happens, where dispersing tigers go,” Habib told The Indian Express.
This is the first long-term study in central India. Wildlife biologist Ulhas Karanth has done it in south India although without radio telemetry (radio-collaring of tigers). In the north, studies for 3-4 year duration have been undertaken using telemetry, but this would be the first long-term study using radio telemetry anywhere, according to Bilal.
Asked why TATR was selected, Habib said, “TATR landscape is unique for dispersing tigers coming in conflict with humans and for its 5-6 breeding tigresses adding to the tiger population and triggering dispersal every year. It is also interesting from the point of translocation of human population in rehabilitation programmes. With some villages already relocated and some others in the offing, TATR offers us a unique chance to study how vacated space augurs for wildlife.”
About the utility of the study, Habib said, “It will be useful in managing wildlife corridors and man-animal conflict in a better way. It will offer better understanding of tiger-leopard co-existence, prey-predator relationship, preybase requirement, tiger ecology, etc.” “Another uniqueness of the project will be that it will study all the components of the entire wildlife, its habitat and ecology,” he added. Last year, a rescued tigress was released into the wild with a radio collar. Wildlife biologist Vidya Athreya monitored it for many months before the collar became defunct. It gave valuable inputs on tiger movement and behaviour for the first time on the TATR landscape. The TATR Tiger Foundation has already sanctioned over Rs 46 lakh for the first five years of the project in excess of the Rs 1.6 crore NTCA is going to fund.