At 75, Tigerland gets new teeth
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The Jim Corbett National Park, mainland Asia's oldest, has turned 75 with plans to improve surveillance and protection of the tigers that it has already been conserving in one of the biggest success stories of Project Tiger in India. On Tuesday, it will officially launch its platinum jubilee when all five zones of the park will be opened for the tourist season till mid-June.
The park's tiger population, 40 when Project Tiger was launched here in 1973, is now 214 — out of the 1,411 Royal Bengal tigers left in the wild in India, according to the 2011 wildlife census. The success story, however, makes these tigers a poacher's target; as recently as 2010, poachers were caught trying to set traps for tigers inside the reserve.
The park now plans a new, unmanned anti-poaching surveillance system and a new tiger protection force. The 24-hour surveillance system, part of a project supported by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, will consist of nine unmanned watchtowers with infra-red and thermal cameras. The new, 112-strong force is another NTCA initiative; recruitment is in progress.
Three of the nine watchtowers, all fully solar-powered, are already in place. The project will also help gather data on wildlife movement and this will be monitored from a central station located in the reserve's Kalagarh area.
These measures are improvements on a defence system that currently involves patrolling by forest guards, with the vulnerable southern region of the reserve patrolled by an existing tiger protection force consisting of former Army men.
"Poaching is a very real threat, along with increasing man-animal conflict," says Corbett Park warden U C Tiwari. "Last year, five people lost their lives in tiger attacks in the nearby Sunderkal village. These incidents, especially when they get politicised, make people hostile to conservation efforts. Our biggest challenge is maintaining the atmosphere for conservation," he said.
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