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Thursday, August 2

Sariska Tiger Reserve to get three more tigers; will they also end up with poachers?

Sariska tiger reserve in Rajasthan, notorious for the high poaching rate which left it without tigers, will introduce three more new tigers as part of restoring tiger population here. 

A WWF ad on Tiger conservation.
Image Courtesy:WWF
According forest officials, the 866 sq km wide tiger reserve will thus have a total of eight big cats, including the five from the earlier phase of the ongoing relocation programme that has been progressing since 2008.

Sariska was a major tiger reserve in the country with a total 15 tigers before 2004. However, high poaching and poor management have brought down that to zero. According to a report submitted by Wild Life Institute of India, the tiger reserve had not a single tiger alive in its forest patches by 2005.

After getting lambasted by conservationists and international agencies, the authorities have decided to implement a restoration programme, as part of which, 5 tigers from Ranthambore National Park in the Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan were introduced here in 2008.

Improving the genetic pool

According to sources, now they are planning to bring more tigresses to Sariska, which is expected to naturally enhance the tiger population in the reserve.

It may also improve the genetic quality of the tiger population here, think experts. Presently three of the five tigers belong to the same father and two tigresses have the same mother. This may cause inbreeding or genetic disorders in the offspring as found in those born to genetically closer parents. Introduction of new tigers with different paternity will help improve the genetic diversity and survival rates of the upcoming natural tiger population here.  

Real threats still looming large

Authorities are also mulling over declaring the adjacent areas of the park as eco sensitive areas to curb human activities here to guarantee the safety of these striped cats. However it is yet to see if such measures will improve the fate of tigers here.

Map of Sariska, pandupole map, state highway 29A, SH 25A
Map of Sariska National Park.
The balloon shows the position of Pandupole Hanuman Temple,
a pilgrim site inside the core area of the reserve
The presence of villages in the core zone and buffer zone of the reserve has helped the infiltration and operations of the poaching racket here in the past. Moreover, even after the commencement of the relocation programme, villagers have killed at least one tiger by poisoning it.

 The pilgrimage to the Pandupol Hanuman temple inside the reserve and the tourism activities related to the ancient fort and palace at the reserve are also disturbing the life of the cats here. Above all, state highway 29A and 25A pass through the reserve.

Introducing more tigers to Sariska is indeed important as part of conserving an endangered mammal which is at the verge of extinction. But until the authorities do not address the real grave issues here, the safety of the newly introduced cats  and the success of the programme will be at stake in long term. 

Will the new tigers also end up with the poachers? Share your thoughts in the comment.

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