Mihir Mahajan, a big cat tracker and naturalist speaks to MyNation about the recent birth of five cubs in Bhandhavgarh National Park and also the ongoing protests against the killing of Tigress Avni in Maharashtra.
The sight of a five-cub litter by Tigress Solo has been a matter of sheer joy for the officials at Bhandhavgarh National Park.
Mihir Mahajan, a big cat tracker, who had the opportunity to spot the very same tigress in 2016, in an exclusive chat with MyNation, was elated at the rare litter.
Being an expert in the field of big cats, Mahajan spoke about the difficulties faced by the tigers in the wild, to survive even until the age of two.
"Only 30-50% of tigers survive until the age of two, with the massive sibling rivalry and competition the cats face with the other tigers," Mahajan told MyNation on Thursday.
Tiger numbers increasing but territories decrease
Keeping tigers’ survival rate in mind, a sight such as Tigress Solo's five-cub litter comes as a miraculous change of nature's circle.
"Tigers are territorial animals and require massive spaces to live in and since territories are decreasing, while tiger numbers are increasing, there's a lot of competition and in-fighting within tigers," he said.
Mahajan has a vast experience with the wild cats, spread over several national parks in India, from Tadoba, Pench Tiger Reserve to Ranthambore or Bhandhavgarh.
With his expertise in the field, Mahajan explained how the recent elimination of T1 (Avni) was a necessity, if she was a problem tigress.
He reiterated the fact that the focus and goal was to save the tiger and not a tiger.
"If there is a man-eater/problem tiger, it must be eliminated to keep animal/human conflict at bay," he opined.
The tribal community living in and around wildlife areas has been residing in these patches for centuries now, and while the forest department has been successful in relocating several families, it is highly impossible for the officials to relocate the entire human population from these areas.
Protests erupt across the country over Avni’s killing
Much emotion and sentiment has been attached to the killing of Tigress Avni, leading to protests across the country.
The citizens have been questioning the authorities to provide answers behind several missing links in the killing of T1 by sharp shooter Shafath Ali Khan's son Asghar Ali.
"What the forest department did (killing T1) was right as she was a problem Tigress with human deaths attributed to her, but they should not have involved the sharp shooter as it gave the whole incident a very negative connotation," Mahajan said.
Mahajan explained the irony in these protests held by the people in urban areas of the country, explaining that the tribal community was not the reason for the decrease in forest land, but in fact people living in the cities.
With demands increasing for better railway connectivity and industries to provide several goods, urban citizens are the consumers of these facilities that are made by sacrificing forest land.
Therefore, according to Mahajan, the tribal community is not to be blamed for tiger deaths, but the urban population.
"Some people are of the opinion that the tigress should have been moved to a zoo, but keeping a tiger in a zoo is worse than killing her. The forest department’s decision was correct to maintain peace among the tribal community. But they should have done it in a more tactful manner," Mahajan.
Conservation is about saving THE tiger, not A tiger
Massive outbursts have been flowing in on social media from people who are unaware of the ground realities faced by the forest department and the locals in the area as well.
"If T1 was not eliminated, the tribal population could have been wiped out the entire forest with the kind of anger they had towards the tigress for being responsible for human killings," said Mahajan.
The forest department of Yavatmal, Maharashtra has been under the radar, after the death of T1 saw an outrage across the country and the world.
While protests are justified when it comes to the manner in which the tigress was killed, several citizens remain unaware about the basic facts that led to the forest department taking that bold decision.
Necessity of tiger corridors
Thinking of solutions to calm down the age-old animal/human conflict, Mahajan elaborated on the idea of inventing tiger corridors, which will primarily be a connecting route for the big cats to move from one forest to another, in search of territorial ground.
Mahajan said that if these corridors are created between national parks, they can help with smoother movements of tigers and can also see a decrease in tiger deaths.
"If a particular forest has lesser number of tigers, compared to another forest, tigers without a territory can move into these forests and avoid in-fighting as well as conflicts with humans, as the cats won't reach out to the buffer zones, where human presence exists," he felt.
While human/animal conflicts cannot be completely abolished, measures to minimalise the same need to be put in place.
As Mahajan mentioned, from building tiger corridors and relocating locals to being aware of the demands made by urban citizens that lead to cutting down of forests, taking cognisance of the gravity of the situation can take the country half way down in solving the issue at hand, to begin with.
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Last Updated Nov 29, 2018, 7:53 PM IST