A new publication depicts the collaborative role of conservation organizations and government that resulted in exemplary results for tiger conservation in Karnataka, southern India. This outcome is highly relevant in the background of National Tiger Conservation Authority bringing out results of tiger estimation. The new paper titled ‘Providing more protected space for tigers Panthera tigris: a landscape conservation approach in the Western Ghats, southern India’ published in the international journal Oryx highlights the aspects of conservation planning, ecological, political and social aspects involved in the conservation effort. It also depicts the various advantages for wildlife of gazetting multiple use forests as protected areas.

Protected areas have been the cornerstones of tiger conservation and a majority of wild tigers in India survive within protected areas, and viable tiger populations need large connected spaces. In this background a collaborative effort between NGO individuals and government officials has successfully resulted in expanding the protected area network in Karnataka from 3.8 to 5.2% of the state’s geographical area. A total of 2,400 sq km of reserved/multiple use forests were added to the protected area network. This also included establishment of Malai Mahadeshwara Wildlife Sanctuary (906 sq km) as a new protected area. The areas included were identified through extensive GIS analysis.

Tigers currently survive in only 7% of its historical range. Loss and fragmentation of habitat is considered as one of the key threats for the decline and survival of this species. Apart from providing space for the animals to multiply it is important to ensure that habitat contiguity is provided especially to young, dispersing tigers from high-density areas (source populations). This work has also ensured that 23 protected areas are now interlinked ensuring connectivity and a larger, contiguous landscape for tiger conservation. As more and more protected areas with tigers are getting isolated, this scientifically documented work has ensured long-term security for tiger landscapes varying from 1,700 (Sharavathi-Kuduremukh landscape) to >7,000 square kilometers (Bannerghatta-Nagarahole landscape). The paper identifies another 1,800 sq km that could be added to the protected area network in the state that could further strengthen tiger conservation.

The lead author of the paper is Sanjay Gubbi, Member, State Board for Wildlife and Scientist with the Nature Conservation Foundation. The other authors include Chief Secretary of Karnataka Kaushik Mukherjee, retired Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests M.H.Swaminath and Poornesha H.C. Research Associate with the Nature Conservation Foundation.

Read the full article here until 13th April.

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