A wildlife corridor facilitates tiger movement without the locals suffering, a new study published in Oryx shows.

Researchers from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (Norway) and the National Trust for Nature Conservation (Nepal) have documented that wildlife corridors can be successful conservation measures that benefits both tigers and humans.

Massive threat

One of the biggest threats against wildlife today is isolated populations. Tigers require a lot of space and are therefore especially vulnerable to habitat destruction. For tigers, the combination of loss and fragmented habitats and poaching has been fatal. The world-wide population numbers have declined from around 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century to 1,500-3,000 individuals today.

Corridors and tiger-human conflict

One way to mitigate isolation is to establish wildlife corridors. They link one or several protected areas together and thus increase the likelihood of contact between isolated animal populations, thereby preventing adverse genetic effects within the species. However, throughout most of its range, tigers live close to subsistence farmers. Establishing corridors therefore often come in direct conflict with local communities, as they pose increased threat to human life and greatly restrict human activities and use of natural resources.  Although corridors have now become an important tool for conserving tigers, they have not been sufficiently evaluated post-establishment.

Linking Nepal and India together

The Khata corridor lies in Nepal, between Bardia National Park and the bordering Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in India. It was established in the early 2000s to link the tiger populations in the two areas closer together. The researchers wanted to find out whether this corridor functions as intended – that it indeed is being used by tigers – and how it affects the local residents.

 Success

‘Our results show that the tigers not only use the corridor for movement between the park and the wildlife sanctuary, but it also has resident, breeding tigers,  says Per Wegge, professor emeritus in ecology from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU). In the corridor, the loss of livestock has been declining, and the number of human deaths was relatively low compared with areas along the parks’ boundaries. Despite the restrictions on livestock grazing and extraction of natural resources, the local residents were generally positive towards to both tigers and the corridor itself. The researchers conclude that this is mainly due to several development programs (medical care, school and tourist facilities, stall feeding, etc.) that are being implemented as compensation for the imposed restrictions. These are funded by the government and national and international organizations. Wegge says it is encouraging to conclude that the corridor is a success and an example to follow. ‘It is particularly pleasing that it is well received by the locals’, he adds. With the Khata corridor, a protected landscape of approximately 3,000 square kilometers is now securely established in Nepal and bordering parts of India.

The full article ‘Are corridors good for tigers Panthera tigris but bad for people? An assessment of the Khata corridor in lowland Nepal’ Per Wegge, Shailendra Kumar Yadav and Babu Ram Lamichhane is availble to download in full, for free until 28th November 2016.

About the study:

The study was conducted by Per Wegge (corresponding author)1, Shailendra Kumar Yadav2 and Babu Ram Lamichhane3, with field assistance provided by the Bardia National Park. Main funding was provided by the USAID Hariyo Ban Program, managed by WWF Nepal, and by the National Trust for Nature Conservation (Nepal)

Photo credit: Chiran Pokheral

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