Banking on tribals to protect tiger reserve

Banking on tribals to protect tiger reserve

D. Radhakrishnan
Friday, Jun 12, 2009

Tribals washing a camp elephant at the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, near Udhagamandalam. –

Udhagamandalam: Forest department’s dependence on tribals for managing the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve near here is steadily growing. Recognised many years ago as one of the best maintained wildlife sanctuaries, its status has of late grown considerably consequent to it being declared as a tiger reserve.

In keeping with this the management is taking various steps to strengthen conservation measures.

As part of this, more emphasis is being laid on the role of tribals in protecting the reserve and its surroundings.

Mudumalai Tiger Reserve Field Director Rajiv K. Srivastava told The Hindu that the tribal members of eco-development committees and forest rights committees formed under the Forest Rights Act near the reserve recently were displaying considerable enthusiasm. While on one hand the participation gave them the satisfaction of helping the department protect the habitat of the animals, on the other their income was augmented.

Dr. Srivastava said the tribals since time immemorial enjoyed a close relationship with nature and wildlife. He said despite pressures of a varied kind, including the presence of people who viewed nature only as a source of income, most of the tribals residing in and around Mudumalai still enjoyed a strong bond with the forests and their desire to protect them was intense. Adverting to the presence of a large number of tribals among the employees of the reserve, Dr. Srivastava pointed out that having such persons who had been part of the sanctuary since birth was advantageous to the department. Their knowledge of various aspects of the flora and fauna of the reserve was remarkable and they were more keen on protecting them than the people from other parts of the state who were posted there.

Stating that as members of the anti-poaching squad they were rendering a unique service to the reserve, he said the young tribals were not only familiar with the terrain but could also trek over long distances while on patrol duty. Since they possessed a unique quality to feel the presence of animals they could move around freely even in the most vulnerable areas.

Pointing out that the mahouts or elephant men were invariably tribals, he said the mahout-elephant relationship had no parallels. This would be used to the hilt in conservation measures, Dr. Srivastava said.


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