The elusive tigers of Corbett Tiger Reserve are set to get more breathing space with the tiger population rising from 164 to 214 in the last four years. After Kaziranga, Corbett witnessed maximum increase in tiger population. The Ministry of Environment & Forests released Rs 65 crore (about 10 million Euros) for relocating 1,000 homes in Sundherkhal village.
Sunderkhal lies in the tiger corridor connecting dense forest on two sides of the Kosi river. Probably due to the increase in tiger population the number of man-tiger conflicts have increased. Over 40 people have died in these type of conflicts in the state in the last six months, which also resulted in the kill of about eight tigers. In Sunderkhal village tigers at least killed a dozen people in the last four months. To protect both human and tiger the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the statutory body of the Ministry of Environment, has decided to relocate the village.
The Corbett Tiger Reserve is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas about 290 kilometer northeast of Delhi. The Reserve contains the Corbett National Park, Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary and a bufferzone. Corbett National Park forms the core area of the Reserve, and is named after Jim Corbett, the powerful missionary for wildlife preservation in India. Corbett who was born in India, served the British government during World War I by training allied soldiers in jungle warfare. Though having been engaged in lots of sports hunting activities in his early days, he later decided only to kill animals for a reason. And he became a well-known killer of man-eating tigers in the regions of Kumaon and Garwhal.
The Park is the oldest National Park of the Indian subcontinent and was established in August 1936. It attracts lots of visitors each year. The Park was one of the nine Tiger Reserves created at the launch of the Project Tiger in 1973. The original area of the Park was 324 km2 to which 200 km2 was added later. An area of 800 km2 was added as a bufferzone for the Corbett Tiger Reserve in 1991. This area includes the whole of Kalagarh Forest Division (including Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary), and Ramnagar Forest Division. Apart from the tiger the Reserve is an important refuge for the Indian elephant, leopard cat, wild dog, Indina pangolin and hog deer.
The increased tiger population in Corbett has spread to the outskirts of the big reserve, especially in the Ram Nagar forest division, where the Sunderkhal village is located. The relocation will take place on voluntary basis but as an incentive each household will receive either Rs 10 lakh (about 15 thousand Euros) or alternative land as compensation. Unfortunately, there is a drawback outwith NCTA’s plan and generosity, as there is no plan to control the growth of hotels/resorts on the banks of the Kosi river around Sunderkhal. The Corbett National Park is very popular with tourists, which leads to development of a tourist industry in the region. “Most of these resorts have come up on revenue land which is not under the forest department’s jurisdiction,” said a state forest department official. In return tiger’s breathing space will not increase as much as expected.
For more information on the beauty of Corbett Tiger Reserve and in-depth discussion on tiger conservation in this area read the excellent story by Susan Lumpkin on GTI’s website here.