Big Win For Terai’s Tigers! India Adds A New Tiger Reserve
One of several WWF-donated bikes for ranger patrols in Philibit. Philibit Forest Division was declared a Tiger Reserve in June 2014.
Tiger Reserves are forests notified by the government representing different ecosystems where the tiger could be protected in perpetuity. Typically, they constitute an inviolate core area and a mixed-use buffer area and may encompass areas beyond Protected Areas.
The Pilibhit Tiger Reserve covers an area of 726.89 km2 in the foothills of the Himalayas and is the second such Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh. These forests are part of the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL), which encompasses an area of 52,000 km2 that spreads from the state of Uttarakhand eastwards to Bihar in India, encompassing important Protected Areas and forests in India and Nepal. The forests of Pilibhit act as a fulcrum in TAL, linking Shukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve in Nepal with Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary in India. To the west of Pilibhit, there is strong connectivity with the Terai-Bhabar forests in the adjacent state of Uttarakhand. Apart from the tiger, these forests are home to a rich variety of wildlife, which includes leopard (Panthera pardus), swamp deer (Rucervus duvaucelii), hog deer (Hyelaphus porcinus), hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus) and the Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis) to name a few.
The notification of the Pilibhit forests as a Tiger Reserve signals the commitment of the Uttar Pradesh state government as well as the Government of India towards tiger conservation as this declaration will contribute to the long-term survival of wild tigers in the transboundary Terai Arc Landscape. WWF-India congratulates both the governments on taking this vital step and also acknowledges the critical role played by the dedicated forest staff who worked in tough field conditions for the protection of Pilibhit’s tigers and forests.
WWF-India has been working with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department in Pilibhit for nearly a decade when these forests did not even have the status of a Protected Area. But recognizing early on the importance of these forests as an important wildlife habitat, WWF-India focused its conservation work on improving the enforcement capabilities of the frontline forest staff and building support for wildlife conservation among local communities.
Capacity building programmes were conducted for frontline staff on wildlife census techniques, legal issues and law enforcement monitoring. Infrastructure support in the form of vehicles and field gear was provided for improving mobility. An anti-poaching camp was constructed and communication was improved through provision of wireless base stations and handsets for effective wildlife protection.
Education and awareness campaigns were organised in different schools and villages adjoining the northern periphery of the Pilibhit forests to build support for wildlife conservation. Development of alternative livelihood options and adoption of alternative energy sources was supported to reduce the dependence of local communities on forest resources and thereby protect tiger habitats.
The results of strengthening enforcement of the frontline forest staff and securing support by local communities for tiger and wildlife conservation resulted in increased tiger and prey populations in the Pilibhit forests which was confirmed by the results of the tiger estimation exercises. Tiger estimation was conducted for the first time in these forests by WWF-India in 2010. The study estimated a tiger density of 4.5 tigers per 100 sq km. The presence of rusty spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) and the four horned antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) was reported for the first time in these forests during the same study. The tiger estimation exercise undertaken in 2013 by WWF-India and UP Forest Department estimated the presence of 22-26 tigers in the Pilibhit forests.
“The declaration of the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve will enhance the management status accorded to these forests leading to stronger conservation measures for tigers, their prey and habitats. We expect this to aid in the recovery of the wild tiger populations in the Terai Arc Landscape in which the forests of Pilibhit occupy a critical position with connections to adjoining forests in Nepal and India,” said Mr. Ravi Singh, CEO and Secretary General, WWF-India.
WWF-India continues to work with the governments of India and Nepal to implement a transboundary approach to protect the wildlife in TAL by retaining connectivity between the Protected Areas (PAs) and the Reserve Forests. It is only through such concerted and long term conservation efforts that the tigers of India can continue to thrive in the years to come.
Notes to Editors:
For more information:
Dr. Anil K. Singh, Team Leader, Terai Arc Landscape, WWF-India, firstname.lastname@example.org, +91 97601 11709
Anil Cherukupalli, Communications Manager, WWF-India, email@example.com, +91 4150 4783