The Lansdowne Forest Division (LFD) has registered a rise in tiger population. In the Lansdowne forest division this year the number of tigers has increased from 22 to 25. This is despite the fact that no steps have been taken here to protect the big cat.
The LFD spans a 43,000 hectare area and is a corridor connecting Rajaji National Park (RNP) with Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR). With the good results, wildlife experts have intensified their demands to make this forest division either a tiger reserve or implement the proposal for merging its ranges with RNP and CTR.
“Lansdowne forest division is neither a national park nor a wildlife sanctuary or tiger reserve or reserve forest. Hence we do not have beat watchers to keep a vigil against poachers nor the funds to do so. As for the forest guards, each personnel patrols an area between 500 hectare and 2,000 hectare. In other words, one guard can never patrol single-handedly over such a large territory. It gets worse in the monsoon when it becomes difficult to navigate vehicles through the water-logged and marshy forest terrain. So we need beat-guards who can patrol on foot and, on elephants, during the monsoon,” said Nitish Mani Tripathi, divisional forest officer of LFD.
He said with the number of tigers increasing in the forest and an even larger number of big cats using the corridor to move from Rajaji to Corbett, poachers have a huge advantage in this unprotected forest stretch. That explains why each year poachers are arrested from Landsdowne forest division.
According to experts with the count tigers increasing this year, the “Lansdowne corridor” (between Rajaji and Corbett) needs to have a protection cover, The state government is thinking of making Rajaji a tiger reserve, the second one in the state but nothing has been planned for Lansdowne, which has more than double the number of tigers in Rajaji. Rajaji has around 10 tigers while Lansdowne has more than 25 tigers.
“The survival of the Rajaji tigers depends on safety of Lansdowne forest. It is the same tigers who come from Corbett to Rajaji or vice-a-versa through Lansdowne forest . If the tigers are hunted down in the LFD corridor, then the dream of seeing the tiger count grow in Rajaji by making it a tiger reserve will be completely defeated. Hence, it is very important to protect LFD,” reasoned Tripathi.
“If Sariska National Park (in Rajasthan) can be funded and provided manpower and logistics for just having eith tigers then Landsdowne forest reseve is in a much better position for the National Tiger Conservation Authority to declare it a tiger reserve. If we do not protect the territory of LFD from poachers, then we might soon lose all the tigers,” warned Bivash Pandav, senior scientist at Wildlife Institute of India.
“A year ago, the wildlife department had floated the proposal to merging the two ranges of LFD — Laldang and Kotdwar — with Rajaji and the two remaining ranges — Kotri and Dugadda — with Corbert in buffer zones as per their proximity. This way, the tigers of LFD will automatically get protected. However, it has been one year but the state government has not taken any action on this proposal,” Bivash added.
When contacted, Manoj Chandran, additional forest secretary, said, “There is no need to make Landsdowne forest division a tiger reserve or protected territory as the number of tigers is already growing there in a natural way.”
However, the DFO contended that without any immediate protection, the tigers will easily fall prey to poachers. Another forest official said the number of tigers is increasing in CTR too, so why is the state and the central governments spending so much money and resources on their protection.