In fragile natural environments around the world, fierce competition for scarce resources between humans and animals often acts to the detriment of wildlife. A project in India is seeking to create conditions where traditional communities can learn to live alongside tigers in an internationally recognised reserve.
The Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan, is the Indian tiger’s natural habitat. It was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1980. Over the last 30 years, the growth in human population has put pressure on the area’s deciduous forest, causing the tiger count to plummet and when poachers claimed the lives of 22 tigers, only one breeding male was left.
Recognising the urgent need to tackle the root causes of poaching, as well as reducing the villagers’ dependency on the forests for fuel, Dr Goverdhan Rathore set up the Prakratik Society.
‘Each journey begins with a first step,’ he said, ‘and ours was a leap of faith. I could see that the park versus the people conflict would ultimately result in the destruction of the tigers. The long-term solution lay in finding a way in which both could live in harmony.’
The Society is co-ordinating integrated projects in the 90-plus villages that surround the park. These include health care and family planning, afforestation, animal husbandry, the use of alternative energy sources and vital legal support to prosecute poachers. They now employ 35 permanent staff, 35 health workers and 30 teachers. Eight doctors take the clinics out to those who cannot travel.
Dr Goverdhan Rathore reports that al-though the current situation is better, a lot remains to be done. ‘A positive out-come of our work has been the birth of a new generation of tigers,’ he declares. ‘Twenty new cubs have been born and two days ago, we were told that visitors saw tigers on every route, something which has not happened in a long time.’
Contact: The Prakratik Society,
Anokhi, 2 Tilak Marg, C Scheme,
Jaipur, Rajasthan, India 302 001
Tel: +91 07462 220286
Photo: © The Prakratik Society