The Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) has recently received a spectacular boost for tiger conservation. After two years, Rajaji National Park was notified as a Tiger Reserve – marking an astounding victory for conservationists. The lush forest in Uttarakhand State spans 820 sq. km and is home to 12 tigers. It is now the 48th Tiger Reserve in India.
Several factors outline the importance of Rajaji National Park in the Terai Arc Landscape. A crucial factor is its location; Rajaji is home to the western-most tiger distribution in the country. Potential tiger habitat extends further west of the forest for another 4000 sq. km. but the area is devoid of the big cat as protection ceases at the fringes of Rajaji. Denoting the national park as a Tiger Reserve will ensure a greater protected area that extends beyond the central area of the park. It will potentially open up new lands further west for tigers to inhabit.
"Forests and wildlife are our national treasures and it is indispensable that we conserve them for keeping environmental balance" - Harish Rawat, Chief Minister of Uttarakhand
In addition to protection, management of the reserve will undertake a drastic conversion as a Tiger Conservation Plan is put in place. Tigers will now take the spotlight in determining how the forest is managed and monitored. Funding for monitoring, enforcement and infrastructure will be released by the Central Government in exchange for increased accountability and responsibility.
WWF India will contribute to this, having played a pivotal role in advocating and improving protection of the park. Their work involved active lobbying for the park’s Tiger Reserve status with stakeholders, ranging from politicians to local communities. They also provided infrastructure support and skill-training to ensure that stringent protection standards for a Tiger Reserve could be met.
Their biggest impact was perhaps the training of all Rajaji frontline staff in skills that were vital for protection. Law-enforcement monitoring, field craft, GPS-based patrolling and techniques, camera trap techniques and wildlife monitoring, were subjects covered in over 17 workshops. WWF provided camera traps, GPS systems, and digital cameras to patrolling units.
WWF India also helped facilitate uninterrupted patrolling in any season, by supplying:
- Summer, winter and rainy season uniforms, hiking boots and LED torches to all 250 front line staff.
- Four-wheel drive vehicles (two each for western and eastern Rajaji), ten motorcycles, 25 bicycles and a tractor for mobility in interior forest camps.
- Patrolling equipment—including sleeping bags, first-aid kits, tents and food rations— that enabled staff to patrol for extended periods of time.
On the ground, WWF India has been working with the Wildlife Institute of India and park officials in monitoring the tigers in the forest. WWF India will continue to play an active role in the conservation of tigers and their habitat in the newly notified Rajaji Tiger Reserve. Click here to find out more about their tiger conservation work.
“Reserves have proved to play an important role in the conservation of tigers” - HS Negi, Inspector General of the National Tiger Conservation Authority
Following the announcement of Rajaji National Park’s Tiger Reserve status, India has declared that three more Tiger Reserves will be established in the near future. The new reserves will be created in central and eastern India – in national parks in Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Orissa – taking the total number of Tiger Reserves in the country to over 50.