Trees for Tigers
Community lands of the Dulara village (21o39’15.22’’N, 79o26’22.73’’E) on the buffer zone of the Pench Tiger Reserve, Ramtek Taluka, Nagpur, Maharashtra, India
Trees form a very important part of the tiger’s natural habitat as well as economy of the area. The importance of trees has been highlighted in Sandeep Sharma’s (Biologist and International Research Specialist at the Smithsonian Institution) seminal work studying the tiger populations in Central India where he states: “Tigers (Panthera tigris) are the apex predator of Asian forest ecosystems. They are a conservation-dependent species, whose survival requires a sufficient quantity of large prey and vast swaths of contiguous forest habitat”. World Wildlife Fund India in it’s report LIFELINE FOR TIGERS, 2014 has mentioned the major ecological challenges pertaining to the Pench-Kanha area such as wildlife loss due to developmental activities, human-animal conflict and resource exploitation, making replenishment of the tree cover in this region an indispensable part of the conservation process. Forest-based livelihoods form a major part of the employment opportunities available around Dulara. Due to dearth of other sources of income and a decline in forest cover, poverty is rampant in the area. The plantation of trees on community land will ensure access to forest produce in the future. Apart from providing a good source of income to the people of the region, carefully selected species will be a source of indigenous medicine to the tribal communities who have poor access to good healthcare facilities, while acting as gene banks and carbon sequestration units.
The forest type in the area, is tropical mixed deciduous according to the scientists at the National Remote Sensing Centre. (Sudhakar Reddy C., 2015). Teak (Tectona grandis), custard apple (Annona reticulata), drumstick (Moringa oleifera), Kashid(Peltophorum pterocarpum), Nimbu(Citrus limon), Anar(Punica granatum), Amla(Phyllanthus emblica), Imli(Tamarindus indica), Karanj(Millettia pinnata), Neem(Azadirachta indica), Ber(Ziziphus mauritiana), Babul(Vachellia nilotica), Bamboo(Bambuseae), are the local species present and chosen for plantation apart from teak. While custard apple, drumstick, nimbu, anar, amla, imli and ber are the fruiting species, the others are the cash crops, that have multiple uses like, fuelwood, oil, oil cakes and medicines.
This region is one of the richest in terms of faunal wealth which boasts of more than 400 species of animals including the Indian tiger, wolf, jackal, monkey, barking deer, chital, nilgai, gaur, wild boar along with vipers, cobras, frogs, birds, and fishes.
In his paper, Opportunities of Habitat Connectivity for Tiger (Panthera tigris) between Kanha and Pench National Parks in Madhya Pradesh, India, Chinmaya S. Rathore of the Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal, India speaks about the importance of tree plantation in restoration of the Kanha-Pench corridor, promotion of nature-based tourism, and integration of the local communities in the process for it to impact tiger conservation efforts. The project has been carried out on public land, wherein the community will be able to utilise the NTFPs like fruits, tendu leaves, twigs and fodder. The beneficiaries are mostly women, who say the project has empowered them as well as provided them with the option to work in the vicinity of their homes. The project involves 70 households, creating 3000 workdays for the labour-force of which 70% are women.
The tribal population stands at almost 96% of the total population where dependency on forest-based industry is high. The project will discourage the villagers from participating in illegal activities like poaching by providing them with a steady source of income from the forest produce. It will deter wild animals such as leopards and other wild cats as well wild boars from straying into human settlements and destroying personal property and croplands by developing a dense buffer zone. When fully mature, these trees will absorb 20 kg of CO2 annually, contributing to carbon sequestration.