Rising tiger numbers a threat to humans around Bihar’s Valmiki reserve

Ram Prasad Uraon, a native of Barwa village in Bihar’s West Champaran district, died after he was attacked by a tiger on September 20 while he was working at an agriculture field. Till the time the other workers tried to rescue him from the clutches of the big cat, Uraon passed away due to grave injuries on his neck.

Just 10 days prior to Uraon’s killing, 40-year-old Gulbadan Devi lost her life after she was attacked by a tiger in a paddy field.

On July 16, a skeleton with a few clothes was found in an agricultural field. The victim, Dharam Raj Kaji, was identified with the pieces of clothing.

These attacks took place in areas adjoining the Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR), the natural habitat of the Royal Bengal Tiger in West Champaran district. Due to the frequent attacks on humans, residents of over two dozen villages are living under constant panic and fear.

Now the big question is why such attacks are taking place in the region? The simple answer to this is man-animal conflict and officials have not done enough to address the issue.

The officials of VTR also admit that there are huge man-animal conflicts in the region.

Dr Niraj Narayan, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of the West Champaran range, told IANS: “The man-animal conflicts are always looming in VTR as the area is surrounded by dense human populations. There are a number of villages adjoining to the VTR and wild animals may stray towards the human population in search of water and food.”

Narayan further said that shifting of villagers from the region is not possible neither can the VTR be barricaded.

“Every time any untoward incidents take place in the region, we have our standard operating procedures to tackle the situation. We have directed the forest and wildlife officials to alert people to stay indoors in the evening and night, as well in the early morning hours.

“Besides, we have also directed the officials for patrolling in the adjoining villages to avoid wild animal attack on humans,” he added.

Meanwhile, another officer pointed out that Uraon’s killing was the fifth such incident of this year.

The VTR, which is the only national park in Bihar, covers an area of 898.45 km — 17.4 per cent of the total geographical area of the West Champaran district. In the north, the protected areas are bordered by Nepal’s Chitwan National Park while the Indian state Uttar Pradesh bounds the sanctuary from western side.

According to the 2018 census, there were a total of 40 tigers in the Reserve.

Wildlife experts believe that the big cats are straying into human settlements could also be due to their growing population in the VTR.

“The increasing population of tigers could be one of the reasons of the man-animal conflict but there is another theory of territorial fight among the animals that may also be the reason for them to stray into the settlements. A tigress giving birth in a sugarcane field was an example of animal territorial fight in their natural habitat inside the VTR,” said an officer who requested anonymity.

Besides the Royal Bengal Tigers, VTR is also a natural habitat for leopards, hyenas, sloth bears, wild dogs, deer, fishing cats, wild boars, civets, serow, antelopes, elephants, among others.

VTR is considered as fifth best tiger reserve and wildlife sanctuary in the country.

But it has the perpetual man-animal conflict with only the humans on the receiving end. Cases of animal poaching are extremely rare. In fact no cases of poaching have taken place in recent times in VTR.

The officer pointed out that the conflict due to human encroachment is also not there in VTR.

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