The Grand Tigers of Central Indian Highlands
Bhopal: “The Tiger – Indicator of Healthy Forest Ecosystem”, a Lalit Shastri film, produced by Madhya Pradesh State Biodiversity Board, is receiving global acclaim and raving reviews.
The 53-minute documentary has been shot over a 20-year period. Most of the video footage used for this documentary has been recorded on first-generation DV handycams that could be treated as symbols of evolving technology. It has been produced to build awareness about conservation and protection of biodiversity, forest and wildlife. The documentary showcases the flora and fauna of Madhya Pradesh in all its grandeur. It contains exclusive video footage and interviews of wildlife and forestry experts with special focus on Tiger and factors threatening its habitat and the ecological system of the central Indian highlands.
The documentary is all about the magnificent tiger that sits at the apex of the biotic pyramid.
The tiger began its journey on earth about 2 million years ago and has roamed in this habitat for 146 billion days and nights.
Central India is the heart of India’s wildlife. For several million years it has remained covered with Asian sub-continent’s largest forest tracts that are closely identified with the tiger. Around 17% of the world’s tigers, of course in the natural habitat, are found in this landscape.
The major carnivora in the Central Indian Highlands are the tiger, leopard and sloth bear.
The herbivore population in this territory is mainly represented by gaur, sambar, cheetal or the spotted deer and black buck. This region is also famous for the hard ground barasingha.
The Kanha Tiger Reserve, apart from supporting a viable population of the tiger, has also distinguished itself in saving the highly endangered hard ground barasingha from extinction, and has had the unique distinction of harbouring the last world population of this deer species.
It is only recently that a few Barasinghas from Kanha have been relocated in Bori Sanctuary while some have been brought to Van Vihar National park in Bhopal.
There is evidence in the form of the Balaghat district gazetteer to tell us that the barasingha was found in all parts where sal forests existed. Capt Forsyth also gave a vivid account of the abundance of the Central Indian barasingha.
When Bori sanctuary near Hoshangabad was declared a Protected Area by the British in 1861, it became the first Protected Area in the country. Due to the forest management practices, we can still see living forests in this landscape and one can truly call it a perfect tiger habitat.
The documentary throws light on the success of the The Panna Tiger Reintroduction Project taken up to repopulate the Panna Tiger Reserve in 2009 after the last of the Panna tigers had vanished. History was created when a Panna tiger–Panna-212 discovered the Panna-Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve corridor and paired with a tigress in the Sanjay Tiger Reserve adjoining Bandhavgarh in 2017.
If we want to protect the tiger, we shall have to ensure our forests remain living forests. A forest can be a living forest only when the different strata of the forest community are intact; when there is abundance of grass, shrub, moisture, and enough worms, insects and reptiles to burrow the soil and make the ground porous to allow rainwater to percolate and recharge ground water ; and when there are birds, bees and butter flies that serve as pollinators and seed dispersing agents. Our forests can regenerate only when all this as constant. Let us not forget that the ecosystem has to be intact for survival of not only the carnivores and herbivores but also humankind. – Lalit Shastri
The rapid depletion of forest cover is a matter of serious concern in the Central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh these days. What is alarming from the environmental point of view is that a large forest area is getting converted from very dense forest to moderately dense, and from scrub forest to open forest. The forests are particularly threatened by reckless firewood collection. The State Forest department is harvesting mean annual increment of the forest area after managing it on sustainable yield basis. But the dependence of local communities on forest is very high and they remove as much as 5 to 6 times the mean annual increment. And this is one of the root causes of decline in forest productivity.
In Madhya Pradesh, Nistar is one privilege offered to the village population where people get free grazing facility but this against the process of forest regeneration.
Firewood collection is free. Earlier it was allowed for personal use but due to pressure from political groups, now they are also allowing firewood collection for commercial purpose. The problem gets aggravated as standing trees are being chopped under the garb of firewood collection.
Poaching is the second biggest cause of decline in tiger population. Outsiders are not indulging directly in poaching in this region. Of course the demand for tiger skins and their body parts is from outside – mainly the international traffickers. The village communities living in forests also harbour criminals particularly from some backward communities that have subsisted on wildlife poaching through history.
Pardhi is one community whose skills are being used by the international mafia for wildlife poaching and the dissemination of tiger– the grand representative of this habitat. Unless the pardhis are weaned away from the traditional poaching activity, the future of tigers is bleak.
The Central Indian Highlands and the river basins of Madhya Pradesh form a huge watershed with Narmada, Chambal, Betwa, son, Mahi and their tributaries charging rivers like Ganges, Yamuna, Tapti, Mahanadi and Godavari. This landscape ideally should be treated as the water capital capital of India since it broadly takes care of almost 40 per cent of the water requirement of at least 10 Indian States.