UP tiger reserve plans 'rewilding' centre to deal with man-eaters of Pilibhit

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Bareilly (UP), Jun 6 (PTI) A 'rewilding' centre will come up in the next few months at the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh to stop leopards and tigers from turning man-eaters, officials said on Sunday.

'Wild animals normally maintain critical distance with humans and their habitation. Because of the landscape of the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR), they are losing this critical distance with repeated chance encounters. So, we are trying to get these animals to maintain that distance,' PTR Deputy Director Naveen Khandelwal told PTI.

Rewilding is a concept to reverse the behaviour of the tigers which normally reside in the close vicinity of human habitation, he elaborated. The aim is to reaccustom them with the wild habitat, Khandelwal said.

He said a rewilding centre exists in Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

Asked when the rewilding centre at the tiger reserve in Uttar Pradesh's Pilibhit district would see the light of the day, Khandelwal said, 'We are planning to complete this in this financial year only.' Elaborating more on this, Lalit Verma, Chief Conservator of Forests, Bareilly told PTI, 'Till now, the usual practice has been that tigers and leopards caught in the populated areas were sent to zoological gardens. But, these animals would be sent to rewilding centres.' 'A proposal in this regard has been sent to the state government for its approval and all the formalities have been completed. The land for the rewilding centre has also been finalised,' Verma said.

He said tigers and leopards, which move towards populated areas, will be tranquillised and brought to the rewilding centre and released there.

At the rewilding centre, the tiger will be able to hunt cheetal, neelgai and wild boars, and 'subsequently forget the taste of human blood', and stop venturing into human settlements, Verma said.

The behaviour and style of working of these predators will be studied at the rewilding centre, and treatment will also be given to the injured or those who have fallen ill, the forest official said.

Verma said 31 people died in man-animal conflicts from 2014 to 2020 (June 10), while five tigers and three tigresses were caught in the period from 2014 to 2020.

Eighteen tigers were killed in such conflicts from 2012 to 2020, he said, adding the count includes two cubs who were killed in 2017.

Pilibhit Tiger Reserve authorities say it is home to 127 animals and 326 bird species. It is a mosaic of high sal forests, plantation and grasslands with several water bodies.

Khandelwal also informed that the PTR got the prestigious Tx2 international conservation award for doubling the tiger number in a short period of four years. In 2014, there were 25 tigers in PTR, which rose to 65 in 2018.

The area was declared a tiger reserve on June 14, 2014. PTI COR NAV CK