TIGER RELOCATION IN INDIA { 36 images } Created 9 Jan 2011

These photographs document tiger-conservation efforts in the north Indian state of Rajasthan.

Sariska National Park was once home to dozens of tigers but by 2005 poaching had resulted in their complete eradication. Recognising the urgent need for intervention, the the Indian and Rajasthan-state governments began the reintroduction of tigers into Sariska.

This tiger-relocation strategy is certainly an important part of the tiger conservation effort but many, including those like Dharmendra Khandal of the NGO Tiger Watch, argue that it will never be entirely successful without properly confronting the three essential issues that threaten tiger populations: poaching, habitat loss and the hunting of prey-base animals. In turn, these three issues cannot be addressed without acknowledging the malign influence of caste, poverty and poor administrative accountability.

Poaching is almost exclusively undertaken by extremely poor and marginalised groups, including the Mogia caste who, without education, land and access to credit have limited alternative means of income. The Gujar people whose livelihood is dairy farming often have little choice but to allow their cattle herds to encroach on park land. This has led to a loss of habitat for tigers.

To properly tackle the problem of hunting and encroachment, the government must provide alternative livelihoods for marginalised groups and relocate them to viable land before - rather than after - the re-introduction of tigers. Compounding all these issues is the ridged hierarchy of India's forest department which discourages transparency, inhibits debate and cultivates a careerist culture that obstructs the involvement of other interested parties in the decision-making process.
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