Shivalik forest awaits tiger's roar, will be UP's fourth tiger reserve

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The proposal to declare Shivalik forest in western Uttar Pradesh as a tiger reserve is gaining support among officials, experts and wildlife enthusiasts.

Spread over 33,200 hectares, the forest is located at the foothills of the Shivalik range close to the Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand on the route to Dehradun from Delhi in the Saharanpur circle.

Principal chief conservator of forest (Wildlife) of Uttar Pradesh Sunil Pandey said the proposal for declaring Shivalik forest as a tiger reserve had been received. “After going through it, I can say it has immense potential,” he said.

The proposal would soon be forwarded to the central government which alone can take a final decision on the matter, he added.

Once the proposal is officially accepted, it would be the fourth tiger reserve of UP and the second one in western UP. Amangarh in Bijnor district is western UP’s first tiger reserve near Jim Corbett National Park. Dushwa and Pilibhit are the other tiger reserves in the state.

The Uttarakhand government’s plan to translocate a few tigers in the nearby Motichur range of Rajaji National Park from other places in the hill state would strengthen the proposal to declare Shivalik forest as a tiger reserve due to its proximity, said VK Jain, Saharanpur division’s chief conservator of forests.

Jain said direct sighting of tigers were reported in the forest till 2005 and many people claimed such sightings till 2008-09. He is hopeful the region could be transformed into an eco tourism spot.

“Proximity to Dehradun and good connectivity by road, train and air would help in attracting wildlife enthusiasts and tourists. This point has also been well taken in the proposal,” he said.

Stretching till the boundary of the Kalesar wildlife sanctuary in Haryana and the Simbalbara National Park in Himachal Pradesh, the Shivalik forest includes Badkala, Shakumbhai and Mohand forest ranges of the Saharanpur circle.

While man-animal conflicts are reported from other areas, the Shivalik region seldom witnesses such incidents.

Saharanpur divisional commissioner Sanjay Kumar said developing Shivalik tiger reserve would help in strengthening the rich biodiversity and wildlife conservation in the entire region.

The forest department has carried out an intensive six-month trap camera survey in the forest with technical and other assistance from experts of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The survey counted a population of over 50 leopards, different herbivorous animals, civets, snakes and species of birds, which indicates it has a rich biodiversity to support the presence of tigers.

After the translocation of tigers in western Rajaji Park, these big cats could venture into the Shivalik forest in the next few years, turning it into a potential corridor for tigers, said Dr Vibhas Pandav, a scientist with the Wildlife Institute of India.

“The latest survey of the area suggests it is full of herbivorous and other animals. Therefore, it is perfect for the relocation of tigers,” he added. He, however, highlighted the need for reducing human pressure inside and outside the forest.

“The population of Gujjars inside the forest could be moved out and rehabilitated,” said Dr Pandav.

Divisional commissioner Sanjay Kumar said 400 families of Van Gujjars lived inside the forest and earned their livelihood by selling milk. Each family has its own herd of buffaloes. He said 40 families would be rehabilitated in two months and the process would continue until all families were relocated and benefitted from government schemes.

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