REHABILITATION is a complex issue

A wildlife enthusiast, Mausam Noor has been a regular at various tiger reserves across the country. A first-time MP (from Malda, West Bengal), Noor is never without her Nikon N-67 during her numerous forest escapades. Mesmerised with the beauty of the tiger, she has been a tiger lover since her young days. Hardnews spoke to Noor on tiger conservation and what has gone wrong with it

How important is tiger conservation for India?
No doubt it is of utmost importance. In fact, it is one of the foremost priorities of the government as we have the largest population of this magnificent wild cat. The government is trying out every possible means to save the tiger.

What are the deterrents to tiger conservation?
I have visited more than 16 tiger reserves across the country. What I have understood is that if people are not shifted out from the tiger reserves across the country and rehabilitated elsewhere, we would not have any tigers left in the forests. I recently visited a national park and was told that people settled inside the park are not ready to move out of it. Activists, who supposedly work for the rights of these people, are actually misguiding them - they have political ends on their mind. Therefore, although the people are offered ample compensation, they always demand more. 

Rehabilitation is a complex issue. The process followed by the government is slow and is in a complete mess. To resolve this, the government should consult wildlife experts and implement their suggestions.

The government should try to educate the people still living inside tiger reserves. They must be made to understand the importance of tigers and their natural habitats. Moreover, it is a fact that some of these villagers also indulge in poaching. The government should try to wean them away from this criminal way of life by offering them jobs. The forest department can take the lead in recruiting them. 

You have visited many tiger reserves. Your views on the tourism around these reserves?
Tourism should be allowed, but only to a certain extent. It should not exploit nature or disturb the animals. However, if tourism is coupled with an ecological perspective, it could help generate awareness among the masses. Tourism also helps in curbing poaching as guards are more vigilant when the tourists come. Also, I have noticed that although some of the forest guards are sincere and honest, most are there only because of the commercial interests arising out of tourism. 

Recently, a tiger relocated to Sariska was killed. Your comments.
There were no tigers in Sariska, anyway, and the ones that have been shifted there are being killed. Tigers have no sense of boundaries and once they move out of the park limits, they are always under the risk of being poached or killed. To address this, forest guards should be given more incentives and their working conditions must be improved. 

Mining is threatening the tiger habitat. Your views.
This, indeed, is a major threat. If this continues unabated, a time would come when mining would still be going on but the tigers would have vanished. If this great predator goes extinct, it would be a big burden to live with. Our conscience would not let us live with the fact that we had the largest population of tigers, but we let them go extinct.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: DECEMBER 2010