Residents of Mordoongri village in in Ranthambhore make way for tigers

Ranthambhore National Park
Photo: PradaDearest / Flickr

Men are finally making way for tigers in Rajasthan’s celebrated Ranthambhore National Park (RNP). With residents of yet another forest village located in the core moving out on Wednesday, the tigers proliferating in the park will now have more inviolate space, and surely more fun.

The Ranthambhore watchers, and there are quite a few, vouchsafe that re-locating Mordoongri, situated in the strategic corridor between RNP and the Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary, should be considered a breakthrough.

The present success, which follows the peaceful re-location of Padra village in December 2011, also opens up vast possibilities for creating more space for wildlife in the Park’s neighbourhood, including in the adjoining cattle-infested Kailadevi Sanctuary.

There had been repeated efforts in the wake of the launch of Project Tiger some 40 years back in Ranthambhore to re-locate the human habitations, but they have met with very little success. Many attempts failed partly due to wrong strategies adopted by the authorities and also due to villagers’ own diffidence in moving out in the absence of an offer they could not resist.

“In 1973-74, around the time when Project Tiger was launched in this park, there were prophets of doom predicting the end of tiger in Indian forests. Ranthambhore is a symbol of revival of the tiger in India,” observers leading conservationist Harsh Vardhan.

“Tigers are prolific breeders, provided you allow them have their space in the wild, keep a watch on the prey base and ensure protection.”

“It worked because we could instil confidence in the villagers about our good intentions and concern for their well being,” says Sawai Madhopur Collector Giriraj Singh Kushwaha, who played a pivotal role in the process.

“This is the good work of the team in the district administration,” he notes. “The area may a few bighas, but the exit of the village would ensure inviolate space for wild animals in 10 sq km to 5 sq km area,” he asserts.

“We were keeping our fingers crossed till the last cart carrying household goods was wheeled out of the area the other day. The Mordoongri residents, who had good access to water and road facility, were considered difficult customers but they obliged,” says Dharmendra Khandal of Ranthambhore-based Tiger Watch.

“There had been many missteps in the past which almost put the re-location process in jeopardy but everything went well this time,” he notes.

Mordoongri’s 30 families — with approximately a population of 150, and many heads of livestock — have been moved to Amli, some 35 km away in Tonk district. They have been provided with land as compensation and the authorities have facilitated them with below poverty line cards, gas connections, water supply and roads.

Along with the authorities, the local tourism sector also helped the outgoing families settle in the new environs. One more reason for the smooth transition in Mordoongri has been the full cooperation of non-government organisation and non-interference of local politicians.

In the past five years — during which renewed efforts were made to shift the villages — Indala was the first settlement to go, followed by Padra. Now, if what Divisional Forest Officer Y.K. Sahu says is to be believed, Katauli and Bhid villages too are in the waiting to move out.

As tigress T-9 had moved into Padra soon after the humans left lock, stock and barrel to give a litter, there are felines waiting to fill the space in Mordoongri too.

“At least four tigers — T-13, T-22, T-23, and T-43 — frequent the area and I will not be surprised if they make the place their home soon,” assures Dr. Khandal.

Original Story: The Hindu