This project was fully funded by the BBC Wildlife Fund
The protected areas of forests in the Western Ghat mountains of Karnataka are the habitats that are targeted for this WCS-India project. These areas are seriously fragmented and riddled with human settlements and are thus unable to provide a large and uninterrupted habitat that is necessary for the long-term survival of tigers, their prey and other wildlife.
The presence of such settlements leads to perennial human-wildlife conflicts in the form of livestock predation and occasional killing of humans by tigers and leopards as well as crop raiding by elephants and other ungulate species. Retaliatory killing of wildlife is a major problem.
Voluntary resettlement of the peoples living inside enclaves within critical tiger habitats is a key intervention that is used to reduce the threat of habitat fragmentation. In conjunction with resettlement programs run by the Indian Government, WCS – India has worked with the local indigenous people to ensure that they can access the help and benefits due to them during and after the relocation. The Government provide lands for agriculture, assistance with agricultural methods, schools for children, pensions for the elderly and a broad suite of health services that were previously lacking.
This project builds on those experiences and has identified certain key small privately-held lands deep in the protected areas. These households are then financially compensated and assisted in finding alternate lands away from the location if they ask for such assistance. Thereafter, the lands gradually revert to natural habitat conditions similar to that of the adjacent protected area. As with the other voluntary resettlement mechanism, the WCS-India Program helps the villagers who resettle with all aspects of their moving and new lives.
After working with national and local government to set up a legal framework, the enclave of Singsara was identified as a prime location. As a result of this project five families, (about 35 people) were compensated and voluntarily relocated outside and away from the National Park. Fourteen other families have agreed to accept suitable relocation packages. WCS continues to work with these families to ensure that they have access to post resettlement support. At Singsara, 29 hectares of land are now in the process of being legally added to the National Park. In addition to the work in Kudremurkh, inside Nagarahole National Park the entire community of Katibetta, a village of seven families have accepted the Government of India relocation package and are poised to move out.