Nagarahole National Park (formally known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park) has one of the highest recorded tiger densities in India supporting 50-60 tigers, with about 100 additional tigers in adjacent reserves. Nagarahole is also home to around 1,550 forest-dwelling families living in 55 sporadic settlements. However, following the declaration of Nagarahole as a National Park, strict application of wildlife laws curtailed agriculture, wildlife hunting, sale of forest products, expansion of settlements and even official logging.
Consequently, most forest-dwelling communities inside the park find work in coffee plantations five to 20 kilometers outside the park. Furthermore, strict but necessary wildlife laws hinder provision of even basic social amenities such as education, healthcare, transportation and communication infrastructure to forest-dwelling communities living deep inside Nagarahole.
This WCS – India project aimed to reduce adverse human impacts on tigers and human-tiger conflict by facilitating the voluntary resettlement of forest-dwelling communities from Nagarahole National Park by conducting the following activities:
actively working among forest dwelling communities to canvass and promote voluntary relocation;
monitoring the progress of official relocation programs; and
providing direct and indirect livelihood support to relocated forest dwelling communities.
While conservation measures have seriously affected the livelihood and development opportunities for forest-dwelling communities, long-term WCS research in Nagarahole has clearly recorded the dramatic recovery of tigers, prey and habitat due to such conservation measures. Although the Karnataka State Forest Department provides overall protection to the Park and its wildlife, threats, such as grazing, poaching, fire, and timber smuggling, still emanate from the settlements of about 900 families that occupy its interior.
In response to repeated demands from the forest-dwelling communities for fair, well-implemented relocation since 1991, WCS and its partners have initiated a pro-active scheme of voluntary resettlement of forest-dwelling communities as a long-term, win-win solution to the problem of human pressure on tiger populations in and around Nagarahole.
As a result of this project 60 families living within the interiors of Nagarahole National Park resettled outside the reserve under a government-implemented plan. 340 families in total have voluntarily resettled outside the reserve. Post-resettlement support for agriculture, education, health, animal husbandry, and other necessities was provided. Healthcare was provided to 1,783 individuals, and 311 students received educational support. From the resettled families, 24 youth underwent training in masonry and incense stick making to enhance their employment opportunities. Also during the project period, the government took the initiative to set up a high school and a day-care center in response to the project’s interventions. Resettled families were assisted in obtaining government benefits, including old-age pensions, livestock vaccinations, and compensation for crop damage by wildlife.
The project team held 60 meetings with forest/wildlife department officials and local elected representatives to build support for this innovative voluntary resettlement project. In addition, a network of local informants was developed who have reported 58 illegal activities in the reserve, which were reported to concerned authorities for suitable action. Four wildlife conservation education awareness camps were conducted for 100 students and 16 teachers. Finally, project leaders supported a habitat consolidation project carried out by WCS.