GTF Updates

Addressing Tiger Conservation in High Altitude Tiger Landscape: Sikkim

The high-altitude landscapes have been serving as critical habitat for many wildlife species, however very little is known about tigers in these landscapes especially in Sikkim. The tiger has been categorized as “Endangered” under the IUCN red list. It is listed in “Appendix I” of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and is protected under “Schedule I” of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 which provides it with full legal protection from hunting as well as trade. The increasing record of presence of this charismatic species, in the recent past, and increasing anthropogenic pressures in these areas including rapid development, linear infrastructures, hydro-power projects, and natural resource dependency of the locals, at the same time, makes it necessary to understand this landscape better and build the capacity of local authorities and the communities residing in the vicinity of these protected areas of the landscape. This is important not only for conserving the tiger, its prey and habitat but also for communities.

Under the ongoing project “Investigating and Addressing Tiger Conservation in Sikkim – the Eastern Himalayas” project, supported by IUCN’s Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP) and funded by the German Cooperation via KfW Development Bank, the Global Tiger Forum (GTF) aim to assess and understand the landscape better and implement focused and site-specific interventions for conservation of the tiger, co-predators, and prey.

Assessing the landscape for better and focused interventions: uncovering the unknown

The Global Tiger Forum (GTF) has installed double sided camera traps at 30 locations in Protected and non-protected areas of Eastern Sikkim to understand movement and presence of tigers and other wild animals. A similar, exercise is being carried out in northern Sikkim as well. These camera traps have revealed the presence of tigers and some other elusive species in non-protected areas for the first time. These cameras have recorded tiger, Clouded leopard, golden cats, and other meso-predators and prey species. Collection of direct and indirect evidence of the wild animals is being recorded along with habitat assessment.

Efforts are being made to understand the potential route connecting the Protected Areas (PAs), and non-PAs, both within the State, inter-state and transborder regions (Indian side). The stages of transformation and identify areas for focused conservation actions.

Building Capacity for better monitoring:

Building capacity of both the forest frontline staff and community monitors is crucial for monitoring the species and the habitat in a better way. The GTF team conducted four (4) capacity building workshops for monitoring and data collection. Around 114 staff and local communities have been trained so far including 71 men and 43 women. These staff and local communities are further engaged in the ongoing camera trapping and sign survey exercises. Involving the local community in such trainings, monitoring, and conservation gives them valuable skills and a sense of ownership and making them guardian of the landscape while also securing their support in better conservation efforts.

Human Wildlife Conflict and livelihood

The proximity of the villages to PAs and movement of wild animals in non-PAs increases the chances of human wildlife conflict with agricultural fields and livestock making an easy food availability for such wild animals. Several, discussions, and consultations have been carried out to zero down on the sites for implementation of human wildlife conflict mitigation measures. A pairwise understanding i.e., site v/s species, crop v/s species, livestock v/s species have been made to implement species specific and site-specific mitigation measures which includes greenhouse, chain-link fences with RCC base, and electric/solar fences. With reduced crop loss, fewer livestock casualties, and greater security for families, the community will find new ways to thrive alongside wildlife.

Sikkim became the first 100% organic state of India. To further strengthen the market for organic commodities and ensuring effective income generation, a systematic plan of investment, establishing grassroot institutions to manage this produce with due capacity of producers and stakeholders in market led extension would be the key to achieve profitability in market. The project further aims to provide market linkage to such produces through the existing and new Farmer Producers Organisations (FPOs) while engaging the social enterprises. This pilot initiative will further add to the economy of local people and open opportunities to access regional, national, and international markets.

Disclaimer: This project is supported by IUCN’s Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme, funded by the German Cooperation via KfW Development Bank. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of GTF and do not necessarily reflect the views of IUCN, the German Cooperation or KfW.

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