The Uttarakhand forest department spotted the movement of a tiger in the Chilla-Motichur corridor of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve (RTR) after two decades in a major development for wildlife conservation, said a senior official.
A tiger was seen moving from the eastern fringe of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve (RTR) to the forests on its western fringe through the corridor late last month, said Saket Badola, director of Rajaji Tiger Reserve. Earlier, elephants were seen crossing the Chilla-Motichur corridor. The river Ganga bifurcates RTR into two sections. The eastern side of the national park is about 250 sq km and the rest – 571 sq km – lies on the western side.
The free passage of wild animals between the eastern and western parts of the reserve was disrupted due to heavy traffic on the Dehradun-Haridwar highway, an army ammunition dump that has been around since the Indo-China war in 1962, and a railway line, apart from the rising population of Haridwar and Raiwala.
To ensure the unrestricted movement of animals, a flyover was proposed on the highway in 2010 by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) but the delay in their completion over the years kept the movement of animals disrupted. While the eastern tract showed a high presence of tigers, the western one showed a distinct decline in tiger numbers and presence. Around 35 tigers are present in the eastern part. In the western part, the number came down to 1 following which the forest department translocated two tigers from Corbett Tiger Reserve.
In 2018, a petition was filed in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) by a Delhi-based advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal. In 2019, NGT asked the NHAI to furnish ₹2 crore “performance guarantee” to the Union environment ministry for failing to implement the Supreme Court’s directive on constructing an elephant flyover on the Chilla-Motichur corridor in Uttarakhand. The flyover was finally completed in September 2021.
The green court in its order stated that NHAI’s “red-tape attitude was endangering wildlife and biodiversity on the western side of the Rajaji Park and also tigers, which were facing extinction.”
Bansal termed the movement of the tiger in the corridor as a new lease of life for the RTR ecosystem.
Badola tweeted, “Conservation successes often take long to come, but when they do they bring rare happiness and real satisfaction. Multi-agency efforts & hard work finally paid off when a tiger crossed the Chilla-Motichur corridor after almost 2 decades. Great day for #RajajiTigerReserve & #Wildlife.”
Terming it an important milestone with regard to wildlife conservation, Badola said, “The corridor is not just a vital link between the Chilla and Motichur ranges of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve. We took several measures for wildlife conservation and they are finally yielding results.”