Indian government relocates villagers away from tiger reserve

tiger reserve
The village of Umri in Rajasthan, India, is no more.

The entire population of 82 families, some 350 people, has been relocated because the village stands inside the Sariska tiger reserve, the BBC reports. The move aims to protect the local tiger population, which is rebounding after being wiped out by poachers several years ago. This reflects a gain in tiger population nationwide after stronger efforts against poaching and mitigation efforts with local human populations.

Tigers are feared by the villagers, who not only worry for themselves but their livestock. Often villagers will hunt or try to poison tigers that come into their neighborhood. Humans also compete with tigers for land and wildlife.

Umri is the second village to be moved and all eleven villages in the reserve will eventually be relocated. The Indian government says the villagers are being compensated with free land, livestock, up to one million rupees ($20,241), and are being relocated as close as possible to their old homes.

The case highlights the problems facing conservationists worldwide. Human needs have to be balanced with those of the endangered animals, and doing that can be a tricky business. Relocating villages is a difficult and expensive task, and what will be done with the two national highways that pass through the park remains to be seen.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Rescuing wildlife in Namibia

Namibia
While 2011 has been a bad year for African wildlife, a foundation in Namibia is making a difference.

The N/a’an ku sê Foundation, which runs a wildlife sanctuary in Namibia, announced its best year to date, the Namibian reports. Last year the Foundation rescued, rehabilitated and re-released several animals, including five cheetahs, two leopards, one brown hyena, two caracals and one serval. It also rescued and cared for numerous other animals.

The Foundation was started by Namibian conservationists in 2006. Located near the capital Windhoek, the wildlife reserve relies on donations to survive and is open to volunteers, in case you want to have an adventure vacation that makes a difference. A wildlife sanctuary cares for injured or orphaned animals that can’t be released back into the wild. For some luxury travel, you can also stay at their lodge.

The main goal of the foundation is to find the best way for wildlife and humans to share the same land. Africa’s population is steadily growing, putting ever more pressure on wildlife. Yet wildlife is an economic boon to Africa, bringing in hard currency from tourism. The Foundation also provides primary education and healthcare to the San Bushmen and employs several to work with guests and the animals.

Photo courtesy Claire Wormley.

Wildlife refuge on island of Sanibel, Florida, introduces iNature Trail for smartphone users

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge has introduced a new interactive smartphone capability for visitors. Called iNature Trail, the program utilizes QR (Quick Response) codes that are located around the refuge, which can be scanned by your smartphone using free downloadable applications like Neoscan and QR Scan. Once scanned, the codes will bring up YouTube videos and other informative resources for an enhanced experience in nature. For example, scanning a particular code could bring up a video of the refuge manager welcoming guests to the area, while another might teach users how to plant a mangrove tree.

According to Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland, out of the more than 550 national wildlife refuges, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is the first to put in place an interactive trail program like this one.

To get a better idea of how the app works, check out this video:


Elephants break out of Tsavo West National Park, locals go into hiding

elephants, elephant, Kenya
More than 500 elephants strayed out of Tsavo West National Park in Kenya, destroying crops and scaring villagers before being herded back onto park property, the Nairobi Star reports.

The elephants were simply grazing and looking for water, park officials say, but that doesn’t reassure villagers who saw their fields trampled. The elephants wandered through five villages and there are reports that they attacked people, although these haven’t been confirmed. Many people hid for days indoors until Kenya’s Problem Animal Control Unit took care of the problem.

Locals are complaining of threats to their livelihood. Many farmers live in poverty and one ruined crop can be disastrous. Park warden Samuel Rukaria told them they should invest in tourism businesses to cash in on the hugely popular park in their back yard. Not bad advice for someone with capital and a knowledge of the tourism business, but it’s unrealistic to expect everyone in the region to be able to do this. This story is just another example of how difficult it is to reconcile the needs of tourists and wildlife to those of local residents. With Africa’s expanding population putting ever more pressure on parks and game reserves, incidents like this will only become more common.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Mountain gorillas making a comeback

gorilla, gorillas, mountain gorilla, mountain gorillas
In the latest in a spate of good news about wildlife conservation in Africa, BBC Earth reports that mountain gorillas have increased their numbers on Virunga Massif, their core habitat stretching across Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. From a population of only 250 thirty years ago, their population has almost doubled to 480 today. Another 302 live in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park .

The rise is attributed to increased cooperation between the three countries to protect the gorillas and stop poachers.

Safaris to see mountain gorillas have become increasingly popular with adventure travelers. Uganda has expanded its gorilla safaris in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Rwanda is also offering safaris to see the gentle giants.

African nations are getting better at preserving their wildlife. Namibia and Zimbabwe are clamping down on poaching and last year we reported how Niger has pulled a unique subspecies of giraffe from extinction.

[Photo courtesy user KMRA via Wikimedia Commons]