Wldlife

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Topics: Tiger
At one time the Tarai lowlands of Nepal were a paradise for tigers, and for tiger hunters. During the Rana period, the vast tracts of forest and grassland were the stage for grand shoots, or shikars. These hunting expeditions were carried out not only because it benefitted the rulers themselves, but also because it formed an important part of state hospitality.

Although archival photographs give the impression of reckless hunting by the Ranas, tigers were harvested on a sustained yield basis, and the shikars in any one locality were spaced out at intervals of several years. Thus, tigers werestill plentiful as late as in 1950, and a continuous belt of habitat stretched the length of the kingdom along theTarai and Inner-Tarai valleys.

I made a dozen trips to different parts of the western and far western Tarai between 1967 and 1972. Travelling by foot and bicycle and staying mainly in Tharu villages, I had opportunity to see things at first hand. In the far west, resettlement from the hills was only beginning to make an impact. Huge unbroken stretches of the Tarai forest remained. During the late 1960s, it might still have been possible for an energetic tiger to walk all the way westward from Chitwan, in central Nepal, to India´s Corbett Park, without ever leaving decent habitat.

But the picture changed rapidly. By the beginning of the 1980shaIf of theTarai forests had been cleared for settlement and cultivation. By then two gaps had occurred in the hitherto continuous forest belt. During and after the completion of the Sunauli Pokhara Highway, forest were cleared and settlements increased on either side of Butwal, creatinga migration barrier for tigers. At the same time, there was rapid deforestation in Kanchanpur District, again in the wakeof road building activities. The result was a gap isolating the tigers at Sukla Phanta in the southwestern corner of the country from those further east.
A Buffer for the Tiger Many, if not most, of the local

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