<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Maharashtra Forest Department will soon be setting up 100 Primary Response Teams (PRT) comprising of local villagers and three Rapid Response Team (RRT) manned by experts in a major move to tackle rising man-animal conflict in the wildlife corridor of Nagzira-Navegaon-Tadoba with the gradual rise in the tiger population.This is one of the several projects under the ambitious Rs 15 crore initiative titled ‘Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation and Livelihood Development Programme’, funded by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The project will be driven by a consortium of six NGOs, led by the state forest department in two prime tiger corridors, Nagzira-Navegaon-Tadoba and Melghat-Bor-Pench.The PRTs will include volunteers from villages volunteers, who will be trained to handle human-animal conflict situation before the forest department arrives. Besides first aid, they will also be given training in identifying animal signs, creating awareness in villages, crowd control.Similarly, there will be three well-equipped RRTs in Nawegaon-Nagzira, Nawegaon-Umred Karandla and Brahmapuri-Tadoba corridor sections, managed by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in coordination with the forest department.“Vehicles assigned to RRTs will be equipped with tranquillizer gun, trap cages, camera traps, nets, and public announcements systems. These will be manned by a veterinarian, a trained biologist and also a trained sociologist, for community engagement during conflict situation,” said Dr Mayukh Chatterjee, Head, Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation Division, Maharashtra’s project for WTI.According to a senior forest official, while at present the forest department sponsors the enrichment and protecting the core areas, several financial initiatives under various schemes are available for the villages in buffer zone.However, there is no scheme to reduce forest dependency of villagers settled in the corridors. “The corridors are degrading with forests being cleared, and the incidence of tigers or leopards being killed, in retaliation for loss of livestock or poaching, is high. Thus this is where this project will play a crucial role in helping protect the corridors,” he said.Senior forest officials state that this is the first time in India when major NGOs in the field like WTI, Wildlife Conservation Trust, Wildlife Research and Conservation Society, The Research and Conservation Trust, and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) have come together for a project.Shree Bhagwan, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) said the main focus will be to involve local communities and aim at protection of corridors necessary for tiger movement, and also to ensure gene dispersal.“The development of habitats will help tigers and the creation of alternate livelihoods will help villages reduce their dependence on forests and bring down man-animal conflict,” he said

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