Apart from Sunderbans, 13 other tiger reserves in India have also got the recognition for meeting the standards in effective conservation. A group of international experts and protected area managers have set the standards. The announcement was made by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) recently.
A year ago, the South 24 Parganas forest division — known as the Sunderbans buffer zone that’s now home to at least 22 big cats — had met the criteria. It is, reportedly, only the third area outside any tiger reserve in India after Uttarakhand’s Ramnagar and Lansdowne divisions to have got the tag. As per the latest camera-trap exercise, the Indian Sunderbans is now home to at least 96 tigers, of which 74 have been clicked in the tiger reserve area.
Apart from tigers, these standards are being adopted across the world for conservation of jaguars, lions and freshwater dolphins.
The other Indian tiger reserves that received the recognition are Manas, Kaziranga and Orang in Assam; Valmiki in Bihar; Dudhwa in Uttar Pradesh; Panna, Kanha, Satpuda and Pench in Madhya Pradesh; Anamalai and Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu; Parambikulam in Kerala and Bandipur in Karnataka. One tiger site each from Nepal, Bhutan and Russia have also been granted the accreditation.
Sunderbans Tiger Reserve field director Tapas Das said the accreditation will further strengthen and improve conservation efforts and management interventions on the landscape. According to him, among the standards evaluated before giving the accreditation are, big cat population in the tiger site, importance of the reserve, management, community participation, tourism, protection and human-wildlife conflict, among others.
The CATS is being implemented across 125 sites in the world, including 94 in India. The sites in India also include areas outside tiger reserves. According to deputy field director Justine Jones, this means that Sunderbans has set a standard in its management efforts. “This will go a long way in safeguarding the habitat through the umbrella species approach,” said an official.