Baiga tribe – often call themselves children of mother nature. They are worshippers of the wildlife and now turned guardians. They are playing vital role protecting the habitat of the big cats and other wildlife by helping forest officials.
Only after 1968 the Baiga tribes have been relocated from the core area Kanha National Park. They are semi nomadic tribe and completely depend upon mother nature for its survival.
The relocation was critical to maintain the tiger habitat and man-tiger conflicts. In 2014 again hundreds of Baigas were relocated from Kanha Tiger Reserve. But take no doubt as tribals continue to be lifeline of the forest. Forest officials continue to depend on the experience and acumen of tribals for conservation and wildlife protection. Field Director – Mr J S Chauhan cannot agree more and openly admits to ten tribals in his team which work as trackers to trace animals especially tigers.
They study the movement of leaves and chirping of birds to know the location of tigers. Manglu one of the tribal is better known as Sachin Tendulkar of tracking. He has helped the officials to locate many tigers and other animals since 2002. They understand animals. He says reaction of animals can help you track the tigers. It doesn’t end there – they have been used in locating and administering required medical attention to sick tigers. Unlike developed countries we do not have advanced technologies to track the tigers hence these trackers are our back bone as remarked by the Field Director of Kanha Tiger Reserve.
Tribals today understand that Tigers are umbrella species and help officials in identifying suspicious persons who have entered the area to poach the animals. As per Baiga rituals no marriage is successful unless you offer your prayers to the Tigers.
It is the mix efforts of officials and locals that 131 tigers are in Kanha out of 308 in whole Madhya Pradesh – increase of 51 tigers since 2010.
A new conservation model that respects tribal peoples’ rights and uses tribals’ expertise to protect and enhance ecological diversity is welcomed.