Wildlife enthusiasts from all around the globe flock to Ranthambore’s lush forests and its abundance of animal life, but behind-the-scenes it faces significant obstacles.
Tigers require their own home ranges for safety reasons and territorial fights may occur without sufficient space being made available to them. Furthermore, tiger corridors between national parks may often become blocked by human settlements and thus make this species even harder to manage.
Tigers elicit awe and admiration around the globe with their striking black-and-orange coats, powerful muscles, and long whiskers, drawing in people worldwide. But these charismatic animals may soon disappear due to human activities: poaching for pelts and bones; habitat destruction; dam construction projects that displace prey animals – these threats threaten their very existence on Earth.
India, where its tiger population has been declining drastically, faces particular danger from illegal trade and urbanization threatening wild tigers, with illegal trade often pitted against urbanization as the greatest enemy to their survival. Some experts are now believing it may be too late to save wild tigers outside of two or three protected reserves.
At Panna in central India – the state that inspired Rudyard Kipling to create Shere Khan in The Jungle Book – once estimated tiger numbers stood at 35; now there are less than 10. Poaching has become widespread; hunters set steel-sprung traps at night on paths not patrolled by forest officials and wait until a tiger wanders within reach; when this occurs its cries are silenced with earth or sticks before clubbing it to death.
Valmit Thakar believes the system of governance must be revised in order to save tigers, and has advocated for their extinction by disbanding the forest service in favor of an expert conservation team dedicated to their protection. Otherwise, failure will mean our children can only ever read about tigers rather than witness them first-hand in their natural habitats.
Leopards once thrived around the globe but now only inhabit about four percent of their former range due to poaching for fur, body parts and food as well as killings by local communities to protect livestock. Habitat loss and human-related conflicts also play a part in their decline.
Communicating using scent is how big cats communicate among themselves – using urine spraying or rubbing it onto trees and bushes to mark their territory, marking young with scratches or paw prints, marking territory with urine – marking cubs until they’re old enough to hunt and survive on their own, still dependent upon mother knowledge and teaching for survival.
Ranthambore Tiger Reserve was long considered a favourite hunting ground of Maharajas of northern India before it was officially designated a national park in 1966. President Indira Gandhi launched Project Tiger in 1973 and soon afterwards, Ranthambore became a center for tiger conservation efforts.
Today, Ranthambore Forest is home to around 80 Bengal tigers living within its boundaries. Initially divided into six zones, as their numbers started expanding into surrounding forests more quickly the number of zones has since been increased to 10. These 10 zones are interconnected via an intricate network of tiger corridors designed to promote movement between reserves while simultaneously decreasing human-wildlife conflicts.
Ranthambhore’s world-famous tigers have attracted tourists from around the world for decades. Their thunderous heartbeats, tender cub cries and stealthy stalking of prey give visitors goosebumps; yet these wild animals are not the only inhabitants in its forests – there is also an entire tribe of warriors dedicated to protecting wildlife in Ranthambhore Reserve’s forests.
Village Wildlife Volunteers – men and women from villages surrounding tiger reserves who provide real time information to forest authorities on wildlife movements, specifically tigers, is an initiative spearheaded by Tiger Watch which has spread rapidly, becoming popular at other reserves such as Jim Corbett, Bandipur and Nagarhole with support from local business communities resulting in less incidents of poaching as well as improved management of human-wildlife conflict situations.
Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve faces one of its major threats due to habitat loss; as its forests have been degraded and fragmented. WWF-India field teams are working towards improving connectivity between Ranthambhore Reserve and other Protected Areas to allow tigers more freedom of movement between territories.
Other predators in the area include Leopard P. pardus, Caracal Felis caracal, Ratel or Honey Badger Melivora capensis, Jungle Cat Felis chaus, Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus, Wild Boar Sus scrofa and the Common Langur Semnopithecus entellus; among herbivores include Chital Axis Axis Axis, Sambar Cervus unicolor Boselaphus tragocamelus and Wild Cow Bruxis iriformis.
Ranthambore was once home to hunting grounds for Maharajas of Jaipur; today it stands as an icon of conservation success and one of the best places in India to see Bengal Tigers in the wild. Situated at the crossroads between India’s Aravalli and Vindhya hills, its ruggedly picturesque reserve features jungle scrub bordered by steep rocky ridges that slope away towards highland plateaux dotted with lakes – it offers visitors an excellent chance of sighting them!
Ranthambhore currently hosts 80 Royal Bengal Tigers, which may seem impressive. Unfortunately, their habitat here is rather densely populated leading to territorial fights which cause cubs from Ranthambhore to be relocated elsewhere national parks. Tigers are solitary animals; males require 60-150 square kilometre territories while females require 40-60. Therefore there have been multiple instances of conflict even as Ranthambhore’s population has greatly expanded in recent years.
Tigers have also begun competing for resources like water and prey, leading to confrontations. Because of this, the Village Wildlife Volunteers programme was introduced as an effort to engage local people in helping tigers and other wildlife. Working alongside NGO and forest department staff to maintain healthy habitat conditions free from human intrusion, volunteers learn how to spot wildlife from the ground so they can report any suspicious activities quickly and reliably.