Jaipur: Sunil Mehta, a wildlife enthusiast has adopted more than a dozen villages around the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve and Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary near Nagpur in Maharashtra. With the cooperation of the government, a project for rewilding of the farm lands in these villages has been launched. To ensure that the farmers do not suffer losses, they will be paid twice the price of their annual produce and resorts would be built on their lands to provide them a permanent source of livelihood.
The project, named Community Owned Community Operated Nature Conservancy (COCON), has led to the farmers becoming friends with tigers and other wild animals. At least 100 incidents of man-animal conflict from the area around Tadoba – central India’s biggest tiger reserve – were reported every year. The situation, however, is changing. The farmers are also being trained in ecotourism to enable them to guide the tourists.
I was pained by the growing incidents of villagers and the wild animals attacking each other. Earlier they considered wild animals as ‘Yamdoot’ (god of death). And now now they consider them ‘Annadata (source of livelihood)’ – Sunil Mehta, Century Asia Nature Foundation