Subharanjan Sen, Additional Principal Conservator of Forests (wildlife), Madhya Pradesh has been a passionate wildlife lover and photographer. A man with extensive experience in various wildlife parks in India and a proven track record behind him Mr. Sen is optimistic about a brighter future for wildlife conservation and balanced wildlife tourism in the country. He speaks to T&E Editor Anirban Dasgupta in an exclusive interview.
- It’s been quite a long time since Madhya Pradesh tells the story of the success of India’s wildlife! The landscape, biodiversity and geology of the land of Mowgli instantly connect with a sense of adventure and wilderness. If you could tell us a little about your experience working in this beautiful state
I consider myself fortunate to work in MP, especially in the forest and the wildlife-rich south-eastern part most of the time. Started off as a probationer in the Seoni district which has the Pench Tiger reserve. After another optional wildlife training at WII, Dehradun I was posted as Director of Satpura National Park in 1996. This was before it was declared as a Tiger Reserve. The terrain and its forests are breathtaking and it was a great learning experience.
Satpura has the highest elevations and the most diverse ecosystems in Central India. At that time the presence of villages in virtually all the valleys was holding back the area. The villages now have been relocated with their consent and the area and Satpura Tiger Reserve is now well on the way to becoming one of the richest and most spectacular PAs.
Thereafter I did a stint as Director, of Madhav National Park, Shivpuri. Located in the semi-arid region, Madhav was a totally different area with numerous issues including some very fundamental and intractable issues like size, shape, location, the presence of highways etc.
Thereafter, I spent close to 7 years as Deputy Director initially at Pench and subsequently in Kanha Tiger Reserve. Working in these two Tiger Reserves was a great learning experience and thereafter spent 6 years on Deputation to the Wildlife Institute of India at Dehradun. On my return in 2015 was posted to Pench again as Field Director. During my tenure, Pench has been adjudged the best-managed Tiger Reserve under the Management Effectiveness Evaluation exercise (MEE) conducted by NTCA. I have spent time in the forest headquarters in Bhopal since 2018 after my promotion.
- Besides being one of the most sought-after destinations for Tiger tourism, MP has also been in the news for various positive developments and experiments in the area of wildlife conservation and rehabilitation. If you could share with our readers about the major projects which are happening at present.
“Projects” ongoing at the moment –
- Barasingha reintroductions in Satpura as well as Bandhavgarh
- Tiger reintroduction in Madhav
- Cheetah reintroduction
MP has been at the forefront of what is termed “active’ or ”proactive “ wildlife management which I have had the good fortune to be associated with in the field. These include
- Voluntary Village relocation: 202 villages relocated since 1967-68
- Gaur re-introduction in Bandhavgarh
- Re-wilding and then introduced into the wild of hand-reared orphan tiger cubs
- Re-introduction of the Barasingha in Satpura TR
- Re-introduction and re-establishment of the tiger population in Panna TR
- Re-introduction of the tigers in Nauradehi WLS and Madhav NP
- Mass capture of herbivores – Spotted deer (more than 7000), Barasingha (106+) 30 odd Nilgai through the Boma Technique.
- When the tourism industry, in general, is showing positive signs of revival, on the other hand, there is a threat of over-tourism. In the area of wildlife, it is always a challenge to balance the interest of wildlife while sustaining tourism revenue. What is your view on this?
Tourism should always be subservient to tourism. Irresponsible tourism can ruin an area quickly. I believe the idea of Responsible Tourism must be centered around the following key factors :
- Should not damage the natural resource
- Should not be a burden on the resources of the area – especially water
- Benefits locals
- Local participation in most aspects
- Locals have a large stake
- Not adverse socially
- Ideally self-regulated by tourists as well as other stakeholders
- Not a burden on local resources
Sadly most tiger tourism areas are quite the opposite of these. Educating tourists is a challenge and will happen gradually.