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Sundarbans National Park

Sundarbans National Park, proposed by India as a best practice, is interesting as a case study for the following aspects: Innovative management strategy, participatory measures and governance, ‘informer network’, zonation approach, training need assessment, ecodevelopment and ecotourism strategy and self help groups

Summary provided by State Party

The major challenge in the management of human-tiger conflicts in the site is the straying of tiger into fringe villages and the rescue of the same without causing any loss/damage to either side. It is worth mentioning that site has an interface with 25 fringe villages on its north-western boundary and these villages are densely populated with human and cattle. Many times it becomes possible for the staff and local villagers to drive the tiger back to the forest by using traditional methods of drums, crackers, fire etc. Sometimes the tiger also goes back to the forest on its own after spending some duration in these villages. These straying incidents are termed as „Temporary Strayings‟ and trap cage with live bait is sometimes also used to trap the tiger and then relocate in the forests.

In „Permanent Strayings‟, the tiger takes refuge in a cattle shed or inside any village hut, and chemical capture and tranquilization becomes the only resort to rescue the animal. Tigers in Sundarbans stray into the neighbouring villages because they are situated in the reclaimed forest lands and in same places the boundary between the forest and agricultural land is also not distinct. Some villages have small patches of mangrove forests and the tiger enters into these forests by losing direction. Sometimes tiger swim and cross the small creeks to capture easy prey of cow and goat.

Over the years the site management has taken several actions taken to contain human-tiger conflicts by (i) stoppage of forestry operations; (ii) closure of issuance of permit for Phoenix and Nypa; (iii) digging of fresh water ponds and re-excavation annually; (iv) introduction of human face masks and clay models wrapped with energizers, which is charged to 230 Volts & 12 Volt battery source. But none of these measures have conclusively proved to be effective.

Fencing the boundaries of the vulnerable forest and villages areas by vegetative cover i.e. Ceriops- Excoecaria species and mechanical methods by nylon net fencing using Avicennia posts along the forest fringe has been found to be very effective. Both these fencings generally last for about three years. However, Ceriops –Excoecaria fencing is not encouraged now because it leads to a heavy toll of vegetation. Instead, the site management has introduced nylon net fencing with Avicennia posts. Further, to even reduce the use of Avicennia improvised Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC) posts and Bamboo poles are being used. Although the initial cost of using RCC posts is high but the recurring expenditure is low. Field observations indicate that tiger is able to negotiate the 8ft high fence by jumping over the same. Use of RCC posts and Bamboo poles can also help to erect the fence at a height of 10 – 12 ft. The normal mesh size remains as 4” X 4” to avoid any strangulation of wild animal like deer.

Presently, 54 km of forest fringes out of total 70 km has already been fenced and work on erecting the remaining fence is ongoing. As a result of this innovative management practice, the frequency of human killing and tiger straying have shown a distinct downwards trend.

One-off Initiative for the recognition of best practices

The World Heritage Capacity Building Strategy, adopted by the World Heritage Committee in 2011, responds to the identified needs of a diverse and growing audience for capacity building for World Heritage conservation and management activities. Development of resource materials such as best practice case studies and communication tools are among the activities foreseen by the strategy to improve these capacities.

An example of an innovative capacity building initiative is the recently concluded Recognition of Best Practice in World Heritage Management. This initiative, requested by the World Heritage Committee and carried out within the framework of the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention in 2012, solicited applications from World Heritage properties which had demonstrated new and creative ways of managing their sites. Twenty-three submissions were received and evaluated by a 10-member international selection committee which included the representatives of the Convention’s Advisory Bodies, ICCROM, ICOMOS and IUCN. The Historic Town of Vigan in the Philippines was chosen as a best practice achieved with relatively limited resources, a good integration of the local community in many aspects of the sustainable conservation and management of the property and with an interesting multi-faceted approach to the protection of the site.

Management practices recognized as being successful and sustainable can include everything from involving local people in site management, to creating innovative policies and regulating tourism. There are sites that include students from local schools in the management of the site (Slovenia), train local inhabitants as tour guides (Peru), or even put up nylon fences to protect villagers from straying tigers from the Sundarbans National Park (India). Sharing these practices helps other sites find solutions that work.

This initiative provides incentives for States Parties and site managers to reflect on their management practices and explore improvement possibilities.