An entire village inside a north Indian nature reserve has been moved to make more room for local tigers in a bid to protect the country's dwindling big cat population, an official said Wednesday.The village of Umri was relocated from Rajasthan state's Sariska tiger reserve last week, according to R.S. Shekhawat, the field director of the national park.
"The process took place with the cooperation of the families. It will help in securing a proper habitat for big cats, so both the governments of the state and the centre (federal government) are working in this direction," he told AFP.
He said the authorities compensated the affected families with either a lump sum payment of 1 million rupees ($20,274) or a combination of land and cash to build their new homes.
India is home to half of the world's rapidly shrinking wild tiger population but has been struggling to halt the big cat's decline in the face of poachers, international smuggling networks and loss of habitat.
The Sariska national park is in the Aravalli mountain range and located about 167 kilometres (104 miles) from the national capital New Delhi.
Currently home to just five tigers, officials in the desert park are working on relocating more villagers in the months ahead, Shekhawat said.
"We expect to relocate all families in different villages inside the reserve by 2013," he said.
India has employed a series of measures recently to stem the decline in the number of tigers.
Last month officials announced that armed commandos would be deployed in the jungles of southern India to prevent poachers from capturing and killing the big cats.
India has seen its tiger population plummet from an estimated 40,000 animals in 1947, when it gained independence from British colonial rule, to just 1,706 in 2011.