Panna National Park in Madhya Pradesh has been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a site that will serve as a lab to test innovative approaches to eco-conservation and sustainability.
From 40 tigers to 0 to 52: the story of Panna Tiger Reserve
The Panna Tiger Reserve spans 1,5981.sq km, with a 576km Core area. It was declared a tiger reserve in the 90s under Project Tiger. By the turn of the century, Panna had around 40 tigers. Shockingly, by 2009, every single tiger had been hunted down. Only two tigresses survived. An outcry triggered the Tiger Reintroduction Project, and thanks to the efforts of dedicated officials and conservationists, the big cat made a strong comeback. In just 10 years, the tiger count at Panna went up to 52. (The Better Indian has this story.)
So what does the UNESCO status mean for Panna?
Biosphere reserves are designated by local governments, and sent to UNESCO for global status. Panna was designated a biosphere reserve by India in 2011. For all practical purposes, it remains under the care and protection of the local government. “Biosphere Reserves are learning places for sustainable development whose aim is to reconcile biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources,” the UN says. Each year, new sites are designated under this programme and a few are taken off.
There are 701 biosphere reserves in 124 countries, including 21 transboundary sites.
This year, in addition to Panna, here are the other sites around the world that have been granted biosphere reserve status. These include sites in the Maldives, Mongolia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Trinidad & Tobago, Comoros, Kazakhstan, Peru and Benin.