What once used to be a thriving farming community in India, teeming with people and daily activity, is now something closer to a ghost town, at least when it comes to humans that is. All 200 families that used to live in the village of Ramdegi in central India’s Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve made the decision to give their land back to nature. Part of an ongoing effort by the Indian government to reduce conflict with wildlife, the reserve is now free for a plethora of life to flourish.
Mother Nature wasted no time in reclaiming the land that the villagers left behind. Just over four weeks since the last person left what used to be Ramdegi and there are already herds of bison, deer, antelope, and boar grazing the land. Budding meadows have also begun to sprout where there was once just cropland and cattle farms.
Since the mass exodus, even a tiger has come to visit. In the past, it would have been treated as a threat and driven away to protect livestock. Now, the endangered animal is free to wander about the reserve, avoiding any deadly conflicts with humans that could push the species even closer to extinction.
Ramdegi isn’t the first village to step aside and allow nature to reclaim the land. Close to one hundred communities across India have already voluntarily relocated to widen tiger reserves, and dozens more are expected to follow suit in the years to come.