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Application of theory U to assess the implementation possibilities of a co-existence agenda at Panna Tiger Reserve, India.

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This thesis develops understanding on the prospects of successfully implementing a co-existence buffer zone agenda around the Panna Tiger Reserve by its management. Fostering co-existence of humans and wildlife in the buffer zones and multi-use forests around tiger reserves is suggested as a way forward by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) of India for ensuring the long term survival of the tiger species in India. The proposed shift involves change from managing tigers in national parks with minimum human interference to the managing tigers at larger land units promoting co-existence. While successful implementation of the proposed change may have potential benefits for tigers and people, the failure to implement the proposed co-existence agenda will be an opportunity lost to revive the tiger species in India. To provide understanding on the above described situation, the main research objective of this study was to use Theory U lenses to assess the potential of key stakeholders to engage in transformational change towards co-existence. The second research objective was to identify the barriers, as perceived by the stakeholders seeking transformational change, to co-existence. To gain insights into the study objectives, stakeholders from the five groups were interviewed using structured questions, subjected to group meetings and were also observed as they performed in daily life. The collected information allowed an assessment of prospects of implementing change to co-existence. The study findings suggest that the concept of co-existence buffer zone is not well supported by majority of the stakeholder groups at Panna. Stakeholder interrelationships leading to lack of trust, existing conflicts, leadership deficiencies, fear of economic repercussion and poor communication created barriers between various stakeholder groups. Some of the barriers, for example, lack of trust and existing conflicts between stakeholder groups distanced the groups from each other and reduced mutual cooperation, vital for co-existence to succeed. Study findings also revealed that some stakeholder groups viewed the co-existence concept positively. Findings suggest that some stakeholder’s placed importance on issues such as, aesthetics, ethics and moral principles, spiritual values, customs and cultural beliefs and economic incentives. These issues perceived within the context of co-existence in the buffer zone may have incited positive feelings towards the co-existence concept. When stakeholders were assessed through the mental lenses of Theory U the study findings suggest that stakeholder groups differed in their ability to change and also support the proposed change to co-existence at Panna Tiger Reserve. Study findings suggest that members of the Landlord and Villager stakeholder groups may be most receptive to change. Members of these stakeholder groups, through their thinking and actions, demonstrated ability to support the proposed change to co-existence in the buffer zone of the Panna Tiger Reserve. The Politician and Tourist lodge groups demonstrated levels of openness to change their thinking towards co-existence but did not show enough evidence during the study to suggest that they could undertake actions and contribute towards transformational change at Panna. This means that though members could mentally think along the lines of the proposed change their ability to directly take actions to achieve change, was at the time of the study, limited. The Panna Tiger Reserve management group members revealed least ability to shift their thinking from their existing mind set towards co-existence scenarios. Their ability to take actions that led towards achieving change to co-existence was also restricted. Based on the study findings it may be suggested that Panna Tiger Reserve Management ability to directly contribute to successful implementation of the proposed co-existence buffer zone agenda at Panna Tiger Reserve may be the lowest amongst the five stakeholder groups.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.