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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 5, june 16-30, 2009
Tiger! Tiger!

– What’s their future in Tamil Nadu?

(Courtesy: Eco News, the journal of the CPREEC)

The Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park, now renamed the Mudu­malai Tiger Reserve, is spread over 340 at the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Karna­taka and Kerala and is home to a large variety of wildlife. The implementation of Project ­Elephant here, over a decade ago, was a success and the long-term survival of the elephant population seems very promis­ing. But though the population of tigers in the sanctuary has shown a positive growth trend over the years, there remain many concerns.

Like other sanctuaries, Mudumalai too faces problems of biotic pressure. A part of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve, the sanctuary is surrounded by ­several human settlements which have caused the fragmentation of continuous forest patches. The urbanisation of Gudalur and the ever-increasing migrant population of nearby Masina­gudi add to the woes of Mudu­malai, thus ­increasing human-animal ­conflicts.

As the sanctuary is traversed by a National Highway, which runs between Gudalur and Mysore via Mudumalai, and a State Highway which links Ooty, Masinagudi and Thepa­kadu, the pressure from vehicle movements and the travelling public is ever increasing and is a major disturbance to the ­animals.

The opening of a private electroplating industry near the sanctuary, the establishing of the Pykara Ultimate Stage Hydro Electric Project (PUSHEP), the mushrooming of resorts around the sanctuary, and waste from human settlements in and around the sanctuary have caused considerable ­damage to this pristine forest. Much of the private land in the ­elephant corridor, especially wooded lands, is used for non-forestry activities, such as building, construction and agriculture. The movement of elepha­nts and other free-range wild animals is threatened. They are also always at the risk of being hit by speeding vehicles.

Apart from this, another threat looms from the proposed India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project, which is preparing the groundwork to ­establish an underground observatory close to the sanctuary. The INO project is a mega-­science project for which a D-shaped underground laboratory, 7.5 m width, 6.5 m height and 2.4 km in length, is to be dug in Singara where PUSHEP is located. Since the Kallamalai-Singara-Avarhalla elephant corridor is adjacent to the project site, the project is ­expected to play havoc with ­elephant movement and will also affect the tiger population, which has just started to show a significant increase. The INO project site is the migratory path for all the free ranging animals. The project will destroy and ­degrade the habitat and wildlife.

The expected threat by the INO project includes noise, ­disposal of waste, emission of smoke and vibration by ­blasting. Furthermore, five hectares of forest land will also be lost. It will significantly ­increase the volume of traffic in this protected area. The ­discharge of muck and other waste into the river during the rainy season will pollute the ­water and affect both wild animals as well as people. The project will also have an adverse impact on the culture of the ­indigenous people who have been living in the jungles here for millennia.

M. Kumaravelan

* * *

Dr. T. Sundara­moorthy adds that the Kalakad-Mundan­thu­rai Tiger Reserve is also faced with threats.

The Papanasam Reserve Forests and Singampatty ­ex-zamindari forests of Tirunelveli District were opened in 1962 and, later, notified as a sanctuary in 1976 under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. To the two sanctuaries, parts of the Veerapuli and Kilamalai ­Reserve Forests in the adjacent district of Kanniya­kumari were added and the Tiger Reserve created in 1996.

The Reserve is in the southern Western Ghats. Agasthya­malai (1681 m.), which falls within the core zone of the ­Reserve, is the third highest peak in South India. This ­Reserve is one of the five centres of plant diversity and endemism in India (IUCN). The total area of the Reserve is 895, of which the core area is 537 and the buffer area 358 The Reserve, spread along the eastern slopes of Agasthyamalai, encompasses one of the finest stretches of contiguous evergreen forests in the Western Ghats.

Tiger, elephant, gaur, mouse deer, leopard, rusty spotted cat, brown palm civet, leopard, sambhar, spotted deer, Malabar giant squirrel, Nilgiri langur, bonnet macaque, slender loris, lion-tailed macaque, sloth bear, brown mongoose, Nilgiri marten and Indian pangolin are the important mammal species of the Reserve. This wildlife faces numerous threats.

In the Tiger Reserve are three colonies of State Electricity Board personnel and 10,000 workers of a large multinational tea company. There are about 50,000 cattle in the fringe villages within 5 km of the eastern boundary of the Reserve. There are also about 90 encroachments. The encroachers have petitioned various courts and obtained stay orders.

The Reserve has a 56 km boundary on the western side adjoining Kerala, from where entry is easy because of the existence of private tea estates. Many a time people cross the border to enter the Reserve to poach on the wildlife.

The major man-animal conflict in the area is the crop damage caused by wild boar in the villages abutting the Reserve boundary. In the last few years, some cases of bear entering villages have also been reported. Bonnet macaque also create havoc in the surrounding villages.

Along the eastern boundary of the forest, there has been biotic pressure on the resources of the Reserve due to the cutting and collection of firewood and small timber and non-timber minor forest produce.

Infringements into even the so-called demarcated territory or reserves may not at present be significant, but these have the potential of developing into major crises in both reserves.


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A need to learn...
Tiger! Tiger!...
A priceless collection...
Where they see, hear...
Historic residences...
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