Hyderabad: The proposal to declare the reserve forest areas in Komaram Bheem-Asifabad district that serve as a corridor for tiger movement to and from Maharashtra as the extended core area of the Kawal tiger reserve is not expected to see the light of the day any time in the near future.
Fears of political pressure from locally elected public representatives, coupled with worries over how declaring the reserve forest areas that have turned into a haven for tigers in the past few years would mean the state government jumping through hoops for any development project or work are said to be the reasons for the proposal being kept in the cold storage.
The reserve forests that are part of the tiger corridor are under tremendous pressure from people who have been encroaching on forest land with the support of local political leaders for years now. Though the Telangana State Wildlife Board had twice approved the recommendation to declare the forest corridor in Asifabad district as Kawal reserve’s extended core area, the state forest department, sources said, was extremely wary of upsetting the political powers by doing so.
It was learnt that instead of the corridor forest areas being increased, they are shrinking by each year. Though some patchwork plantations are being taken up and the growing trees are being protected in some areas where the forest department officials are managing to take repossession of bits and pieces of encroached land, securing of the corridor areas, and protecting them are not happening, according to sources.
In places like Kondapalli and Ibrahimpatnam areas in Asifabad district, the forest areas have shrunken so much into serious bottlenecks that prevent movement of wildlife, especially tigers. The encroachments and increasing number of bottlenecks are preventing tigers from making their way into Kawal tiger reserve, originally planned as a sink for excess tiger population migrating from Maharashtra into Telangana.
With such being the case, tigers that originally migrated into Asifabad district from Maharashtra, such as Phalguna, a tigress which gave birth to eight cubs and raised all of them successfully, were restricted to staying put in the corridor areas or returning to Maharashtra after wandering around for a few months in Asifabad. The human disturbance and encroachments in the corridor areas are such that from the eight tigers that were counted in Asifabad district in 2018, only four are left now. However, of these four, two tigresses have five cubs between them.
The real challenge, according to officials, will be when these cubs grow up and begin looking for new territories of their own. With nowhere to go, with access to the Kawal Tiger Reserve practically non-existent, some officials fear that Asifabad could well become a battleground with respect to human-tiger conflicts in the next two or three years...