Study throws light on movement of animals in Amrabad Reserve

The study was conducted between April 2020 and July 2020, in the Amrabad Tiger Reserve, by officials of the Telangana forest department

Hyderabad: A one-of-a-kind ‘wildlife crossings on a road’ study conducted by officials of the Telangana forest department in a tiger reserve (ATR) in the country, has shown that when vehicular traffic is minimal, or absent, wild animals do not shy away from crossing roads that run through forests, even during the day time. The study, conducted between April 2020 and July 2020 during the Covid-19 lockdown in the Amrabad Tiger Reserve, showed that nearly every species of wild animal that lives in ATR, moved freely on the roads in the absence of traffic.

“We also found that leopards were using the road frequently to walk along and not just cross the road from one side of the forest to the other,” Rohit Gopidi, the forest divisional officer at Mannanur said.

The tiger reserve, spread mostly in the Nallamala forests in Nagarkurnool district, has one of the busiest highways running through it for about 60 km between Mannanur village, the gateway to the reserve, and Eagalapenta, where the forest ends before the road goes across Krishna river and enters Andhra Pradesh.

The study, which involved placing a number of motion triggered camera traps along the two-lane highway in the forest, showed that there were at least a dozen spots along the road that emerged as preferred animal crossing locations. “Normally, when there is traffic, very few animals come onto the road. The camera trap image study showed that in the absence of traffic, animals returned to their normal behaviour of freely moving along the road, or crossing it,” said Mahender Reddy, the field biologist at the reserve.

The busy highway that connects Telangana to the Srisailam temple town in Andhra Pradesh, sees around 600 to 800 vehicles – including RTC buses - passing on it. During weekends, the number of vehicles nearly triples, sometimes resulting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The road, as in others passing through tiger reserves, is shut from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. to leave the forest free of disturbances and allow animals to cross the road in peace.

However, with no one following the mandatory 30 kmph speed limit while passing through the forest and instead speeding through clocking anywhere upwards of 80 kmph on some stretches of the road, ATR sees a regular parade of road kills – wild animals mowed down by fast moving vehicles. Among those that are usually killed are slow moving snakes such as pythons, monkeys that gather in large troupes by the road side, having gotten used to people feeding them, various deer, porcupines, civet cats, and different kinds of jungle cats.

B Srinivas, the field director of Amrabad Tiger Reserve told this newspaper that based on the study data, a request was being sent to the National Highways Authority of India to lay additional speed breakers at the locations identified as hotspots for animal crossings. “We have the maximum number of tigers in Telangana. This is a very special area in the state. We will also provide the latitude and longitude information for proper placement of the speed breakers to force all vehicles to slow down at the identified animal crossing points to ensure everyone, the wildlife and people, stay safe,” Srinivas said.

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