Migrating, settled tigers in Asifabad at mercy of people

No last-mile corridor connectivity to Kawal

Hyderabad: The recent deaths of two tigers in the forest area near Kagaznagar town are emblematic of the problems that tigers face in the corridor area forests in Komaram Bheem Asifabad and Mancherial districts. This corridor area, a patchwork of reserve forest patches, is highly fragmented, with no connectivity to the Kawal Tiger Reserve, which was designed as a sink for excess tiger population migrating south into Telangana from Maharashtra Tadoba Tiger Reserve and Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary.

The corridor forest areas have no official protection as they are listed as reserve forests, and there is enormous pressure from the people, and from political parties, on forest officials to look the other way when wildlife is poached. This, according to sources, could explain why the disappearance of nearly 10 tigers from these areas in the past five years was never properly explained.

Although tigers have been coming into Telangana state and making their home in the forests of Asifabad district for a decade now, and moving south into Mancherial and trying to make their way into Kawal, they have not been able to do so. And officially, there have been no resident tigers in Kawal for several years now.

“The reason is there is no cover for the tigers to move into the tiger reserve. There are roads, railway lines, irrigation canals, and newly laid electricity lines into villages. The linear infrastructure is the biggest hurdle for tigers and since they cannot go to Kawal, some manage to create territories for themselves in the corridor areas, while some others keep moving between the two states,” a wildlife expert, who has worked in the area for long, said.

Even as tigers manage to evade many of these challenges when moving in Asifabad, and to some extent in Mancherial district, old forest land encroachments and the recent drive to issue fresh podu land pattas by the former BRS government have further fragmented the already strained corridor forest patches.

There are no mitigation measures worth their name to help wild animals cross roads and railway lines in the corridor areas. While previous irrigation projects, such as the Ada and Vatti Vagu projects and their canals, need mitigation measures, such as overpasses, for wildlife to cross safely, one of the newer and bigger issues is the electric lines to villages inside the reserve forest areas, sources said.

People draw power directly either from the old power lines or from the newer ones, and set up electrified fences that kill deer and wild boar, and sometimes even tigers, which come into contact with such fences, the sources said.

Although the Telangana forest department had talked about either declaring the corridor areas as an ‘extended core’ of the Kawal Tiger Reserve or as a separate wildlife sanctuary, both ideas were buried. At present, the department is learnt to be considering moving a proposal with the state government to have the corridor forest areas declared as ‘Conservation Reserve’.

“While a Conservation Reserve is a halfway attempt between no official protection to reserve forest, and full protection if declared as a wildlife sanctuary, it is better than nothing given the fact that there are hundreds of small villages and hamlets in the tiger corridor forests,” a senior department official said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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