A dense Tamil Nadu forest that used to be the late notorious sandalwood smuggler Veerappan's favourite refuge will soon become the country's 39th tiger reserve.
The Centre has asked the Tamil Nadu government to submit a proposal on how the Sath-yamangalam wildlife sanctuary can be converted into a tiger park, after World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reported 10 tigers had been spotted there.
The move will also lead to a clampdown on illegal mining in the area.
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh also wants Tamil Nadu to conserve Segur plateau, adjoining the Sathyamangalam sanctuary, as a buffer for the Madumalai tiger reserve — which has the largest tiger population for a reserve in India.
"The Madumalai tiger reserve is an important tiger source area, which has a potential for populating the northern and eastern parts of the Western Ghats landscape complex," Ramesh wrote in a letter to Tamil Nadu chief minister Karunanidhi on August 26. In July, he had asked the state government to submit a proposal to declare Sathyamangalam forest as a tiger reserve.
As per the latest tiger census, four tiger reserves — Madumalai, Bandipur, Nagarhole and Wayanad — form a landscape, where big cat population has almost peaked.
"These tigers need more space," said Ravi Chellam, director of Bangalore-based NGO World Conservation Society, which has been working in Bandipur and Nagarhole tiger reserves in Karnataka.