For years, the invasive weed species Lantana choked the grasslands of the Jim Corbett National Park, leading to a massive shortage of food for herbivores there. With their numbers dwindling, the tigers took to attacking livestock in nearby villages. But thanks to a team of experts from Delhi University, the weed has been eradicated and the natural balance in the park has been more or less restored.
When conventional methods like cutting and burning failed to kill the weed, a team of scientists led by Professor CR Babu — project director for the Centre of Excellence Programme under the Centre for Environment Management of Degraded Ecosystems at DU — was called in. “We identified three plots of land within Corbett — Jhirna, Lal Dhang and Dhikala — with massive Lantana growth. These comprised 50 hectares of land. Our study revealed that the regenerative portion of the plant was present on the part of the stem below the soil. This was the reason why conventional methods had failed. We cut the weed from the regenerative part and achieved success,” said Babu.
The weeds were then replaced with natural grasslands and legumes. Within a year, the soil had regained its lost nutrients and the area was lush with natural vegetation again. Happy with the success, the administration repeated the same experiment on another 400 hectares.
Park director Rajiv Bhartari said: “With the application of this technique, the numbers of birds have increased. Herbivores are frequenting the grasslands one again. We hope incidents of tigers attacking livestock will reduce and the number of tigers will increase.”