Sahyadri Tiger Reserve used by 8 tigers: Forest department
The Maharashtra forest department said the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (STR) was being frequently used by eight tigers.Updated: Jun 28, 2020 00:12 IST
The Maharashtra forest department said the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (STR) was being frequently used by eight tigers. Nestled in the rugged terrains (350m-1,250m altitude gradient) of northern Western Ghats, STR spread over 1,166 square kilometre (sqkm) area is western Maharashtra’s only tiger reserve, comprising Chandoli National Park and Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary. It was declared a tiger reserve in 2008.
V Clement Ben, chief conservator of forest, Kolhapur and former field director of STR said, “Based on secondary data collection including scat analysis and model-based predictions for prey base per square km, we have identified the presence of eight tigers in STR. While the number is more than what the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had assessed in 2014 (five-seven tigers), this is not a resident tiger population. These are dispersing tigers but the data indicates habitat improvement and increase in prey base, thus allowing more tigers to move through this landscape.”
The details were shared by Ben after a research paper was published on Saturday in CATnews, a newsletter which is a component of the Species Survival Commission of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). While camera trap images of the tiger were captured in May 2018, the research paper jointly conceived by the state forest department and Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun was published after 25 months.
“STR is suitable to carry the capacity of resident wild tigers akin to tiger reserves in Vidarbha,” said Ben, a contributing author of the paper. He added, “This ecosystem can now sustain wild tiger population if translocation is experimented.”
WII scientists said there was a fear that tigers had become functionally extinct in this region since there were no photographic records since 2011. “Even though there are no resident tigers in STR currently, the one documented four times in camera trap images (May 22-24, 2018) had also dispersed through this region,” said Ramesh Krishnamoorthy, corresponding author of the paper and principal investigator, WII. He added, “Conservation efforts have led to an improvement in prey population, reduced human disturbances, and enhanced protection of fragmented forests.”
Currently, the data indicates the nine animals (wild boar, deer etc.) per sqkm. “It needs to be at least 15 or 16 to have a healthy resident population,” said Ben.
The findings of the research paper were part of the 10-year-monitoring and habitat development exercise of STR which started in 2016. A review of experimental tiger translocation would be taken later this year. “It can commence by releasing one male and one female,” added Krishnamoorthy.
The narrow boundaries of the reserve have fragmented forest cover owing to human habitation in the buffer as well as core areas. The reserve has dense and open forests, scrublands, barren areas, water bodies, and agricultural lands making it a unique ecosystem.
“Now, our attempt is to have social acceptance from villagers to be relocated from the core STR areas, and concentrate on habitat development to increase tiger presence,” said Krishnamoorthy who welcomed the forest department’s latest decision to declare the 29.53 sqkm area in Dodamarg, Sindhudurg as Tillari Conservation Reserve. “The protected area will act as a stepping stone for tiger source population from sanctuaries in Goa and Karnataka. We must also realise that while developing a conducive environment for more tigers at STR, protecting the entire Sahyadri range is crucial for the water security and recharge capacity for western Maharashtra,” he said.