On the scent of a tiger

On the scent of a tiger

WILDLIFE

The Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary has good prey density and could serve as the next tiger reserve in Karnataka. A team of experts has found several prey species,scats, pug marks and other indications of tigers in the sanctuary, reports
Subhash Chandra N S
 
Powerful Camera trap picture of a tiger in the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo courtesy: Forest Department, Karnataka With the State Forest Department worried about the safety of the spillover population of Nagarhole’s tigers, the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary adjacent to it seems to be the answer to the problems at Nagarhole.

Though smaller, the Brahmagiri sanctuary has a sizeable population of big cats. With good prey density, it is now tipped to be another tiger reserve in the State.
The Nagarhole National Park and Tiger Reserve is at the foothills of the Western Ghats and spreads towards the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Kodagu district, closer to the Kerala border.

Located in the Western Ghats, the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary spreads over 181 sq km with two ranges, the Srimangala and Makoota Wildlife Range. Spread over 129 sq km of dense forest, Srimangala is the largest range with rich wildlife and the potential to become another tiger reserve in the State. The Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary is connected to Aralum Wildlife Sanctuary of Kerala along the southern border, while the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is on the south.

The wildlife sanctuary has reported frequent tiger sightings, direct and indirect. It is presently believed to be home to five-six tigers. The evergreen region has a good prey density with a sizeable population of sambar, the tiger’s favourite food.

Camera traps in the forest range also point to the presence of tigers in the sanctuary. According to Range Forest Officer Srinivasa Nayak, a camera obtained from the Indian Institute of Science was installed in the Srimangala Wildlife Range in January this year, when a tiger from the Nagarhole National Park strayed out. “We were able to camera trap two tigers,” he said.

Nayak, entrusted with the task of tracking the tiger that strayed out of the Nagarhole National Park, says he could not track the tiger using a camera trap. He then requested his higher-ups to shift the camera to his range, which led to the surprising discovery.
Apart from tigers, the camera has also captured leopard, endangered Nilgiri martin, mouse deer and barking deer. The region, according to former dean of Wildlife Institute of India A J T John Singh, is also home to Nilgiri langur and lion-tailed macaque.

Tracking the tiger

A team of experts comprising former principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden (PCCF) B K Singh, John Singh and others, found several prey species and scats, pug marks and other marks of tigers in the sanctuary.

According to B K Singh, “The forest range is a good habitat with flora that helps the survival of herbivores, which, in turn supports bigger carnivores like leopards and tigers. It can definitely be a future hub for tiger conservation.” According to wildlife expert Sanjay Gubbi, Brahmagiri is an evergreen habitat interspersed with grasslands and has potential to hold good densities of prey and predators. “It holds good numbers of gaur and sambar, the principal prey for tigers in the area. It is part of the larger forest complex and is connected to Nagarhole Tiger Reserve through Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Tirunelli and Hilldale Reserved Forests in Kerala,” he said.

Pointing out that the postmortem conducted following complaints of cattle lifting and killing also establishes the presence of a sizeable population of tigers, he says, “When everyone talks of source-sink tiger populations, it is important to ensure connectivity between these sites. A classic example is the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve and Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary. Though Brahmagiri has all the characteristics to act as an excellent sink site and also provide connectivity to other protected areas to its north, an important point has to be first tackled. The small gap between Nagarhole and Brahmagiri has to be connected.”

Former PCCF Singh adds, “There are two coffee estates - Huvinakadu and Faith coffee estates - on the eastern parts of the sanctuary. Experts and NGOs are suggesting to us to acquire them to provide contiguity. The south-eastern border of the sanctuary has the Tholapatti range of Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary; on the east, it is connected to Mysore Elephant Reserve and on the west, it is connected to Talacauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and Pushapgiri Wildlife Sanctuary.

Building this connectivity will ensure that tigers, elephants and other animals are connected to northern Western Ghats in Karnataka.

If this critical issue is not addressed now, the forests of the Western Ghats will be permanently disconnected.

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