On the wild side of nature

On the wild side of nature

On the wild side of nature

Nagarhole National Park is not only a good repository of flora and fauna, it also sets a perfect example in tiger conservation programmes, writes Bindu Gopal Rao.

Counted among India’s best wildlife parks is Nagarhole National Park. Known for its abundance of wildlife including tigers, leopards, wild elephants, dholes (Indian wild dog), gaurs (Indian bison), elephant and bison, it also has an abundant fauna including over 250 species of birds.

The habitat forms part of a large, contiguous tiger landscape and this makes the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve an important reserve for the conservation of tigers.

Other species present are the spotted deer, muntjac (barking deer), mouse deer, four-horned antelope, wild boar, sloth bear, hyena, mongoose, civet, otter, and more.

The forest department conducts two safaris at 6:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. which gives you a fascinating peek into the jungle.

There are two zones earmarked for tourists and the approximately three hour drive is an experience to cherish.

With an estimated count of 75 tigers, there is at least one chance every 100 sq m that you can spot this elusive cat.

Likewise, the 120 odd leopards in the jungle add to the count of the elusive cats making Nagarhole amongst the best jungles.

The langur and deer calls on spotting a tiger reverberate in the jungle and makes your safari full of animated anticipation.

Conservation matters

Naturally then, conservation of the tiger is something the State Government and the forest department take very seriously.

For the uninitiated, the process of estimating the number of tigers in a given area is called tiger census.

Tiger conservation continues to face increasing challenges on the ground.

Uncontrolled poaching, illegal trade in tiger parts, loss of habitat and mining in and around forests pose threat to tiger existence.

The tiger census is an important exercise to find out that the tigers are present in healthy numbers and how the conservation efforts of the forest departments are working on the ground.

Tiger census is done using methods like photographing by using remote camera traps, line transects and dung counts of prey.

Tigers have unique stripe patterns and can be individually recognised by taking a photograph of either its sides or flanks.

This year, the Central Government has mandated the use of camera traps for the tiger census as these are used for getting these pictures which are then analysed for a scientific count of the tiger species.

The cameras have been provided by CSS Corp Foundation at a cost of 35 lakh.

The department will also be training the forest guards on using the cameras.

The photographs taken by the cameras will have to be downloaded once in five days by transferring the images through the memory chip.

The camera can also help in tracking smuggling, theft of forest resources.

The cameras are equipped with infra red motion sensors which can be triggered by any movement in the region of interest monitored by these cameras.

They automatically capture high quality pictures, (upto 8 MP) or records video clips according to preset customer settings.

Straying elephants

The conservation programme is however not without pitfalls.

In Nagarhole, the problem lies with elephants that stray out of the forest limits.

“There is no way elephants and humans can coexist as they are not easy to predict and given their nature, they cause a lot of damage,” explains Gokul, Director, Nagarhole National Park.

In the past four years, elephants have injured 28 persons around the Park and killed six people and the forest department has paid Rs 2.44 crore in compensation to farmers in Hunsur, HD Kote and Virajpet and other places around the national park.

Elephants are long range animals and move long distances, while other animals are more territorial and the forest department has put in place several measures to prevent elephants from straying into villages.

“There are several challenges in doing this as elephants innovate and navigate through, or sometimes over, what we think are barricades.

Initially, we used trenches, but we have photographs showing how the animals help each other cross them,” says Gokul.

This apart from the construction of rubble stone walls, construction of spiked pillars and solar power fences, sharp spikes on walls and barricades, have helped contain elephants.

It is when you visit the forest that it gives you an opportunity to think of a world that is removed from the urban chaos and yet is so closely intertwined with the environment.