State govt 'unwilling' to notify Cauvery-MM Hills tiger reserve

This despite NTCA giving in-principle approval

State govt 'unwilling' to notify Cauvery-MM Hills tiger reserve

The Karnataka government is unwilling to notify the Cauvery-MM Hills Complex as a tiger reserve, though the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has given an “in-principle” nod to the proposal.

NTCA member and noted tiger expert Ullas Karanth mooted a proposal to convert the Cauvery wildlife sanctuary and the adjoining MM Hills in Chamarajanagar district into a tiger reserve as it would provide a contiguous corridor to the big cats. The 2,000-square km forest is estimated to house about 20 tigers.

“The State government, however, is not willing to notify the forests as a tiger reserve. The NTCA gave an in-principle approval,” said an official, who attended the NTCA meeting here on Tuesday. He added that political reasons are preventing the government to declare the entire forest patch as a tiger reserve.

Both Cauvery and MM Hills wildlife sanctuaries are located next to the Biligiri Ranganathaswamy Temple (BRT) wildlife sanctuary that was declared as a tiger reserve in 2010. Union Environment Minister for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar said that NTCA has given its green signal to the Cauvery proposal.The official said that the government was yet to notify the Kudremukh National Park as a tiger reserve.

Javadekar on August 14 informed the Rajya Sabha that the Centre accorded a final approval to declare Kudremukh a tiger reserve. Though the ungulate (prey) density in Cauvery-MM Hills complex is low compared to Bandipur and Ranthambore, it is comparable to Melghat Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra, according to a study by Karanth and N Samba Kumar from the Centre for Wildlife Studies.

Decline in the prey base in the two reserve forests, however, is an area of concern as it can be a restraining factor for the tiger population to grow in these forests. Moreover, the landscape is heavily human-dominated, because of which the livestock are vulnerable.

On the borders of Nagpur and Wardha districts, Bor, the latest tiger reserve, was notified by the Maharashtra government ten days ago after the environment ministry's approval in July. India currently has 47 tiger reserves.

Tiger census

The government will come out with its latest tiger census by December, said Y V Jhala, a scientist at the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India, who is coordinating the tiger census. India's official tiger count stands at 1,706, as per the last census carried out in 2011. There has been an increase of 295 tigers from the 2006 tiger estimate of 1,411.

The census, based on night camera trappings, satellite tracking and prey-base estimates, provides a range. It suggests the total number of tigers, may vary from 1,571 on the lower side to 1,875 on the upper side. The mean value, 1706, has been taken as the official tiger count.

NTCA and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau have jointly developed a new information management system connecting the tiger reserves for better monitoring of seizure and surveillance tiger poaching activities. The system is expected to go live within 20 days.

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