Kudremukh inches closer to tiger reserve tag

Pride of place

tiger haven: The pristine surroundings of Kudremukh. DH File PhotoWith the recent tiger census showing the State in a positive light, the State Forest Department seems to have given top priority to get Kudremukh National Park declared as the fifth tiger reserve of the country. The forest department has prepared a detailed report to get 600.32 sq km of the area of the national park declared as a tiger reserve.

The proposed reserve, spread across Chikmagalur (110 sq km), Hassan, (130 sq km), Mangalore (70 sq km) and Udupi (50 sq km), is a large expanse of grassland shola eco system at the centre of Western Ghats. The place is a crucial habitat and is considered one among the world’s biodiversity hotspots.

With Dr Rajesh Gopal, member secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), seeking information on the park on March 7, 2011, following a letter dated February 8, the State Forest Department has prepared a report about the project. Accordingly, B K Singh, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden, on March 31, approved the proposal to be sent to NTCA.

The proposal has been communicated to Dr Ullas Karanth in an email dated February 9. Karanth has been demanding that NTCA and the State Forest Department should declare KNP a tiger reserve.

The region, which has been witnessing enormous changes after mining came to a halt, has seen a sudden increase in ungulate population. Sources in the State Forest Department said the region being free from disturbance, had shown signs of improvement.

“Frequent sighting of mammals and indirect sightings of big cats have been a common phenomenon here,” said a top official in the department.

The park, spread across five districts, has contiguous forest with Someshwara wildlife sanctuary and receives an annual rainfall of 7,000 mm. It has a floral diversity of 2,500 species, of which most of them are endemic to the region.

This apart, the park is home to 23 species of fish, 117 species of amphibians, 22 species of reptiles including King Cobra, the largest venomous snake in the world, 38 species of mammals and 150 species of birds. The region is also a prime habitat for Asiatic elephant, gaur, sambar, spotted deer, mount jack, mouse deer, malabar giant squirrel and four horned antelope.

The region, according to a report prepared by DCF, Wildlife, Karkala, is home to over 2,500 flowering plants, 400 medicinal plants, 70 species of orchids, 180 species of edible plants and 750 species of mushrooms.

The park also has a record number of 320 butterfly species, with 37 of them being endemic to the region. Of these 23 species are found in Sri Lanka also. KNP is also home to the rare bird, ceylon frog mouth. It also has a sizeable population of lion tailed macaque and Travancore Flying Squirrel (as recorded by Ullas Karanth and H N Kumara).
With 43 villages in the vicinity, a human population of 6,244 and 6931 cattle, there is a proposal for KNP to have a buffer of 168 sq km with eight villages.

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