No Trace Of Tigers In Several Reserves
The tiger is India‘s national animal. It has all but disappeared from the newest state in the country. The situation is so alarming that officials say there is a danger of the tiger going extinct in the Telangana region.
In the latest census conducted this summer, no evidence of tigers was found in Eturnagaram or Pakhal wildlife reserves in Warangal. They also failed to find evidence in Pranahita and Jannaram reserves in Adilabad district or Kinnerasani reserve in Khammam district. According to the state wildlife department, the presence of tigers was recorded only in Kawal in Adilabad, which was declared a tiger reserve in 2012. They also found signs of tiger activity in the thin strip of the Papikonda national park.
No tigers have been recorded for the past eight to ten years in any wildlife reserves other than Kawal and Papikonda. Three tigers spotted in Kawal are missing and presumed killed by poachers.
“The overall situation is so bad with unchecked encroachments, destruction of habitat and poaching that there is no hope of recovery for the tiger in Telangana as things stand now,” said an official involved in tiger conservation for many years.
Even the tigers recorded in Kawal are believed to be transients, moving in from either the Tadoba-Andhari or Kannergaon reserves in Maharashtra in search of new territories or mates. In the two places where tigers were recorded this year, the total number would be around four or five, an official said, adding that the actual figure would be known once the Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun goes through the camera trap images of tigers and verifies individual identities of the animals based on their pattern of stripes.
“We also know for certain that the couple of tigers that were found in Papikonda are primarily from the Andhra Pradesh side of the sanctuary in East and West Godavari districts,” an official told TOI. So far, according to the official, it appears that the only place where tigers may actually be residing in Telangana is Kawal, but the situation is fast deteriorating.
While the creation of the new state of Telangana fulfilled the emotional and identity aspirations of the people of the region, it has also reportedly fueled a sense of rightful ownership over the land in the new state.
“There is a rapid increase in occupation of forest lands and in agriculture in and around the forests,” an official familiar with the developments said. “One of the biggest problems the state faces with respect to protecting its forests is the encouragement given by businessmen from Krishna and Guntur districts to villagers and farmers around the wildlife reserves in Telangana to plant cotton as a crop,” the official said.
This has led to farmers, emboldened with a new sense of ownership over the land, receiving free inputs in terms of seed, pesticides and fertilizers to raise the crop. While the investors receive a bulk of the produce, the farmers create new farmland in government-owned forest areas. “The extent of this problem needs to be studied in each district and unless the government does it, the farmers will be exploited by investors from outside,” the official added.
Complicating the issue further, Kawal reserve falls in what the NCTA calls a ‘Red Corridor’, a large swathe of land over which Maoists have influence. Though the Naxalites were under pressure during the past decade or so, there have been reports of their movement in Adilabad and in other Telangana districts. “Indications are that the presence of Naxalites is increasing in Adilabad and in some other districts of the state. Once they regain a hold, it would be next to impossible for wildlife officials to take any steps, either to control human activity or to prevent poaching and felling of trees in Kawal, which appears to be the only hope for the tiger in Telangana,” the official said.
Also, the tribals living in about 40 hamlets inside the reserve have resisted moves to relocate them and are expected to find increased support from Naxalites if the government insists on their leaving the reserve.
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