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Thursday, March 1, 2012

To protect tiger reserves, govt may acquire private estates

R Vasundara, TNN | Mar 1, 2012, 06.36AM IST CHENNAI: The Union ministry of environment and forests is planning to strengthen its tiger conservation programme in the Western Ghats and reduce man-animal conflicts by acquiring private estates that border or are within tiger reserves in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The proposal, put up during a meeting of the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife, includes acquisition of several estates in the Periyar Tiger Reserve area (in Thekkady, Kerala ) and Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu). Twelve private estates in the KMTR, measuring about 1,500 hectares, have been identified for acquisition, said Tamil Nadu officials. "Most estates are part of the core reserve and need to be acquired to reduce disturbance caused by the movement of human beings and vehicles," an official said. "The plan is still in the paperwork stages and yet to obtain the state government's approval . The funding for acquiring the estates, however, will come from the Central government." It was proposed during the meeting to eventually acquire 23 estates in Tamil Nadu and thus block 18 routes into the Periyar reserve. "This will reduce disturbance in the Periyar reserve," proposed Dr A J T John Singh, a member of the National Board for Wildlife, at the meeting. "This landscape has the potential to support 100 adult tigers, provided the wild prey are protected." In order to strengthen the tiger conservation programme, the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has proposed to acquire several private estates that border or stand within tiger reserves in the southern range of the Western Ghats . This was suggested during a meeting of the standing committee for the National Board for Wildlife with specific referencetoK alakkad MundanthuraiTiger Reserve (KMTR)in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, and Periyar Tiger Reserve in Thekkady, Kerala . In Tamil Nadu, the forest departmenthascomeup with a list of twelve estates that lie in the coreof theKMTR andtherefore must be acquired . Spanning over 895sqkm,the reserveisone of the densest tiger reserves . A part of the reserve lies in the Agasthiyar hills of the Western Ghats . "We are yetto receive approval from the state government," said an official . "Paperwork and preliminary estimates are still going on . Some of the estate owners, who have been informed of the proposal, are trying to negotiate alternatives . Once the state government agrees, it will be forwarded to the Union ministry . The MoEF will be funding the acquisition . This is a long term process involving a large budget . It could take morethan five yearstocomplete ." The twelve estates put together would add up to 15.16 sqkm or 1,516 hectares to the reserve and the acquisition is expected to cost more than Rs 165 crore . "The people are cooperative, but human and vehicle movement in the core area disturbs animal habitations, so they have to be acquired," he said . "We are also looking at increasing the buffer zone for the Anamalai Tiger reserve ." However, environmentalists portray a different picture . "Thereisdegradation of theforest area in KMTR as many of the people living in these estates gather fuel wood from the reserve," said M Soubadra Devy of Ashoka Trustfor Researchin Ecology and the Environment (ATREE). Soubadra spends several months in a year in the reserve for canopy research . "There is also some small time poaching of creatures like jungle fowl that goes on in this area ." The presence of temples in the reserve also increases the footfallsin the area . "During the Adi Ammavasya festival, this area receives a couple of lakh visitors," she said . At least three temples have landin the reserves,butofficials hope for a solution that does not involve acquisition .They do not anticipate trouble with the cardamom and tea estates. "Under the guidelines issued by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, we can acquire these areas." However,there are voices of dissent. "Thisestatehasbeen in our family for 60 years andwe attach much sentimental value to it," said Vasanthi Murugadasan, one of the proprietors of Kattlamalai estate. ' The estate is one of the largest in the core reserve that figures in the state's acquisition list. "Besides,we never harm the animals and always help forest officials during the census."

Tiger data base ready, to prevent poaching

By: Jagdish Bhatt Dehradun : Taking a cue from South Africa where a database of wild elephants has been created that are being poached by hunters for their tusks, Wildlife Institute of India (WII) under a National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) sponsored project is creating a database of the tigers in the 41 reserves of the country to prevent their being hunted. Initially a database of 11 tiger reserves, including Corbett National Park, Ranthambore, Dudhwa and Kanha has been created and is under power test. If the tests come out successful, the process is going to be repeated to create a database for the remaining 30 tiger reserves. Incidentally, though the Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand is not a tiger reserve, but it has been included in the data base as 15 tigers are reported to be in the Park. Despite all efforts to preserve the tiger, and a constant vigil in most of the tiger habitats in the country, yet the big cat is being poached and killed year after year. According to figures available, 32 tigers were killed in 2009, 30 in 2010, 13 in 2011 and seven till February, this year.. Informed sources here said that it was almost impossible to say from which tiger reserve, a feline was poached upon whose skin and other parts are recovered say in Mumbai or Calcutta or Delhi . In the absence of vital information it is almost impossible to zero in on the tiger habitat and the poachers in the vicinity, who may have been responsible for killing the big cat. However, with the database of 11 tiger reserves ready, it can be used to match the DNA profile from the skin or other remains recovered with those in the database. This will give the exact reserve from which the feline had been killed and help nab the poachers, against whom stringent action can then be taken under the Wildlife Act. This should serve as a deterrent to others involved in the trade. The data base which was prepared by forensic experts of the Wildlife Institute of India here and is ready to be put under trial. The trial process will continue for a few months and on seeing the practical possibilities after the results, it will be expanded to the remaining tiger reserves of the country also, sources pointed out.