Warangal: The recent poaching of a tigress in the forest of the Eturunagaram Wildlife Sanctuary in Mulugu district has raised much concern over the protection of tigers that are reportedly entering forest areas of Bhupalpally, Mulugu, Warangal, Mahabubabad, and Kothagudem districts from the Indravati Tiger Reserve (ITR), which is a part of Indravati National Park of Chhattisgarh.
Wildlife lovers and environmentalists, however, are critical of the functioning of the forest department authorities. In an exclusive interview with Telangana Today, PCCF (HoFF) and Wildlife Warden, Telangana, R Sobha says the department is taking all steps to protect the big cats and other wildlife in the area. “We are regularly tracking the movement of wildlife,” she said.
Q: What is your response to the allegation that the forest department did not do enough to strengthen the tiger habitat in the erstwhile Warangal district?
Habitat improvement is a continuous process and it is being taken up extensively across the State in all the Protected Areas (PA) and Tiger Reserves. For instance, habitat improvement in a corridor of the Kawal Tiger Reserve (KTR), Amarabad Tiger Reserve (ATR) and in other PAs has been taken up extensively. Works like providing water resources, improved fodder availability, development of natural grasslands among others were taken up. In Mulugu district alone, grasslands have been developed in over 300 acres in 2021-22. Similarly, the removal of obnoxious weeds is another method of habitat improvement. In Mulugu, removal of obnoxious weeds has been taken up in 1,000 acres to facilitate improvement of regeneration of native varieties and improvement of natural forest development. Besides these steps, for improvement of prey base, broadcast of local palatable grass seed is being taken up to improve natural grasslands in PAs. The improvement can be seen in direct sightings, signs and camera trap images of animals. Moreover, water holes, ‘Chelamas’, saucers, checkdams, mini percolation tanks (PTs) etc., are being taken up on a saturation basis. The entire district has been divided into 3×3 km grid and at least one water point was ensured in the grid to cater to animals. Due to these efforts, the tigers are returning to their previous range after nearly two decades. But the Gothi Koyas (Guttikoya) crime had dealt a severe blow to the dedicated, tireless and concerted efforts of staff who had braved overflowing streams, and elements of nature to track the tiger.
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Q: What is the monitoring system in place to retrieve salvage traps, snares?
Forest and wildlife protection is taken up seriously. Beat inspections are scheduled and patrol movements are monitored by Forest Range Officer (FROs) regularly. Cordon and search operations are conducted jointly by Police and Forest officials in the Gothi Koya habitations. The hamlets are searched for traps, snares, and bows and destroyed publicly to deter the deviants. On the other hand, daily monitoring mechanism is in place and every movement of tigers is captured daily by way of pug marks and Camera Trap (CT) images. For example, in Kawal Tiger Reserve alone, a total of 62 CTs are placed for monitoring and 120 Pugmark Impression Pads (PIP) are in place for monitoring. All the water holes are checked daily. All the base camp watchers or anti-poaching squads foot patrol and check for snares, traps and electric fences around agriculture fields and seize them. Cases are also booked against trespassers.
Q: There is a notion that the forest department is not making enough efforts to create awareness among public on the protection of tigers. What is your response?
That is wrong. We are indeed taking up sensitisation campaigns. People are now proactively reporting possible signs of wildlife movement to local forest staff. Vana Darshini programmes for school kids has been actively taken up over the years but it had to be paused due to the pandemic. Public awareness is made exclusively by way of posters, meetings in villages and also alerting the movement of tigers in nearby villages.
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