There is an eerie silence as one enters the gate of the Kambalakonda Eco-Tourism Park. The usual chirping of birds is markedly missing while the occasional deer and sambhar can be seen in long intervals.
The park, spread across 7,139 hectares of area, wears a dry gloomy look. Dried up water bodies has put animals in the wildlife sanctuary in a tight spot this summer, which has arrived unusually early this year. With the temperatures rising since early March, an unusual phenomenon in the region during the last decade, ponds began to go dry in the forest, which is a home to several wild animals including the leopard. The sanctuary has encountered the most severe water scarcity this year.
Its only source of water, the water body inside the park, went totally dry in February this year.
Regional Forest Officer and in-charge of the eco-tourism park K. Suryanarayana told The Hindu that this year 60 waterholes were placed at different locations inside the park in view of the severe water scarcity. “With 39 per cent shortage of rainfall reported in Visakhapatnam district last year, a severe crisis looms large over the wildlife sanctuary. Sightings of wild animals have come down drastically this summer since there is no water source inside the forest,” he said. According to the forest guards of the sanctuary, panthers were sighted four to five times a month on an average. But for the past two months, no panther movement has been reported.
Due to the water crisis, incidents of straying of panthers and other wild animals like wild boar and sambhar in adjoining residential areas were very frequently reported in the February and March. Immediate measures by the municipal corporation of illumination of residential colonies with street lights have put an end to such wild incursions.
The drying up of the water body has alarmed nature lovers and research workers, who fear that the impact of the harsh summer and dwindling forest area can have an adverse effect on the ecological balance resulting in migration of the bird and animal population of the region. The sanctuary is a haven of versatile flora and fauna representing the Eastern Ghats. The fauna is represented by Russell's viper, common cobra, chameleon, paradise flycatcher, treepie, quails, partridges, leopard, barking deer, pangolin, spotted deer, jackal etc. The floral diversity is wonderful with plants like Tectona grandis, Randia dumetorum, Grewia tiliaefolia, Abrus precatorius etc. Its rich bird population also makes it a popular place for bird-watching. But with the drying up of the water body, the chirpy bird population of the sanctuary has also been affected severely.
Keywords: Heat wave