It is viewed as a big step before declaring it as a tiger reserve

In a significant step towards protecting the varied wildlife and as the next big step to declare it a tiger reserve, the State Government has expanded the Sathyamangalam wildlife sanctuary to 1.41 lakh hectares.

Through a notification, the forest department has added 88,726 hectares in seven reserve forests of Sathyamangalam forest division to the existing wildlife sanctuary spread over 52,434 hectares. The largest chunks of additional area are from Guthiyalathur (48,792 ha) and Talamalai reserve forests (31,987 ha) as per the notification issued last week under the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

According to the notification, these seven reserve forests, including the Nilgiri Eastern Slopes, in Sathyamangalam and Gobichettipalayam taluks in Erode district were being declared a wildlife sanctuary due to their ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphologic, natural and zoological significance and for the purpose of protecting, propagating and developing wildlife and its environment.

“It is mainly for the protection of the habitat which has varied forest type supporting a variety of wildlife,” says D. Arun, Conservator of Forests, Erode Circle. As per the wildlife census, the 1.41 lakh hectare wildlife sanctuary is home to one fourth of the elephants in the State with an estimated population of 1,250.

Unique habitat

“It is a unique habitat where elephants, tigers and black buck co-exist,” says K. Kalidas of OSAI, a Coimbatore-based environmental organisation which has conducted wildlife census in the division along with the forest department.

“The Sathyamangalam division is also home to hyenas and vultures in larger numbers than in any other protected area in the State,” he adds.

The Moyar valley, which forms part of the same forest division, is also the connecting corridor of the Western Ghats to the Eastern Ghats contributing to an enriched gene pool, say wildlife activists. They believe that the expansion of the wildlife sanctuary is a step in the right direction towards declaring it as the fourth tiger reserve of the State.

Over the years, tigers are sighted in the division more as experts believe that the big cat population from Bandipur and Mudumalai sanctuaries is spilling over into the Sathyamangalam forest division.

The Forest Department, however, has to deal with few encroachers and the people from the plains cultivating inside the forest division and in the water-spread area of Bhavanisagar dam, which has often resulted in man-animal conflict in the past decade.

According to a report ‘Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India, 2010' the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests is awaiting a proposal from Tamil Nadu for one more tiger reserve, that is Sathyamangalam.

“We are truly on the way towards making Sathyamangalam the next tiger reserve,” said a senior forest officer.