Efforts by the State Forest Department has led to an increase in the tiger population in NSTR

The induction of Chenchus belonging to the primitive tribe, mostly living in the Nallamala forests deep inside the Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve Sanctuary has come as a boon to reserve management, together with the use of camera traps to record animal activity.

Better management and concerted and sustained efforts by the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department over a few years have established the population of tiger in the NSTR as ranging between 53 to 66 with mid-value excluding an unspecified number of cubs.

The initiatives taken by the department like involving Chenchu youth has gone a long way in conservation, according to A.V. Joseph, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests-Wildlife and Chief Wildlife Warden. A vital component of tiger reserve management and monitoring of their movement to establish their population is the camera traps, about 100 of them spread over 400 square km of habitat, he added.

Found on the fringes of the NSTR in small settlement that are called ‘gudems’, the Chenchus live in harmony with nature, displaying their strong sense of ownership for the forests and the wildlife and mostly depend on non-timber forest produce like roots, tubers, and seasonal fruits for their livelihood. They work as base camp protection watchers and as tiger trackers assisting field staff in protection and monitoring duty throughout the year and habitat improvement works.

Single largest sanctuary

The NSTR is the single largest sanctuary for tigers among the 16 such facilities across the country. The large extent of reserve makes it a huge, ideal landscape for conservation of tigers and other wildlife, apart from being famous for its floral and faunal diversity.

Tigers apart, there are predators like wild dogs and panthers, herbivores including the spotted deer, ‘Neelgai’, four-horned antelope, apart from birds, rare insects and the like, all contributing to the diversity.

The sheer vastness of the tract poses challenges for the department in protecting the rich biodiversity wealth, primarily because of the limited personnel, not to forget the inhospitable terrain.

“The threat of poaching posed by organised gangs from outside Andhra Pradesh, like the ‘Bahelias’ and ‘Bawarias’, apart from the wildlife killing due to man-animal conflict, make it imperative for round-the-clock surveillance,” Mr. Joseph said.