By combining Srivilliputhur, Megamalai and Varushanadu

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has suggested the formation of a fifth tiger reserve in the State by combining the Grizzled Giant Squirrel Sanctuary in Srivilliputhur, the Megamalai Wildlife Sanctuary and Varushanadu Valley in Theni district.

The contiguity of these sanctuaries, along with Kerala’s Periyar Tiger Reserve that adjoins the stretch, and the increased tiger sighting in these protected areas have prompted the NTCA to suggest the fifth tiger reserve in the State. It has already granted in-principle approval to the Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary adjoining the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. It is only a formality before Sathyamangalam becomes the fourth tiger reserve in the State, officials say.

“Value Corridors”

In its comprehensive guidelines for tiger conservation sent to Chief Wildlife Wardens and Directors of Tiger Reserves, the NTCA has pointed out that habitat fragmentation was adversely affecting wildlife due to decreased opportunity available for their movement from different habitats. This, in turn, prevented gene flow among them in the landscape.

The habitats also act as smaller ‘source’ by facilitating breeding and movement of native wildlife populations to colonise adjoining habitats. Natural resources such as rivers or mountain ranges may act as boundaries for wildlife population. However, disturbance of corridors on account of human interventions such as highways, canals, industries, roads, railway tracks or transmission lines would be harmful to wildlife, the NTCA had cautioned.

Averting Tiger-Man Conflicts

The NTCA has sought involvement of different sectors necessary to reduce man-tiger conflicts in the reserves. Forestry, agriculture, welfare activities through district collectors, tourism, fisheries, tea/coffee estates, road and rail transport, industry, mining, thermal power plants, irrigation projects, temple tourism and communication projects operating in a reserve will be instrumental in effectively addressing man-tiger conflicts besides helpful in mainstreaming tiger and wildlife concerns, the NTCA has said.

Source of Vaigai river

Welcoming the NTCA’s suggestion to form the fifth tiger reserve in the State, T.S. Subramanian, Secretary, Wildlife Association of Rajapalayam, said it would help in improving the condition of the landscape in the selected area. Secondly, with the formation of a tiger reserve, a buffer zone would be created where eco-development initiatives could be taken up with the help of locals.

Importantly, the creation of tiger reserve here could eventually lead to the protection of the source of Vaigai river that originates in these mountain ranges, say environmental activists.

Acquisition of plantations, mostly in distress due to non-availability of labour, in these ranges also could bolster conservation and protect the river’s sources, activists emphasise.

These areas, though contiguous, are at present managed by two different officers in the rank of District Forest Officers. Clubbing these areas and bringing them under a single officer would help in better management of the entire reserve, add the activists.