Vani Doraisamy

Mudumalai sanctuary to be designated as Project Tiger area

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu will soon be playing host to the country's newest tiger reserve, with the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park getting the official nod to be designated as Project Tiger (PT) area. This takes the total PT reserves in the State to three, including the existing Kalakkad-Mundanthurai reserve in Tirunelveli district and the in-process Indira Gandhi National Park in the Anamalais range of Coimbatore district.

Mudumalai is the latest addition to the list of eight new reserves for which the National Tiger Conservation Authority has given in-principle approval, based on a proposal submitted by the State Government. The Indira Gandhi Park was included last year, though it will be officially designated as PT reserve only this year, along with the Mudumalai reserve.

"The official announcement will be made very soon after the State Government completes the necessary formalities, such as designating the core zone and buffer zone. The approval was given under the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Act, 2006. With the new additions, the total number of PT reserves in the country will go up to 36,'' Rajesh Gopal, Member Secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority, told The Hindu over phone from New Delhi.

As per the last available official statistics (2001-02), Tamil Nadu is home to 60 tigers, with 27 of them in Kalakkad-Mundanthurai alone. The official figures have, however, been contested by wildlife conservationists who have alleged lack of transparency and the use of faulty methodology in tiger census procedures.

"A formal declaration [of Mudumalai getting PT status] is likely very soon as things are moving fast. All legal procedures have been completed and the funding components are being worked out," a State Forest department source said. There will be no dislocation of people living inside the reserve. While the core areas will be freed from all human activities, the buffer areas will come under a `conservation-oriented land use' pattern. All 32,100 hectares of the Mudumalai sanctuary will be covered under Project Tiger which will also monitor faunal and floral changes in the reserve over time and facilitate research on wildlife.

First biosphere reserve

The Mudumalai sanctuary forms part of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve, the first biosphere reserve formed in the country and extending over the adjoining states of Kerala and Karnataka. The 2537.6 sq km of the reserve area in Tamil Nadu covers all forests of the Nilgiris districts and a part of Coimbatore and Periyar districts.