On September 13, when the outside world was busy celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi festival, a brutal game of survival was unfolding in the dense and virgin forests of Penchikalpet Range in Kagaznagar Forest Division of Kumram Bheem Asifabad district. The famous tigress Phalguna was on a killing spree that day, accounting for six cattle, five of them being calves, near Mereguda where the forest canopy is the thickest.
“Yes, it appears cruel but the feline was training its 8-month-old cubs to hunt, which was clear from the fact that the calves had only scratch marks on neck and back and they were not eaten,” opined Kagaznagar Forest Divisional Officer (FDO) M. Raja Ramana Reddy, a smile lighting up his face. “The tigress and her second litter of four cubs are thriving in the safer surroundings,” he stated.
The safety of the tree cover in the dry deciduous forests with miscellaneous vegetation and generous occurrence of bamboo in Cheelapalli and Kadamba forests has apparently facilitated to mark its territory. The department has calculated Phalguna’s territory to be spread in an extent of over 320 sq km within the Division.
Soon after the discovery in late June that Phalguna has borne her second litter, the Forest Department came up with an intensified and focussed protection plan to make the place safer for the big cat and her cubs. The efforts bore results in quick time as is evident from the arrest of accused and number the 25 cases of poaching booked against habitual hunters since July.
“The decrease in hunting of wild animals will certainly provide a boost to the herbivore population and that of other wildlife. This will eventually ease the pressure on cattle which are currently being killed for food by the tigress,” Mr. Reddy hoped.
The Department actually started safety measures with monitoring of manpower through use of social messaging platforms. Patrol teams of foresters and others, specially tasked to disconnect electrified farm fences, need to keep officials updated on their work even during night patrolling in the forests.
“Another important aspect of our programme meant to protect forest and wildlife is the creation of awareness among villagers on the subject. We were able to convince the villagers to desist from grazing cattle in forests, which constitute tiger territory, and are promptly paying compensation for their cattle killed by the tigress is also helping convince them,” the FDO said.
Kagaznagar forest has been proposed as a satellite core of Kawal Tiger Reserve, the area of which is spread over all the four districts of old Adilabad. Its case derives strength from the improved protection of forest and wildlife.