A decade has gone by since the Papikonda National Park (PNP) has come into being and recognised as potential habitat for tiger. Spread over 1,012 sq. km. in East and West Godavari districts, it continues to be a classic example of the State government’s lack of interest in documenting the presence of the number of tigers in coastal Andhra Pradesh.
At a time when India is observing the International Tiger Day on July 29, the State Forest department still is in the midst of finalising the wildlife grids in the PNP. It only shows that the commencement of the scientific study to document the tiger population is a long way to go.
“We have the record of three tigers sighted in the PNP since 2016 during the random study conducted through camera traps. However, we do not have any scientific data to confirm the total number to date. The plan on finalising the grids is yet to get the nod from the higher authorities,” Rajahmundry Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife) Anant Shankar told The Hindu .
Mr. Shankar has hinted that the tigers documented in the PNP may move along the strategic corridor — forest area bordering with Chhattisgarh, Khammam and Odisha. Wildlife conservationist and Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society Founder Imran Siddiqui said: “The PNP is arguably the ‘evergreen habitat’ for the Tiger. The scientific study is need of the hour, given the possible threats to the big cat in the wake of encroachments and various illegal activities. The absence of an ‘exclusive conservation authority for national park’ on par with any other national park and tiger reserve certainly raises a question on conservation and protection of the big cat in the PNP.” Mr. Siddiqui had earlier worked on the tiger habitats in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and the Kanha Tiger Reserve.
The wildlife experts working on the tigers said the State had a long way to go to develop the ‘Tiger Corridor’ despite being blessed with the geographical advantage. “The forest cover, beginning with the proposed Gudem-Marripakala wildlife sanctuary (Visakhapatnam agency) to East Godavari border and the PNP core area, will become one of the biggest ‘Tiger Corridors’ (landscape) in India if the wildlife management in the forest belt is properly designed and executed,” an expert said on condition of anonymity.
The Chintooru-Sileru forest block near the PNP will strengthen the landscape supporting the survival of a good number of the big cats. In January 2018, the ‘Sign survey’ was completed in the PNP. “We are gearing up to install the CC cameras likely from early or mid-August,” hoped Mr. Shankar. The 2014 Status of Tigers in India shows that 68 tigers were present in Andhra Pradesh (and Telangana) as against 72 in 2010 and 95 in 2006.