M.M. Wildlife Sanctuary to be tiger reserve soon

Once notified, Chamarajanagar district will have three tiger reserves

Published - February 24, 2020 01:06 am IST - MYSURU

The sanctuary will be renamed as Malai Mahadeshwara  Hill Tiger Reserve with a core area of 670.95 sq km.

The sanctuary will be renamed as Malai Mahadeshwara Hill Tiger Reserve with a core area of 670.95 sq km.

Decks have been cleared to notify the Malai Mahadeshwara Wildlife Sanctuary as a tiger reserve. The approval from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is expected any time now.

A presentation of the final proposal was made before the NTCA early this month and the final notification will be made by the State government once the NTCA gives its formal approval.

Once notified, Chamarajanagar district will have the rare distinction in the country of harbouring three tiger reserves. It already has Bandipur and Biligiri Ranganatha Temple (BRT) Tiger Reserve within its territorial limits.

Also, with this, Karnataka will have six tiger reserves, the others being Nagarahole, Bhadra, and Anshi-Dandeli, apart from Bandipur and BRT Tiger Reserves.

The sanctuary will be renamed as Malai Mahadeshwara Hill Tiger Reserve (MMH TR) with a core area of 670.95 sq km spread across Malai Mahadeshwara Reserve Forest, Hanur Reserve Forest and Yediyarahalli Reserve Forest. The buffer will be spread over 235.19 sq km.

V. Yedukondalu, Deputy Conservator of Forests, MM Hills, told The Hindu, that the State Board for Wildlife had given its concurrence to declare M.M. Hills sanctuary as a tiger reserve in January 2019. A proposal was submitted in May 2019 but it was returned as additional clarification was required with respect to the delineation of the boundary in the core area, list of existing settlements and the need to spell out the religious and tourism zone, etc. Hence, a revised proposal was submitted in January 2020 and a presentation made before the NTCA in Delhi, said Mr. Yedukondalu.

The sanctuary presently has about 20 tigers as evident in photographs from camera traps in Hanur, Ramapura, P.G. Palya, Hoogyam, M.M. Hills and Palar ranges, and wildlife experts vouch for its potential to rival the Bandipur-Nagarahole-Wayanad-Mudumalai landscape in the years ahead.

This optimism stems from the fact that the MM Hills wildlife sanctuary – which is spread over 906.18 sq km – is contiguous to BRT Tiger Reserve (584 sq km) on one side, Satyamangalam Tiger Reserve (1,412 sq km) in Tamil Nadu on the other, while the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary (1,027 sq km) also borders it, thus providing a contiguous forest cover of over 3,500 sq km that can act as a sink to absorb surplus tiger population and help increase their numbers.

Implementation of strict wildlife management and protection measures will enhance the landscape value in increasing the tiger densities as the forests has an abundance of prey species like gaur, sambar, chital, four-horned antelope, wild boar, etc., according to authorities who say that studies have proved that the prey density was 5.05 animals per sq km.

Being part of Mysore Elephant Reserve, these forests also support nearly 300 elephants.

Anti-poaching camps may increase

Mr. Yedukondalu has said there are 39 anti-poaching camps in MM Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and the plan is to double their number once it is elevated to the status of a tiger reserve. This sanctuary and the adjoining landscape – which was once Veerappan’s den and out of bounds for the forest department – had a history of poaching by local community for meat, especially along the forest boundary and fringes. But it has been curtailed over the years thus increasing the density of the prey, he added.

In the justification to declare the sanctuary a tiger reserve, the authorities have stated that this is a unique geographical zone that acts as a bridge between the Western and Eastern Ghats. There are about 285 bird species documented in this landscape as per a 2014 survey. The forests are important not only for tiger, elephants and leopards but also chitals, honey badgers, smooth-coated otter, striped hyena, wild dogs, sloth bear, grizzled giant squirrels, Mahseer fish, etc.

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