Forest fire that broke out in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve on Thursday is yet to be brought under control. Despite efforts by a sizeable force of forest personnel, large tracts of forests remain ablaze.
More than 800 acres of forest in the tiger reserve is said to have been destroyed. Bamboo clumps, trees and ground vegetation were lost in the fire that was first noticed near the Mangala reservoir in the tourism zone. Five forest ranges — Bandipur, Gopalaswamy Betta, Maddur, Omkara and Moliyur — have been affected.
The tourism zone, considered a critical tiger habitat, is said to be the worst hit. Stretches of forest land from Tavarakatte to Minister Gutti Circle and Karigowdanakatte have also been affected.
Bandipur and Nagarahole are prime tiger and elephant reserves. Unlike Nagarahole, the fire in Bandipur has been devastating. The simultaneous fire in the reserves has shocked the authorities.
N.M. Naveen Kumar, Honorary Wildlife Warden, Chamarajanagar, told The Hindu : “This is one of the worst such incidents Bandipur has witnessed in several years. The loss has been heavy. Forest personnel are facing a big challenge, as bamboo clumps and wind are aiding the fire.”‘Unpardonable act’
More than 200 personnel were engaged in the operations. Mr. Kumar said the forest fire was unnatural; some disgruntled elements had set fire to the forests. “It is an unpardonable act. This needs to be investigated to prevent a recurrence.” he said.
Top officials, including Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Vinay Lutra, rushed to Bandipur to take stock of the situation. “Steps have been taken to contain the fire, and there have been no reports of wildlife casualties. The damage to forest cover will be ascertained later, as our priority is to put out the fire,” H.C. Kantharaj, Director, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, said.
The fire that broke out in the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve on Thursday is said to be under control. R. Gokul, Conservator of Forests, and director, Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, said the fire had been brought under control and no incident of fire had been reported in the reserve on Friday.
About 250 hectares of forests, including 100 hectares in the tiger reserve and the rest in the Virajpet territorial division in Kodagu, were affected, he said.
“The blaze noticed in the perimeter of about five kilometres in the Anechowkur forest range was extinguished by the field staff,” Mr. Gokul said.
Mr. Gokul said a decision has been taken to lodge a complaint in the Ponnampet police station. A probe by the Criminal Investigation Department was possible as the Forest Department was in favour of a thorough investigation.
With the loss of habitat, the loss of wild animals was inevitable. “I found a dead Malabar squirrel. Small animals could have succumbed to burns,” Mr. Gokul said.