Here tigers roam without fear, and it shows in their numbers.
A monitoring programme of the Forest Department for 2017-18 has found that the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) , a biodiversity hotspot in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, holds the largest tiger population in the State.
The study was organised in association with the Parambikulam and Periyar Tiger Conservation Foundations.
75 in sanctuary
“Of the total 176 tigers in the State, 75 were identified from the WWS, which is part of a large forest complex holding the single largest population of tigers in India,” B.N. Anjan Kumar, Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), said of the study.
Nine tigers had also been captured by camera stations set up at the North and South Wayanad forest divisions.
The Periyar and Parambikulam tiger reserves followed suit, where 25 tigers each were captured in camera traps, Mr. Kumar said.
“There are no tigers in the Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary and the adjoining Kottayam and Kothamangalam forest divisions as the landscape is cut off from the adjacent mainland (Munnar and Malayattoor forest divisions). The Kasaragod forest division is highly fragmented and degraded and does not show tiger evidence,” he said. Camera traps, where tigers are identified from photographs based on unique stripe patterns, were used to count the tiger population, Mr. Kumar, who supervised the project, said.
The forest area in the State was divided into 10 landscapes and 1,640 camera traps were set up.
It took nearly a year-and-a-half to complete the project. Close to 500 trained front line forest staff participated in the endeavour.
The Nilambur North and South forest divisions were excluded from the study as camera traps could not be set up in the forests due to Maoist issues. These areas are expected to support a good tiger population.
“Demographic simulation suggests that cubs (below one year) may comprise roughly 25% of a healthy tiger population. However, cubs are not included in the data as they have to reach three years of age (mortality rate of cubs is high). Thus, the forests are home to about 250 individuals that may or may not be part of home ranges within the Kerala forests,” he said.
Potential for reserve
“As the WWS and the adjoining tiger reserves in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu constitute a major tiger habitat in the country, the sanctuary has the potential to get the status of a tiger reserve. Such an initiative needs the support of the public,” says Chief Wildlife Warden Surendra Kumar.
Such a move would help get more funds to effectively implement projects to mitigate man-animal conflict in the area, he said.