Bandipur completes 50 years as Project Tiger Reserve, but its legacy dates back to the Maharajas

April 01, 2023 07:47 pm | Updated April 02, 2023 01:05 pm IST - MYSURU

Bandipur was among the first Project Tiger reserves established in 1973.

Bandipur was among the first Project Tiger reserves established in 1973. | Photo Credit: M.A. Sriram

Bandipur completed 50 years as a Project Tiger Reserve on Saturday as it was on April 1, 1973, that the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi launched the flagship conservation programme to arrest the big cat’s dwindling population.

There were 12 tigers in Bandipur when Project Tiger was launched, according to Ramesh Kumar, director, Bandipur Tiger Reserve. But thanks to protection measures, the number of tigers utilising the park is 173 while the number of tigers within the reserve has been pegged at 126 as per the Status of Tigers Co-predators and Prey in India, 2018, published by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, he added.

The results of the 2022 tiger estimation exercise will be released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 9 at a programme ‘’Commemorating 50 years of Project Tiger’’ to be held in Mysuru.

But much before the Wildlife Conservation Act, 1972, was passed, the erstwhile rulers of Mysuru had realised the imperatives of conserving the flora and fauna and the Mysore Game and Fish Preservation Act was passed in 1901.

Game reserves and tiger blocks

The Mysore Gazetteer has recorded that several forest areas were not only preserved as Game Reserves but Tiger Blocks were identified and restrictions imposed on shooting. Initially an area spread over 35 sq miles was declared as a Game Sanctuary in Chamarajanagar State Forest of Mysore district in 1931 and was protected for 10 years.

However, the authorities subsequently realised that it was too small an area to constitute an ecological unit, and hence, in 1941, the Venugopal Wildlife Park was constituted extending over 800 sq km of which 82 sq miles was known as Bandipur Sanctuary within the park.

 The Gazetteer notes that the boundary extended from Moyar river forming the natural southern border towards the Nilgiris, and northwards, it stretched till Gundlupet including the 1,450 m high Himavad Gopalswamy Betta. The entire park was named after Venugopala, the deity at the temple atop the hill.

Among nine

Project Tiger was launched in 1973, Bandipur was among the first nine reserves to be brought under the flagship programme and it included most areas that were already a protected area as Venugopal Wildlife Park.

It was upgraded to a national park and renamed as Bandipur and the adjacent reserve forests were included under it to extend its area to 874.20 sq km. At present, it has an area of 912.04 sq km while the adjoining Nugu Wildlife Sanctuary too has been incorporated under Bandipur, which is recognised as among the prime tiger habitats in the world.

Biosphere reserve

The Bandipur Tiger Reserve is an important component of the country’s first biosphere reserve – Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and the landscape spanning Bandipur, Nagarahole, Mudumalai, and Wayanad complex is home not only to the highest number of tigers in the country – about 724 - but is also to the largest Asian Elephant population.

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