Karnataka’s increase in tiger numbers comes on the back of the increase in protection and conservation of its five tiger reserves. The Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) report by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), which ranks tiger reserves on numerous parameters, shows that the five tiger reserves in Karnataka have an overall score of 80.47, which is a 10% increase from the MEE evaluation in 2014, and reflects “better protection status” of the reserves.
The biggest improvements are in Kali and Bhadra tiger reserves, which have effectively reversed the declining grades shown in the 2014 MEE, when compared with the 2010 report. For Kali, it notes the restrictions in vehicular movement during night time as one of the reasons for the improvement.
However, the report mentions concerns that need to be addressed. For instance, in Bandipur, the NTCA has called for immediate revival of the Eco-Development Committees (EDC) so as to increase local community participation in conservation efforts.
Of the 112 villages around the reserve, just 22 EDCs are functioning. This has led to poor local participation in conservation.
Local authorities have presented a few “immediate actionable points”, which include reviving and constituting EDCs and provision of Rs. 50,000 as seed money from the Bandipur Tiger Foundation to make them functional and effective.
Locals bear the brunt of human-wildlife conflict and the Forest Department was heavily dependent on their cooperation in conservation. “The EDCs also help in preventing people from entering the forests, and this reduces human-inducted pressure and disturbance to wildlife habitat,” said D. Rajkumar of Wildlife Conservation Foundation.
For instance, the presence of an EDC at Mangala village, which encompasses five smaller villages, has helped in maintaining cordial relations with the staff, he said.
Apart from EDCs, in Bandipur and BRT Tiger Reserve, invasive plant species such as lantana camera have spread over 50% of the park area, states the NTCA report. Mushrooming of homestays and resorts around Nagarahole; heavy day-time traffic on the National Highways in Bandipur; lack of trained personnel in Bhadra; presence of coffee plantations and tribal settlements at BRT; scarcity of water in Kali; and monoculture teak and eucalyptus plantations in Nagarahole, were listed as “management weaknesses”. “The weaknesses mentioned are a challenge. We are removing lantana from roadsides, but it will not be enough to completely remove invasive weeds from forests. It has become a part of the eco-system and we are focussing on protecting grasslands in these reserves,” said Punati Shridhar, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Head of Forest Force). He differs with the report that repeatedly points to the presence of forest dwellers and tribal hamlets as a “management weakness”. “There are some areas where dense habitation is an issue, and relocation is voluntary and is limited by funds. But,We don’t think there is anything wrong with the presence of Soliga tribals or other traditional forest dwellers in the reserves,” said Mr. Shridhar.
EDCs also help in preventing people from entering forests, and this reduces human-inducted pressure and disturbance to wildlife habitat
Wildlife Conservation Foundation