Regulating growth of ecological predators

D. Radhakrishnan

Udhagamandalam: A major programme to prevent ecological predators from getting the upper hand was implemented recently in some wildlife habitats of the Nilgiris district. It involved the removal of plants like Acacia mearnsii (wattle) at the Mukurthi and Upper Bhavani ranges and Lantana at Mudumalai. According to Mudumalai Tiger Reserve Field Director Rajeev K. Srivastava wattle over about 100 hectares have been uprooted. Despite their potential to do considerable harm to the indigenous vegetation, plants like wattle and lantana, which can be classified as ecological predators, have to be managed with care. Mr. Srivastava told The Hindu that the field staff had been instructed to adopt the appropriate approach.

Checking the growth of the exotics will significantly help conservation of the unique sholas and grasslands. The shoals, long referred to as the ‘overhead tanks’ of the Blue Mountains, have for many decades been threatened by the exotics. Their biodiversity has also taken a beating. In course of time other exotics would also be prevented from spreading. However, the department will keep in mind that they provide cover to wild animals.

Pointing out that more than 30 per cent of Mudumalai and surroundings like Kargudi and Theppakadu had been overrun by lantana, Dr. Srivastava said a well-thought-out strategy had been put in place to deal with the problem. Wherever the weed had grown very tall and was viewed as a source of threat to trees, particularly during bush fires, they had been uprooted. They were also removed from pastures to ensure that herbivores like elephants, bisons and deer don’t have to go too far in search of food. In places like Mavanhallah where the weed provides an ideal cover for sandalwood trees, their growth was controlled.