Indian gaur population goes up at Kalakkad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

Here is really a heartening news for nature lovers as the Indian gaur population at Kalakkad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) has increased significantly during the past few years as the forest personnel have successfully checked poaching by hunters from Kerala through continuous vigil from their permanent camps in the highly inaccessible evergreen forests.

Since Indian gaur is the main and the most sought-after prey for tiger, it is expected that the significant increase in the tiger’s prey base would indirectly increase the big cat population in the 24-year old KMTR, the country’s 17th tiger sanctuary.

Reason for success

The story behind the increase in the Indian gaur population is quite interesting. Whenever fire broke out in the areas falling under Kadayam and Mundanthurai ranges of KMTR, a good number of forest personnel would rush to the spot to extinguish the fire and normality would return once the flames are doused within a day or two.

However, a careful examination of the data collected during these incidents revealed that over 90 per cent of the fire in these areas had occurred either during August-end or September, i.e., ‘Onam season.’

Based on these data, several spot inspections were conducted in the fire-ravaged forest areas, which brought to light that the forest fires had been created wantonly by poachers from neighbouring Kerala to divert forest personnel’s attention after entering the sanctuary from Kerala for their main activity of Indian gaur poaching.

“As the Kerala poachers enter KMTR through Kadayam or Mundanthurai area, they, besides collecting minor forest produces like honey, kungiliyam (a resin taken from incense tree or Indian Olibanum, which is used in Siddha and Ayuredic formulations) and other herbal plants, had hunted Indian gaur or deer, dried the meat and taken it to their homeland to be sold for Rs. 250 a kg in their market, especially for Onam celebrations.

A tactic

Since the poachers apprehended that they could be caught while returning to their base along with the heavy load of dried meat, the hunters had created fire in some other area so that they could leave the forest safely even as the forest personnel would be concentrating on fire fighting,” said Deputy Director, KMTR, D. Venkatesh.

To plug the holes in the porous regions under Kadayam and Mundanthurai ranges through which the Kerala poachers traditionally intruded, the forest personnel established their permanent camps at Vaningal Pidavu and Thalamalai under Kadayam range and Vaalaiyaar, Sembunji and Kalibar Pulmottai, all under Mundanthurai range, after taking the construction material by head-load.

“As we completed this exercise between 2009 and 2011 and we’ve deployed our personnel in these camps in shifts, poaching in this region has been completely checked that has ultimately resulted in sizable increase in Indian gaur population in the KMTR. We can even see the movement of the Indian gaur herd at Mundanthurai and Manimuthar now. Otherwise these hefty animals could be seen earlier only in upper evergreen forests of the sanctuary,” said Mr. Venkatesh.