TAMIL NADU

Predator population up in tiger reserve

herbivore:A small herd of Nilgiri thar foundat Uppur Kothayar in Western Ghats inTirunelveli district.  

: The recent wildlife census conducted at Kalakkad – Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) shows a significant increase in the predator population and signals the need to strengthen its prey base or herbivore population.

When the survey team crossed Rettaikaradu area in Thirukkurunkudi range, the members saw a panther, a ‘shy animal’, taking rest under a shade and another team, which was trekking near Maanjolai above Manimuthar dam, saw a panther standing on a rock at a distance.

The enumeration team that was moving around Kadayam range was the most fortunate as it happened to see a tiger.

“This time the volunteers involved in the census were able to see a number of panthers, which shows that the predator’s population has increased significantly. We firmly believe that the tiger population should also have gone up as we’ve got interesting and highly encouraging findings in certain areas of KMTR,” said K. Sekar, Deputy Director, Kalakkad – Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve’s Kalakkad Division.

Though KMTR has a sizable population of Indian Gaur, sambar and spotted deer, the most preferred prey for tiger and panther, ecologists here feel that the existing prey base should be strengthened further.

When the panther population increased in the Tirupathi hills, forest officials said that steps were taken for strengthening the herbivore base, mainly the deer population.

They argued that similar steps could be taken here too by shifting hundreds of spotted deer, now struggling to find adequate food and shelter at Gangaikondan, to Mundanthurai area of KMTR.

“Since these animals (at Gangaikondan) often face a serious threat from speeding vehicles and stray dogs, and rarely from poachers, they can be shifted to the KMTR where they can easily find adequate food and shelter,” said a zoologist here.

Forest officials say that the spotted deer of Gangaikondan could be transported to KMTR in camouflaged vehicles after tranquilizing them to strengthen the predators’ prey base.

“We have an adequate number of officials, who are well-trained in tranquilizing and transporting the sedated animals in disguised vehicles to Western Ghats during the night. If the government approves this proposal, we can expect an improved ecosystem in KMTR in future,” said a senior forest official.