Vijay PinjarkarVijay Pinjarkar Oct 3, 2011, 03.58AM IST
NAGPUR: While recent lynching of Navegaon National Park tigress in Bhakru Tola in Chhattisgarh by a furious mob came as a rude shock, there is a good news from Melghat - sighting of six new cubs has thrilled wildlife buffs and officials.
"In the past couple of months, tigresses with two cubs (around 6-8 months) each have been recorded in camera traps by the field staff in Sonala range in Ambabarwa wildlife sanctuary, part of Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR), Dhakna and Raipur ranges," revealed an overjoyed AK Mishra, field director and chief conservator of forests (CCF), MTR.
He adds, two months ago, driver of a forest vehicle sighted a tiger with a kill in Semadoh tourism zone. He also recorded the movements on his mobile. However, several such claims are not considered unless authenticated.
Tigers have always remain elusive in MTR, fondly called as the 'Kipling Country' and known for its mystifying landscape with high hills and deep valleys. Sighting of cubs in three places at a time makes big news in Melghat. Till now, such reports in the region could be heard only from Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Chandrapur district which has a distinction of producing 12-15 tiger cubs every year.
Melghat, where sighting of tigers is like cracking jokes, has made a major turnaround over the last two years. The last such record of tiger sighting was in February 2009 from Narnala where a tigress with three cubs was sighted. "With the new additions, we expect tiger numbers to go up to 50-55," Mishra says. However, the NTCA-WII estimation of 2010 puts the tiger count in Melghat at 39.
About the success, Mishra says strengthening protection and group patrolling, awareness among villagers by distributing pamphlets and educating them and imposing curbs on grazing have led to improving the situation.
"Controlling forest fires is our big successes. From 7.5% with 401 cases, the number of incidents has been brought down to 3.2% with 177 cases," said Mishra.
"In the past two years, we seized around 500 cattle and filed cases in the court against illicit grazers. Such measures are yielding results," Mishra says. The field director said relocation of three villages - Barukheda, Amona and Nagartas in Wan sanctuary and partial relocation of Vairat and Churni villages in Melghat sanctuary has also helped in reducing grazing pressure of 4,500 cattle.
In 2006, MTR in Amravati was rated as 'poor'. However, in 2011, it has bounced back and has been graded as 'good' by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII). The result of 2011 management effective evaluation (MEE) puts MTR in line with high-profile reserves like Corbett, Dudhwa, Ranthambore and Manas.
Even tiger conservationist Kishore Rithe, who works in Melghat, admits protection mechanism has been revamped and is very systematic despite shortage of trained and good staff. "Villages in core are willing to resettle. If MTR hands over tourism management to communities, it will help improve livelihoods and thus increase public support for tigers," he adds.
Melghat's sweet success
* Better protection measures, foot patrolling monitoring mechanism
* Resettlement of 3 villages done in 2001-02 and 5 (two partially) in 2010
* Getting young forest guards posted in sensitive areas
* Concentrating on threats like overgrazing, encroachments and forest fires
MTR 1,676.93 sq km
Gugamal NP 361.28 sq km
Melghat WS 788.75 sq km
Wan WS 211 sq km
Ambabarwa 127.11 sq km
Narnala WS 12.35 sq km
Buffer Zone & MUA 1,268 sq km