MYSORE: The core area of Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, which housed more than 70 tigers, was reduced to ashes after miscreants allegedly started a fire on Sunday. According to the GPS survey conducted by the Forest Department, a total 600 hectares of the forest was destroyed, including 580 hectares of the core area. This part covered 643 sq km of the main tourist area, thus forcing cancellation of safari for the next three weeks. Nearly one foot of thick ash was found in areas like Kaithole, Gonigadde, Marappana Kere, Kunthur Kere and Doddahalla.
Apparently, the fire was started around 2.30 pm on Sunday and doused around 8 pm on Monday in this area. But it had destroyed a large number of reptiles, including rare snakes and their eggs.
Various animals like langurs, mongooses and Malabar giant squirrels settled in dry bamboo grooves were burnt alive. However, no tiger or elephant deaths were reported.
Forest Minister C P Yogeshwar, who suspected the role of some ‘invisible’ hands behind the fire, said on his visit to the spot on Thursday that by planting bamboo seedlings the destroyed forest would be regenerated in five years.
He said Principal Chief Conservator of Forests B K Singh would soon submit a report on the cause of the fire. “After receiving the report, we will take appropriate action,” he said, and added that the content of the report would be revealed in the three days.
Conservator and Director of Nagarahole Tiger Reserve Vijay Ranjan Singh said, “A conspiracy was hatched to spoil the image of sincere officials and the department by starting a fire deliberately in the tiger reserve to draw national attention.”
Assistant Field Director (Project Tiger) B J Hosmath said around 100 personnel doused the fire. He said an action plan was formed to rehabilitate 400 tribal families of different Haadis in the forest. Also, 1,000 acres of land was identified for rehabilitation in Muddanahalli of Periyapatna taluk.