BENGALURU: New scientific studies reveal a healthy population of 14-15 tigers in the contiguous sanctuaries of Male Mahadeshwara (MM hills) Wildlife Sanctuary and Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) in Chamrajnagara district. These two protected areas (PAs) were not included in the National Tiger Estimation exercise of the Wildlife Institute of India in 2014.
With Karnataka leading in the country with an estimated population of 406 tigers, it may once again roar strongly with these new findings. Part of the Greater BRT tiger landscape, these two PAs underwent the first-ever tiger and leopard density estimation using the camera trap method. A total of 809 camera trap locations were selected resulting in more than 11,000 trap days and 112 tiger images.
The Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), which carried out the studies between Jan-March 2014 (CWS) and Nov-Jan 2015 (MM Hills), has come out with ‘unique identification pictures’ of each and every tiger across an area of 1,933 square kilometres.
Sanjay Gubbi, wildlife conservationist, said that through the capture-recapture methodology, reliable baseline data on large carnivores has emerged. Photographs of tigers with their unique stripes on both the left and right flanks is the most accepted methodology and these findings would substantiate in declaring these two PAs as a single tiger reserve. He added, “It is heartening that the confluence of the Western and Eastern Ghats that had been under the long terror reign of Veerappan for decades, is today a haven for big carnivores with a good prey availability.”
Nine Tiger Cubs
The two PAs has come out as a potential for a future tiger reserve with 10-12 tigers camera trapped in MM Hills alone with a density of 0.66 tigers per 100 sq km. Gubbi adds, “The most notable feature of this sanctuary was the presence of females and nine tiger cubs. In fact, MM Hills has more tigers than several tiger reserves in the country and further with the cubs, the tiger population might double in the next five years.”
In contrast to this, the CWS revealed only two tigers and therefore, further analysis was not done. However, three individual tigers were camera trapped that were commonly seen roaming between CWS, MM Hills and BRT Tiger Reserve. He added, “The need to protect the Dodda Samipge-Yediyaralli corridor between the sanctuaries through which these animals traversed was highlighted. One tiger (MM01) was found to be roaming at a home range of 359 sq km which is the largest ever home range recorded, almost half of Bengaluru city area,” Gubbi said.
The report on tiger population in both Male Mahadeshwara and Cauvery landscape was released in Bengaluru on Monday by Co-operation and Sugar Minister H S Mahadeva Prasad. Commending the efforts of the researchers, the Minister said once the report is studied by the government, efforts will be made to take more protective measures and apprehending poachers, who are active in the contiguous sanctuaries of BRT-MM Hills and CWS. He added, “Earlier there was a proposal to form a tiger reserve, but due to lack of scientific data, nothing happened. But now maybe, it can be mooted by the departments concerned. There is a need to protect the one-km-long wildlife corridor between these sanctuaries by land acquisition and shifting affected farmers to alternative sites.”