BHUBANESWAR: Two good news for tiger conservation in Odisha. The Wildlife Wing of State Government has proposed Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary as a tiger reserve (TR). That is number one.
Two, it has already sent in the proposal for final notification of Sunabeda as a tiger reserve which has been hanging fire for a decade.
Debrigarh, located in Bargarh district, has been proposed as a TR with total area spreading over 900 sq km. Its core zone is estimated at about 500 sq km. A team from National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) will reach the State later this week and hold talks with Chief Wildlife Warden Dr Sandeep Tripathi. It may also visit Debrigarh for a preliminary inspection.
Tripathi confirmed that Debrigarh has been proposed as the fourth TR of the State. “For In-principle approval, the NTCA had sought three clarifications which have been submitted to the State Government,” the Chief Wildlife Warden told this paper on Wednesday.
The preliminary prey-base analysis and maps have already been submitted. Once the in-principle approval is received, detailed analysis of prey-base, DGPS maps and habitat evaluation would be carried out.
Proposal for Debrigarh as a TR is a sign that Odisha Government is making moves to create more protected areas for the big cats which have been pushed to limited pockets.
Barring Similipal, no habitat is found to be holding a steady population. Even Satkosia, which was notified as second TR of the State in 2007, lost most of its tigers within a decade necessitating re-introduction which was started in June. So far, two tigers from Madhya Pradesh have been released in Satkosia.
On its part, Similipal has remained an island for large cats. However, Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary, which was proposed as a TR in 2008, is seen as a better habitat for tigers because of its connectivity to the Central Indian landscape facilitating population exchange and contiguity to Udanti and Sitanadi tiger habitats in Chhattisgarh. Maoist menace and NGOs with vested interests delayed its evaluation process which was completed in 2016.
“We have now sent in the proposal for final notification for Sunabeda as a tiger reserve and it is only a matter of time,” Tripathi said. Earlier, NTCA had asked the State Government to complete the process.
Debrigarh’s elevation to TR would mean more reserve forests from Bargarh to be included while corridors to Bamra, Badrama and Hemgir will be protected. Conservationist Aditya Panda said a promising tiger habitat, rich in prey like Debrigarh, proposed as a tiger reserve, is heartening.
“This will be a major milestone in wildlife conservation history of the State and pave the way for re-establishing a substantial tiger population there,” he added. The Chief Wildlife Warden said efforts are being made to identify and secure existing corridors that connect TRs while finding migratory routes to neighbouring States. “We have to facilitate intra as well as inter-state movement of the big cats,” he added.
Panda strongly advocated for Khalasuni-Badrama sanctuary cluster as a tiger reserve as it is contiguous to Satkosia and will prove a stepping stone in Satkosia-Similipal corridor and the State’s tiger habitat contiguity with Central India.