Two villages in the core of Kawal Tiger Reserve in Telangana have agreed to relocate to the fringe of the forest, raising hopes among forest officers of making the sanctuary free of human interference — crucial for tigers to settle down.
However, there are still 35 other villages in the 345 sq miles sanctuary which is spread across four districts — Adilabad, Kumaram Bheem Asifabad, Mancherial and Nirmal. Officials said that more tribal villages are willing to relocate but they are demanding a hefty compensation including over Rs 10 lakhs per family as part of the package that includes housing and agricultural land.
Although, tigers have been moving in Kawal, Kagaz Nagar and the areas bordering Maharashtra, none of them were settling down due to lot of human interference and biotic pressure from the 37 villages located in the corridor, according to forest officials. In fact, since last August, tigers have been rarely spotted although officials say they are now tracking six tigers.
Ahead of the national tiger census starting January 22, the Telangana State Forest Department has submitted a proposal to Government of India to relocate Rampur and Mysampet villages, home to 112 families, to Jannaram mandal headquarters. Land has been identified for housing and agriculture for these families to prevent them from depending on the forest again. “We are hoping that this would become the model for relocating the remaining 35 villages in the Kawal Reserve,” says Kawal’s Field Director C Saravanan.
He said they are currently tracking six tigers — two in Kawal’s Chinnur and Jannaram area, and four in Kagaz Nagar area outside the sanctuary. “The tigress named Falguna gave birth to four cubs — two females and two males — in February 2016 in Kagaz Nagar corridor. The tigress and three cubs which are now sub-adults are still in Kagaz Nagar area while one female sub-adult has moved to Chinoor. There is one other male tiger in Jannaram area. The female sub-adult at Chinoor is killing one cow every week and the forest department is compensating the cattle owners immediately so that they do not harm the tigeress,’” Saravanan said.
The forest department is paying Rs 10,000 for every calf killed by a tiger or leopard and up to Rs 20,000 for an adult cow or buffalo. “This is ensuring that instead of trying to poison the carcass and kill the big cats, villagers have now started informing us about kills,’” he said.
The forest department is also planning to shift ungulates, especially spotted deer, to the Kawal area as the depleted prey base is insufficient to support tigers and leopards. Deer from at least five deer parks in and around Hyderabad are being shifted to the tiger reserve. This move is being fiercely opposed by conservation activists who say the captive-bred deer may carry infections which could spread to other animals in the wild.
Due to poaching and loss of habitat and extensive illegal deforestation, the prey base in Kawal Tiger Reserve has fallen from 13.5 ungulates per sq km in 2010 to 9 in 2016, as per a study done by the Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society.
Though Kawal Field Director C Saravanan claims that six tigers were being tracked, Imran Siddiqui, founder of the NGO Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society which is doing extensive field work in Kawal, says that since last October there is no sign of tigers except for the tigress roaming in forests in Chinoor in Mancherial district. “I do not know what happened to the other tigers but there is no evidence of their presence in this area recently,” Imran said.