NAGPUR: At a time when there are no two opinions about tigers being extinct in the 76%-forested Gadchiroli district, sighting of a young pair of tigers on Armori-Wadsa Road has turned out to be a silver lining.
A young male and female, perhaps a mating pair, were sighted on the roadside around 4.30pm on Saturday by passengers of a state transport bus. One of the passengers, Rupesh Jawle, is a forest guard working in Allapalli. He took a video and photograph too, which went viral on wildlife groups.
Video Courtesy : TOI
According to Wadsa assistant conservator of forests (ACF) Deepak Chondikar, the female sighted on Saturday has dispersed from the adjoining Brahmapuri division and was first sighted in Armori-Wadsa patch (Gadchiroli) in December last.
“Around January-February, the male was also sighted in the same area. Both may be around 3 years,” he added.
The female tigress had killed two persons following which the forest department had passed orders to capture it. But it remained elusive. “Now it seems the animals have settled down due to better protection and continuous monitoring. There are four villages in the vicinity which makes our task difficult,” said Chondikar.
The ACF says there are reports of transient tiger population in the area and initially it was thought that these tigers might move towards Chhattisgarh. “But, for the last six months, these tigers have settled down in just 7-8sqkm forest much to our surprise,” said Chondikar.
The forest department has closed all the routes into the forest. “The area has a canal which has water all-round the year. Till now there are only two records of cattle kills. It means the prey base is good. The dense bushes offer good camouflage too,” says Chondikar, adding that wild boars, chitals and nilgais are in plenty in the area.
Uday Patel, honorary district wildlife warden of Gadchiroli, says these tigers must have dispersed from Halda forest in Brahmapuri, which has recently been in the news for man-animal conflict. Wainganga river separates Armori from the forests of Brahmapuri. “During December-January when water receded, these tigers might have crossed to the other side,” he added.
Patel, however, sees a bleak future for these tigers. “If the tigress delivers cubs, the conflict will worsen. There is an urgent need to take conducive steps to strengthen the corridor towards Navegaon-Nagzira. Navegaon is 25km from here. Secondly, the tigers in fragmented forests need to be collared for better monitoring,” says Patel.
Gadchiroli Circle, which was carved out of North Chandrapur Circle, had recorded the presence of 115 tigers in 1989. But now, barring these two, there are none on record. Even the radio-collared tigress which was released in Chaprala Wildlife Sanctuary on November 4 last year has not been sighted since April.
“The pictures generated a lot of interest, especially because Gadchiroli, despite having huge potential, is devoid of tigers,” he said.
The tribal district of Gadchiroli can hold 40% of the state’s tiger population. Interestingly, due to Naxal fear there has been no estimation for the last 20 years there.