Sunday, October 24, 2010

Over 100 tigers spotted in three tiger reserves, says forest minister

Shantha Thiagarajan, TNN, Oct 24, 2010, 06.42am IST

UDHAGAMANDALAM: Over 100 tigers have been spotted in the three Tigers reserves of Kalakkad Mundanthurai in Tirunelveli district, Anamalai in Coimbatore district and Mudumalai in the Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu forest minister, N Selvaraj said on Saturday. While their numbers were dwindling nationwide, the big cats are thriving in Tamil Nadu, according to Selvaraj.

In a recent survey, 46 tigers have been sighted directly in Sathyamangalam forest area, Selvaraj said. According to a 2007 survey, the population of tigers in Tamil Nadu was between 62 and 76. Stating that the reason for their growing numbers is the healthy prey base, the forest minister said, "I happened to see a lot of bison and several herds of spotted deer in the Mudumalai reserve and its surroundings". Also, poaching activities are completely under control, he added.

Asked about the long-pending proposal for merging the Sigur reserve forest area with the adjacent Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in the Nilgiris, he said, "The proposal is under consideration." Many wild animals including tigers are being sighted in the Sigur forests. Recently, Union forest and environment minister Jairam Ramesh had written to the Tamil Nadu government urging it to declare the Sigur forest as a tiger reserve. The proposal for merging the reserve forest with the Mudumalai tiger reserve is pending with the government.

On several illegal resorts operating in the hill district in identified elephant corridors in the Sigur Plateau, Selvaraj said cases in this regard were pending in the courts. However, no fresh construction would be allowed in these areas, he said, adding that protecting wildlife would be the first consideration in any kind of development projects in the hill district, including laying of new roads. The penalty fee against cutting trees illegally in private lands, presently a very nominal amount, would be revised soon, said the minister.

The forest department will ensure there are no encroachments on the traditional elephant paths in the forests. The elephants move in herds and on a particular trajectory. When this is disturbed they stray into unknown zones and end up entering human habitats, affecting residents, he said. To a question regarding monitoring of the neutrino project to be set up in Theni, the minister said, "Once the project is set up, arrangements will be made to monitor the project".